My child has started to use swear words. This is shocking because he is using words that we don't use. I'm not sure how to react! How do I get this to stop?

  • 1
    Explain what is bad about the swear words. Give them other words to express their feeling and see why they are asking for attention.
    – Barfieldmv
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 6:52
  • My kids never cursed until middle school.It isn't always mimiking the parents. It can escalate easily and they will curse like it's no big deal....What do you do? I have absolutely no idea.
    – user948
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 8:31
  • 2
    Find out where he is getting the words from and put a stop to it. Television? Radio? Family or friends?
    – user808
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 20:17

7 Answers 7


Definitely don't let it slide, but also don't overreact. We used a consistent timeout policy (warning, ultimatum, timeout) with our teenager when he was younger, and despite the fact that he cusses like there is no tomorrow with his friends now, he will almost never cuss in front of us. With our four younger kids, all under 6yo, we also use a consistent timeout policy. They have just discovered that "poop" and "stupid" get quite a rise out of many people, but we just model when appropriate use of those words are and discipline when they try to use those and other words inappropriately.

Listening to a child use curse words is difficult, but if you emphasize it too much, it becomes more of a mysterious thing that they want to explore further (and will when you least want them to). Model good language, but also try to find the source of the bad language and eliminate it.

Just to mention my philosophy on teenagers cursing amongst their friends, I think that many people fear that cursing teens will grow up to be criminals or thugs, but really cursing for teenagers is just another way of exploring vocabulary that they've (hopefully) been exposed to very little previously. I'm living proof that a teenager can go crazy with cursing in his younger years and still grow up to be successful. :)

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    Accepted because it dealt with discipline as well as not over-reacting, modelling and recognizing that it doesn't make them bad people.
    – nGinius
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:01

For me, the answer depends on the age of the child.

Younger Children

For a child who is, say, 3 years old or under, just ignoring it is a best practice. At that point, if they don't get a reaction, they probably won't use those words again.

Another technique at that age is to morph what they've said into a different word. If they say "fuck" 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'll get to an age, though, where they know swear words, and they know they can get a reaction. 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"). Our son went through a phase when he was about 4, 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.

But you may not agree on that particular punishment, and that is fine. It worked for me, but as other users 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.

Also, as another poster mentioned, it is important to explain to your child about swear words, and why they can't use them. Just explain that they are bad words, and that sometimes grown-ups will say them, but that children should never say them.


Unfortunately, I don't have experience in this area, abut I imagine the techniques will have to be completely different.

But if you do a sufficient job teaching your toddler not to swear, you probably won't have much of a problem as they grow older.

  • 1
    No comment was left, but should I presume that someone disagrees with our consequence for swearing? Having tried time outs, etc, unsuccessfully that was what worked. Licking a clean bar of soap is not dangerous, and unpleasant enough to be a strong reminder to watch your language. But if you're going to down vote at least leave a comment as to why, because this technique worked in a very short amount of time. Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 6:34
  • 1
    Maybe rephrase your soap example to a more generic punishment while emphasizing the consistent nature of it. (I do not disagree with it, but I could imagine others being heavily against any physical punishment.)
    – Zsub
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 6:50
  • I agree people should explain why they downvote. +1 from me for your correct answer. I would say that Licking soap is a bit harsh, I wouldn't do it, but that is me.
    – user35
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 6:51
  • 1
    +1 for morphing with little ones. As long as they don't hear the words often, it's easy to do as long as you think quickly.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 9:02
  • 1
    Personally I still worry about "soap blindness" but that's me. i never thought of the soap punishment as worthy, since most soaps today have stuff in there I can't pronounce. Nice answer though - +1
    – MichaelF
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 12:35

First, you need to understand why your child is using these words.

They are part of the language; your child has heard adults use these words; children learn language by emulating adult speech. So, it is entirely normal, natural, and healthy for children to use swear words as part of learning about them.

I know a 4-year-old who likes to call everyone "fucker". If it gets a strong reaction, he will do it over and over. He has moved beyond learning about the language at this point. I see him at pickup time at my kids' preschool, which is his favorite time to do this. He also punches people, and is pretty good at it - it hurts!

Before I had children, I was generally a calm, mellow person, able to take things in stride. I rarely raised my voice and never resorted to force. That changed when I had children. I realized that they are experts at pushing my buttons. They know just what to say and do to get a rise out of me. Why?

We deny children a great deal of power that human children had over most of the history of the species. This is difficult for them to accept (as it should be!). Feeling deprived of power, they seek out any substitute power they can find. When they discover that cursing gets a reaction, they are likely to use it whenever they feel powerless.

Similarly, they may be wishing for attention, especially from a parent who is busy (and who isn't?). They may see that these words get attention. If they're feeling desperate for that attention, they will accept scolding over nothing at all.

Recognize that these are substitutes for their real needs. They aren't able to recognize that; they are not mature enough to. (Most adults have the same problem; I often eat chocolate when I'm tired.) Feel compassion for how difficult it is to be a child in the world we have created, and how powerless they feel.

When a child around me acts out, they sometimes succeed at pushing my buttons, but when I can remember what's going on, I pause, take a deep breath, and try to find out what they are really needing. I think this sets a good example for them to follow in their own self-care, so that they can learn to connect with their true needs.

When I see that 4-year-old at the preschool, and he starts to act out, I immediately pick him up, look him right in the eye, and ask him how he's doing. I give him a couple minutes of my attention. It seems to work really well, and defuses the situation.

  • If you downvote please explain why? This is a normal answer, so +1 from me.
    – user35
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 6:48
  • I agree with jay. Children mimick adults so if swearing is common around you, it does not help punishing the kid. On the contrary, it would only confuse your child. It is better to explain why uncle sam is swearing a lot. I once got the perfect answer for this from a priest. He said that he had no problem what so ever with swearing, since it is "an adults way of crying" as long as you choose the proper swear words.
    – user35
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 7:06
  • +1 for asking why and reacting to the situation on a different level. However, I can't really get what kind of power you think we deny of children that they had over most of human history - please elaborate. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 16:43
  • @PéterTörök: Kids used to get to roam the outdoors, to choose how to spend their days, and to eat what they wanted.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 18:45
  • true - up to a certain age (what would be about school age now), when they were usually taken to work, to help out their parents most of the day, in whatever they were capable of. And as you surely know, in other respects they usually had a lot more restrictions than nowadays. Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 8:31

The same way you get any behavior which you do not approve of to stop; follow your disciplinary routine, whatever that may be.


I've spoken with Alice about how words have power and meaning behind them, but if we use them too much or in the wrong context they lose that power and meaning and it makes the user of the word look as though they are less intelligent than the are. Basically, she has been told, if she drops a hammer on her toe, or other some such thing and a bad word slips out of her mouth, I'll probably over look it because that is actually what those words are for. But if she is using those words in ways for which they were not meant, she is calmly reminded what the word is actually for similarly to how I remind her to use are instead of is when it is coupled with a plural. If she starts using a word too often, I remind her that it is beginning to lose its meaning (I even did this recently with the word "frick" which is actually not a curse word but a replacement to one and she was using it a lot. It has been a week and I haven't heard it once again since) The intent is for it to come across as simply being a part of her language education.

Some curse words can be used to hurt others (in terms of their meanings) but there is a problem if she is trying to hurt others in the first place and that would be the more important problem to address if she was using those kinds of words anyway.

This reasoning worked well with a high school student I had in Freshman Bio that swore a lot too. I told him I respected his intellect and wanted his language usage to reflect the high level of intelligence I knew he had (his IQ was in the 120-140 range which is in fact pretty high - in other words it wasn't just flattery and he believed it wasn't just flattery). I told him that as his teacher, it was my job to teach him as much as I could to prepare him for the acquisition of a career and that using language incorrectly would not reflect the intellect an employer would surely find useful in him. Although I'm sure he still used his bad language at times, he respected my very respectful approach enough that his parents noticed a change at home and remarked about it to him. He told them what I had explained and they were all over me with amazement and gratitude.


How old is he?

There's a big chance that he just doesn't know the exact meaning of them, but feels that there's something special about f-words since grown-ups react funny when he says them.

Key points to emphasize in such a situation:

  • It's bad to use such words.
  • He might offend other people by using them.
  • Consider actually explaining what these words mean.

The main reason is teenagers act himself to show or express or prove be a strongest, Hardest, Brave Leader. and consciously or unconsciously they searching to how to prove I'm the leader of strongest, hardest, bravest, fretful, cheerful, leader. therefor they acting with their most sincere places.

where this limitations facing child's and teenagers on their life. and how to overcome their immature confidences.

first we support teenagers and give lot of loving confidences and consider their attitudes, behaviors, talents.

and first thing is you don't teach your child they naturally learned your behaviors. therefor be sure you walking in the right ways. so we just help to choosing the correct ways on their life's.

because if you not consider their talents and their grasping powers. they will try to express their talents and grasping powers more strongly on out side of the home or in the home. may be that time they using ways are not corrected but unfortunately we can't to lead their ways because they don't want others couching class they feel short and insulting himself.

so simply understand their talents and attitudes and consider with loving values. they will comes to care first you :)

  • 2
    The OP used the tag [primary-schooler], which means roughly 5-8 years old (you can see this by clicking on, or hovering over, the tag). Your answer seems very specific teenagers. You might want to consider editing to address younger children.
    – user420
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 16:41
  • You might also try making sure each thought is written in full. Some of your statements seem choppy and cut off. Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 2:57

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