Children and bad language
Most parents dislike their children using bad language and being rude, but from the time your child utters his first word the possibility of using swear words becomes a reality.
Why do children curse?
Copying: The younger child, who is just beginning to experiment with words and putting sentences together, may simply be repeating what he hears during their day. He may be copying mum or dad, older siblings, the staff at childcare, etc. Older children may be copying what they have seen or heard on TV, songs, friends, school, etc.
Looking for a reaction: Swearing is a great way of getting the adults around to take notice of you. Many children spend a lot of time looking for ways to get their parents’ attention and swearing can be one sure-fired way of doing this. From the point of view of the child, attention is attention, be it good or bad.
Fitting in with a gang: Children can go through phases where they seem to spend all their time using rude words and noises and sniggering at anything that could be seen as rude. During this stage swearing can elicit great reactions from their friends.
What can you do?
Look at your own language: It is unfair to expect your child not to use swear words if you regularly use them. Children model a lot of their behaviour on their parents. If you are serious about tackling your child's language you need to tackle your own first.
Look at where your child is hearing this language: Children can hear bad language from a variety of sources. Is your child watching programmes aimed at older age groups and adults? What music is your child listening to? Are relatives and friends influencing your child’s language? Try to screen these influences on your child.
Have clear family rules about swearing: If your family does not generally use swear words, then it is likely that even if your child is currently going through a phase of cursing he will grow out of it and adopt the language used by his family.
Look at your reactions: Are you adding fuel to the fire by becoming very upset and angry when your child starts swearing? Some children will value this newfound power over their parents. They have discovered a fairly useful button to push for a reaction. They may use it especially if they are angry and trying to make a point to their parents. This is why calmer approaches often work better. Wait until you and your child are feeling less angry and upset before sitting down to talk about this.
Check your child’s understanding: While many children use bad language or hurtful words they often do not understand the actual meanings of the words they are using. If you suspect this is true of your child, use this opportunity to explain about the power of names, words, etc, to cause hurt to others. Help your child to find alternative ways to express the fact that he is upset or angry.
Use a swear box at home: If you are serious about changing your language why not show your child you are willing to suffer the consequences of using bad language too. The swear box works if all at home agree that they will donate some money (amount agreed between you) to the swear box if they swear. The money collected can be donated to a charity of your child's choice.
Remember the power of praise: Praise is one of the most powerful tools in a parent’s possession. If you are trying to get rid of a behaviour, it can be useful to identify the behaviour you want – eg, no swearing when angry – and praise this behaviour.
Don’t take what they say to heart: Children are often experimenting when they use bad language and often do not understand the consequences of what they say. Often a child who calls you a bad name actually does not mean to hurt you in the way he has – he may be trying to say he is angry and upset about what has happened but does not have the language skills to express these complicated emotions clearly.
Talk to your child’s teacher: If you think that your child is picking up a lot of bad language at school it may be worth talking to his teacher.
Most children will go through a stage of using bad language, and if they are not exposed to a lot of cursing and swearing at home it is more than likely that they will get over this phase and revert back to using the type of language that is generally used in their family.
For more information visit www.RollerCoaster.ie, Ireland’s No 1 website for parents.