One day your sweet and innocent little child is going to open its mouth and instead of the language of a child, you will hear a profanity. Your child will not understand the meaning of the word, but they will know that it is a word that they have heard and feel confident in repeating. It is how you react to your child using adult language that sets the tone for how things will continue.
In years gone by there were children that did indeed have their mouths washed out with soap, as if this would somehow remove the word that had soiled their mouth, and stop them from ever uttering it again. Other parents let their children use foul and offensive language (to the detriment of their peers) believing that this is an avenue of self-expression for their child, though it has to be said that these are the parents whose parenting skills are often called into question.
It Will Happen, It’s Inevitable
No matter how innocent you believe your child to be or how careful you are to keep them away from negative influences it will still happen. It is up to you to stop this unacceptable language in its tracks before your child becomes accustomed to speaking foul and abusive language. To be able to stop it effectively it is important to understand why they are using this language in the first place, as each different root cause requires a slightly different solution.
Attention Seeking and Shock Value
Some children will do anything they can to get your undivided attention. It doesn’t matter whether it is positive or negative to them any attention is good. Occasionally your child will curse or swear just to grab your attention, to make them once again the centre of your universe and have your undivided attention for however long it takes for you to get a grip on the situation. There is nothing as powerful for a child as to be able to stop their parents in their tracks and leave them open mouthed and speechless, even if it is only for a couple of seconds. Children learn from an early age that words have power; the right word at the right time can get them what they want, and when it comes to cursing what they want is a reaction, any reaction at all.
You need to make sure that you do not give them the reaction that they are looking for. Stay calm and composed, don’t shout or get angry, if you do you are playing right into their hands and prolonging the attention that they are receiving for what is in essence bad behaviour. Drop yourself down so that you are on eye level with the child and in a calm and controlled voice let them know that bad language is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. End the situation with a distraction where they can end up earning praise for good behaviour instead. If your child is craving attention, look to your own behaviour and make adjustments to accommodate their needs a little more.
Some kids start using bad language because it is what their friends expect of them. For any child to be accepted and included into a group of their peers their behaviour and language generally changes in order to conform to the dynamics of the group. If the group mentality thinks it’s cool to swear, foul language will become the norm. The more bold they become with their use of cursing the greater they rise in status within the group, it gets them noticed. In reality it is nothing more than showing off for attention. It is up to you as a parent to explain to them why this language is not acceptable in either family or social situations, explain to them the impression that it sends to other people and what people will think of them in their future if they continue along this destructive path. If necessary remove them from the environment that perpetuates the bad behaviour and introduce them to a new group of friends who are more socially acceptable.
Even if you are vigilant in monitoring the movies and television programmes that your child watches you can’t protect them from foul language forever. If they see and hear their favourite film stars and celebrities cursing on screen it will be judged by them to be acceptable, if not cool behaviour. Their language becomes part of their attempt to emulate their heroes so that their peers will think that they are just as big a personality as the celebrities.
You can’t stem the flow of media influence, but you can dish out severely un-cool punishments for their copycat behaviour. Place your child on curfew, dish duty or whatever you can think of that they will totally dislike until they start to toe the line again. Reinforce your positive praise for good behaviour and acceptable social interaction.
It is a sad reflection on modern society when you encounter children that use foul and abusive language every day, to whomever they are with and to the people that they meet. These are very often the children that are lacking some social skills and clearly haven’t had the boundaries and consequences that children need. They are using the language of the home, using the words that they have heard every day as they were growing and developing, the bad language is as much a part of their vocabulary as any other word. To them the cursing has no real meaning, no shock value and no power, it’s just words. The fact that people find their language offensive is amusing to them.
These are the children that are on the slippery slope to a life of trouble, filled with aggression and neglect. There is no quick fix for these children, the best way to help them is to remove them from the negative environment in which they live and place them somewhere where they can learn about the rules of society and socially acceptable behaviour. If you curse around the home, in front of your children don’t act surprised or get angry is they start including your words in their own vocabulary.
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