Oh Sh*t My Kid Swears, Now What?
The moment when you step on a knife-sharp Lego and let loose an involuntary stream of profanity is universal. But once you curse in front of your kid, he’s pretty much guaranteed to start dropping F bombs like Eddie Murphy in Raw—except in Frozen footie pajamas instead of a purple leather pantsuit. Rest assured this is normal; “Swearing emerges by age two and becomes adult-like by ages 11 or 12,” according to researchers. Luckily, there are lots of ways to curb cursing in kids—and some of them are surprising AF.
Totally ignore it
If your toddler sees that a certain word gets a rise out of you, she is likelier to repeat it, experts agree, even if she has no clue what it means (which she doesn’t). If you simply pretend you didn’t hear it and deftly change the subject every time, the word should lose its power.
Tell him bathroom words are private
Rather than shaming small kids, try explaining that some words (like “butt” and “poopy” and the word that means “poopy” but Mommy usually just says when she misses her exit on the turnpike) may be upsetting to other people. However, as long as he doesn’t say them in public, he can test them out as much as he wants to in the privacy of his bedroom.
Replace the “bad” words with ridiculous ones
If your child is cursing in anger, help her come up with new, silly words (like “Sassafras!” or “Flibbertigibbet!”) to sub in for the four-letter ones. The ensuing giggles may also help defuse her fury. The catch? It helps to adopt this new vocabulary as a family to make it stick.
Swearing, unsurprisingly, peaks at adolescence. One family psychologist we spoke with advised calmly explaining to older kids that there’s a time and a place for everything; trash talk when he’s on the soccer field with his friends is unlikely to get him in trouble. But it is absolutely unacceptable in a setting like school or around his grandparents. Empower him to use his best judgment and he just might surprise you.
Watch your tongue, missy
Since we’re clearly on an '80s kick, remember the classic drug PSA tagline “I learned it by watching you!”? The same concept applies to language. If you make a conscious effort to clean up your act, even when you think your kids are out of earshot, they’ll have nothing offensive to imitate. And if all else fails, F it: Creative cursing may be a sign of intelligence.