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Ask The Expert - Swearing Spell

by on 28/12/2014 4858

Kiddy123 Ask The Expert

Question: My son is in Standard 2. Recently, my husband and I noticed he has been using swear words a lot. I know he must’ve learned or heard these words from his friends at school because not only my husband and I don’t swear and we’re very careful of what we say in front of our children, we also monitor what our children watch on TV. How do I explain to my son that he shouldn’t swear? I don’t want to be angry at him because I’m sure he doesn’t quite understand what those swear words mean, but I also don’t want him to think it’s okay for him to swear if we don’t make it clear enough and might think our tolerant explanation is a sign of approval.

Answer: There are different recommendations for different aged.

For a child who is, say, 3 years old or under, just ignoring it is a best practice. At that point, if they do not get a reaction, they probably will not use those words again. If the family do not use these words, rarely the children will learn them at home.

Another technique at that age is to morph what they have said into a different word. If they say "f**k" for example, you can ask them... "What was that you said about a frog?" A lot of times this kind of redirection can work.

Eventually they will get to an age or school ready stage, though, where they know swear words, and they know they can get a reaction. It is important to explain to your child about swear words, and why they cannot use them. Just explain that they are bad words, and that sometimes grown-ups will say them, but that children should never say them.

Although I would recommend a tamer consequence at first, what finally worked for us was the very unpleasant "washing out your mouth with soap" punishment for swearing (which meant having to lick a clean bar of soap to "wash away the bad words" but this is what I will do).

Someone I teach went through a phase when he was about 4 to 5, where he was severely testing the limits with swear words, especially the "f" word. When that consistently earned him soap in the mouth, the behavior stopped in a very short time. It worked for me as a teacher with consent from his parents (who were up to their limits dealing with this), but as other parents have said, just be consistent and calmly apply discipline as you always would. The worst thing you can do is to freak out because the kids will enjoy getting a reaction from you.

Techniques will have to be completely different but the focus is the same. If they are young adults and need to vent out (not for popularity or trying to get into certain groups), teach them replacement words. If you did a sufficient job teaching your toddler not to swear, you probably won't have much of a problem as they grow older.

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About Our Expert

Kiddy123's Expert Dr Eric

Professor Dr. Eric Lim is the founder of Kits4Kids Foundation, a foundation that specializes in the education and development of children with special needs.  

He also leads many international social enterprises all around the world. Prof. Dr. Eric Lim holds a PhD in Educational Management as well as Masters of Education, Bachelor of Special Education and Masters of Psychology, focusing on child psychology and counseling. 

He is passionate about helping as many people as he could in spreading the love for children and humanity.

Prof. Dr. Eric Lim is here to answer your questions on:

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