HOW TO HANDLE CURSING AND SWEARING
As a parent, at some point, you will be confronted with the inappropriate use of language from your child. Whether you find it amusing or irritating, your role is to teach your child to use language that does not offend others. Depending on the child’s age, his behavior is motivated by various reasons. When very young children swear, they are just repeating what they have heard. They are learning the language and do not try to offend anyone. Older children may swear for various reasons: trying a new “cool” word, getting the parent’s attention, expressing feelings such as frustration, wanting to hurt others, or showing off in front of their peers.
Since most parents do not want their child to swear or curse, here are a few tips to help parents handle it:
1. Do not overact. If a parent overacts when hearing a bad word, chances are that it will reinforce the behavior. Your child understands then that using offensive language gets your attention or your child can also use it to get on your nerves.
2. Avoid confronting your child about the swearing if he does it when angry or upset. This will add only more fuel. Instead, at a calmer time, work through the problem and explain to him why bad language should not have been used in that context.
3. Consider the context of the swear-word. Calling someone a bad name is not the same as swearing when tripping and falling.
4. Watch your own language. Your child may pick up this habit at home. The more a parent swears the more the child will think it is acceptable to do it as well.
5. Model your reaction when swearing accidentally. Depending on your own values, you may apologize or you may explain to your child that cursing at home is not the same as cursing at school or at work. Whatever your values are, explain them to your child.
6. Take into consideration your child’s age. As discussed above, a 4 year-old has not the same reasons as a 10 year-old to use bad words.
7. Offer acceptable alternatives to swearing. Plenty of words in English can express feelings without being offensive or drawing attention. You can even encourage your child to make up his own silly expressions instead of using curse words.
8. When swearing becomes a habit, make up alternative words to replace the swear words. Reward your child if he has not used cursing words for a certain period of time. Discuss with him what the reward should be and how long he should talk without swear words to get the reward.
Whether you think your child should not use cursing words at all or he could use swear words in certain contexts, make sure to discuss your values with your child and to model your language according to your values.
WHEN THE PARENT ACTS AS A GUIDE
Parents often wonder what their role is and how they can fulfill it. This question is perfectly legitimate and research shows that acting as a coach/guide toward our children is the most effective role a parent can have. Demonstrating in details how you would like your child to behave, having her practice the behavior, and praising her along with constructive criticism promote healthy emotional and social development.
Here are a few tips about how to be an accomplished parent:
1. Be a good listener. Use good eye contact and get physically down to the level of your small child. Do not interrupt your child and ask open ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Make sure you understand what your child tells you by repeating back to her what you heard.
2. Rather than telling her what not to do, teach and show her what to do. For instance, instead of saying “Don’t hit your sister”, tell her: “If you are angry at your sister, use your words.” You may need to model the phrase that your child could use. For instance, tell her: “You could say to your sister: “I don’t like when you take my doll, that makes me feel angry. Please ask me next time.”
3. Use descriptive praising when your child does something you appreciate. Be specific. For example, say “I like when you buckle your seat belt when you get into the car.”
4. Whenever possible, give her choices of when and how to comply to a request. This gives a feeling of power and belonging to your child who will think she is part of the family.
5. Spend quality time with your child on a regular basis. Your child needs emotional connection more than anything else. By playing with her, reading to her, discussing with her, or collaborating with her on a project, you show her your interest in who she truly is. This equals love to your child.
6. Help your child learn how to express how she feels. Ask her questions about her emotional state. “You look angry.”, “How are you feeling?”, “You seem angry about that.” Then validate her feelings “It is OK to feel sad when your play date is cancelled. “ Or “It must be really frustrating to hear your friend cannot come over.”
When you see your role as a guide or a coach toward your child, then your approach becomes more collaborative and constructive. You are helping your child become a socially, emotionally, and physically balanced individual.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.