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Family Forum: Foiling the Curse of Foul Mouths

How to stop kids from swearing.

At some point, our little darlings utter words that can make us blush (usually because they say them at the most inopportune times, like at a relative’s party where it’s probable they also picked them up). There may not be anything you can do to keep your children from hearing swear words, but there's a lot you can do to make sure you don't hear those words regularly from your kids' mouths.

First, anticipate that at some point your children will swear and anticipate what you'll do, advises Timothy Jay, author of "What to Do When Your Kids Talk Dirty." How you react will have a lot to do with your child's age.

Kids aged two to four parrot whatever they hear. Laughing only encourages them to use the language as an attention-getting tool, Jay says. The best strategy is simply to state that you don't want them to say that.

Young school-age children are fascinated by anything to do with body parts and functions. Jay recommends that you not be overly punitive, which will set you up to have your buttons pushed as they use the word often. Rather, in response to the word "turd," for instance, you might say, "That's a funny word, but I prefer the words `bowel movement.'" At this age kids don't realize how their language affects others, but you can teach them your values.

By age eight, however, kids can understand that their words can be offensive, and you can teach them this by describing how such words make you feel. "This is the age to teach them self-control, what I call the three R's: reason, respect and responsibility," Jay says. And don't assume they know what the word they're using means. Explain it.

During the teen years, peer pressure will have more power over them than you do, so expect a lot of cursing. However, you don't need to take it lying down. Set the rules of what you'll accept in your home and let them know that swearing has consequences.

"Teens don't think about their language until it costs them something," Jay says, "like their job if they use it with their boss."

It's wise as parents to practice what you preach and practice restraint around your kids. If you slip, apologize.

Of course when it comes to discipline, sometimes cursing is the least of our issues as we deal with children who don’t listen, don’t do their homework and bicker with siblings.

Parents can learn practical tools to deal with these and other behaviors when Dr. Larry Koenig, author of Smart Discipline presents his Smart Discipline for Parents Seminar on Saturday, May 21 at the Wang Center at Stony Brook University from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is hosted by Long Island Parent magazine as part of their Family Expo from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Event includes hands-on science, face painting, gymnastics, bowling and more. The Expo is free and the Smart Discipline Seminar is $15. Visit http://liparentonline.com/special-events.html or call 631-673-4082.

Liza N. Burby is Publisher of Long Island Parent Magazine and liparentonline.com

Liza N. Burby May 18, 2011 at 10:28 PM
How many of you have had that moment, like in the car, when you accidentally slip out with a curse that is repeated cheerfully and loudly by a small voice in the backseat? How did you handle it?

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