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Wondering how to stop your child swearing? It’s not uncommon for children to swear, but the challenge is to keep things in perspective.

Swearing is a limited way of expressing oneself. Swearwords, by their very definition, are rude and offensive. Despite their offensive nature, however, they’re still just words. But like most words, how they are used is what matters.

Experimentation for effect

Children are naturally inquisitive. For many, a new word can be something to be played and experimented with in a wide variety of situations. And they’ll often delight in the reactions they get.

When asking your child how their day was, you would not expect her to reply: “I had a beeping great day, thanks. How was yours?”  Should this happen, your role is not to react in horror, but to educate and intervene. Explain that is socially unacceptable and help them to learn when, if ever, there is an appropriate time to use a swearword.

The message you want your children to get is that swearwords are easy to acquire and use. However, they should rather focus on expanding and growing their vocabulary to express themselves and their feelings in more appropriate ways. In simple terms, you need them to understand that there are many other words they first need to learn before using swearwords.

Lead by example – Stop YOUR swearing

One of the main reasons parents want their child to stop swearing is because it’s considered rude and disrespectful.  Furthermore, it’s embarrassing for parents if their offspring swear, especially in front of other adults. Parents feel that this  may indicate that they have failed in their duty to raise well-behaved children.

Remember,  swearwords are not the first words that children learn as they acquire the ability to speak. It’s not like it goes “Mama”, “Dada”, “doggie”, “#@*&!”. Instead, children learn these words from older brothers and sisters, but mostly from their parents. So, while you may be tempted to race for the soap when little Jonny lets fly a bunch of expletives, watching your own mouth in the presence of your children is equally important.

Similarly, adults who don’t have children are often quite oblivious to the need to watch their language when visiting friends with children. It’s best to quickly yet discreetly remind them of who else might be overhearing the conversation. Most true friends will instantly respect your wishes.

Frustration and anger

While children often swear among themselves, it becomes a noticeable issue when they start swearing at their parents. This can become particularly difficult when they become teenagers capable of using words designed to exact maximum pain and hurt. When this happens, there are boundary issues at stake, which points towards an underlying frustration that needs more attention than the words themselves.

Often you will find that these children feel incredibly frustrated with their parents, particularly with their emphasis on how they should be behaving. The expectation that they should always be good boys and girls without really knowing or feeling the benefit of why they should always be so good is often at the root of this frustration.

Often their anger is a direct retaliation to their parents’ anxiety around how they are behaving, without attempting to understand why they are behaving like this. The parents, in turn, often feel hurt and misunderstood, and frequently resort to sulking themselves.

Read our article on dealing with your child’s challenging behaviour here,

It’s time to listen

What you will inevitably find, however, is that these children are looking for a real connection with their parents. Being openly rude is their last resort of making such a connection.

Stopping the swearing, the rudeness and the hurt is very important, but it must be replaced with genuine talking, listening and an authentic willingness to understand where these children are coming from and what they are feeling. This needs to be accompanied with the message that being able to communicate one’s anger and frustration is very important. This can at times include swearing, but it is equally true that swearing cannot become the only way in which they express themselves and expect to be understood.