At one time or another, parents may have to censor their child’s speech. When cursing or other inappropriate language erupts from your child’s mouth, consider these 10 tips:
1. Recognize developmental level. Children under the age of 6 think in concrete terms, so use simple statements like, “That’s not a nice word; we don’t say it.” Kids over age 6 think in the abstract, so use it to teach why certain words are unacceptable.
2. Ask and explain. Don’t assume your child knows the meaning of the word or its inappropriateness. Ask him, and then explain that it is offensive and could affect how others perceive and receive him.
3. Avoid overreacting. Some experts suggest ignoring the first offense, others say to address it immediately. Whatever you choose, stay calm and in control. Overreacting clues kids in that these are emotionally charged words, and they could use it to leverage attention.
4. Set guidelines. Establish boundaries on what is and isn’t acceptable speech.
5. Opt for alternatives. Brainstorm acceptable words to use in place of expletives. Also, if he feels frustrated or angry, encourage him to take time for self-reflection.
6. Be mindful of media. Monitor the content of the TV shows and movies you allow in your home. Even if your child seems engrossed in another activity, if he’s within earshot, he is hearing it.
7. Don’t joke around. Resist the urge to laugh or video record him swearing, so you can upload it on social media sites. This sends a mixed message and reinforces bad behavior.
8. Be a good role model. If your child says, “You say it!” don’t deny it, justify it, or set double standards. Admit your mistakes and agree to stop. What’s more, if regular house guests have a propensity to swear, ask them to curtail cursing in your home.
9. Define consequences. If the problem persists, establish consequences and be consistent, i.e. put 50 cents in a jar for every offense.
10. Praise positive changes. If swearing was a problem and your child is now making an effort to stop, give praise when he expresses himself appropriately.
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.