I'm curious to hear how other families are handling the swearing issue. On the one hand, swearing in a 5-year old is socially inappropriate. On the other, I'm afraid that by setting it up as this big taboo thing, I will create a fascination with it which will lead to more use as she's trying to get a reaction out of us and others. My instinct is to just ignore it altogether, but I don't want that to be read as implicit acceptance of the behavior.

Thus far, I have adapted a policy in which it is acceptable to use swear words at home, in private (no guests, etc) but unacceptable "in public" (at school, in stores, etc). It's been working for us so far - she doesn't swear that much but I am always a little nervous that she's going to start throwing f-bombs at school.

I just wanted to know what kinds of strategies other parents have used - my oldest is very disciplined (always has been) but my youngest is NOT. While I can trust my oldest not to swear when she knows she's not supposed to, I have the feeling the same will not be true for my youngest when she reaches that age. So I'm in the market for other ideas.

asked 06 Oct '09, 14:07

erin's gravatar image

accept rate: 31%

We have a 10 and 7 year old, and so far have not had too many troubles with bad language. We never treated it as naughty behaviour, in that we didn't jump all over them about it and scold them. We took the approach that there are "grown-up" words that they are not suppose to use, and when they slipped we would just remind them, "Hey that's a grown up word, you shouldn't say that" and it has worked pretty well.

So far they have not used bad language as a way of deliberately being naughty, just as a slip of the tongue (so to speak), so they've never gotten in trouble, just reminded of what the right behaviour is suppose to be. I think because we never made a big deal out of it, it never became a big deal.

I've seen parents jump all over their kids for the smallest infractions, and seen it actually breed the behaviour they are trying to discourage because the kid learns how to push their parents' buttons.

The one language issue we have had is using expressions such as "oh my God" or similar in the context of an expletive, which some of their friends do (and are allowed to by their parents). Again, it was a matter of explaining that while their friends parents may allow this, we do not, and not every set of parents are gonna have the same rules for their kids.

Lastly, while I don't swear in casual language anyway, and certainly not when talking directly to my kids, but they will occasionally hear me drop a grown-up word if I'm sufficiently worked-up (e.g., recently said to my wife that something that so-and-so did really p*ssed me off). I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing for them to see you when you get angry or upset about something, and see how you deal with it. Hopefully I am modelling reasonable behaviour that they can learn from the next time they are angry about something.


answered 07 Oct '09, 02:55

Evan's gravatar image

accept rate: 55%

edited 04 Nov '09, 13:16

We just have a "we don't do that" policy the same as anything else we don't want them to do. Fortunately full-blown swearing like a sailor isn't an issue yet - our kids are limited to using "poo-poo head" and occasionally repeating "Oh my God."

I think the key is not to make a bigger deal out of it than anything else - just treat it like another element of naughty behaviour. If they don't think it's that big a deal, hopefully they won't play up on it... It's working for us so far, but we'll see what happens over time. (The same is true on many fronts - currently none of our kids have any toy guns; a situation we'd like to maintain for as long as possible...)

One thing I will say about swearing: having kids has certainly cleaned up my own use of language, as well as my wife's...


answered 06 Oct '09, 14:26

Jon%20Skeet's gravatar image

Jon Skeet
accept rate: 35%


This is almost exactly how we treat bad words. It really boils down to rudeness: if you're calling someone a "poo-poo head" then the real problem isn't the words you've chosen, but the rudeness you're displaying.

(07 Oct '09, 03:06) bbrown

My husband and I don't usually swear, but we do sometimes use words we don't want our kids to use! We've simply explained that there are some words that are only appropriate/acceptable for use in certain situations BY ADULTS. And when they are adults, it will be their choice when and whether to use those words. Our kids have accepted that, so far.

This answer is marked "community wiki".

answered 06 Oct '09, 22:33

Emily's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


It may help to remind them that there are many things that adults or even older kids can do that they can't. Driving, voting, and seeing different movies (G/PG, etc.) comes to mind. It should be a big leap for them to understand that certain words follow the same rules.

(06 Oct '09, 22:53) Scott ♦♦

My husband and I try to watch what we say in front of our kids but sometimes its hard. My oldest (3 1/2) has heard us say a few words and she has repeated them. I try telling her it's bad and ONLY adults should say them. I also tell her that Santa Claus does not like when people say those words. I have caught her playing in her room and saying the sh** word. When I caught her she covered her mouth with her hands and looked very upset. All I did was tell her that Santa was sad and walked away. I do the same with the words stupid and hate. So far I haven't really had a problem, but my oldest is only 3 1/2. I'm sure I'll hear more "bad words" in the next few years.


answered 06 Oct '09, 14:59

Mommy%20trial%20and%20error's gravatar image

Mommy trial and error
accept rate: 4%


I think you may be setting yourself up for some problems later when she finds out that Santa Claus is not real. It might be better to re-center it around "we trial and errors don't say such things since it's not polite." Just a thought.

(07 Oct '09, 03:09) bbrown

I have told her its not polite. When she is 10 (around the age she will find out about Santa) she will know you just don't swear in public or in front of her parents! She'll be older and understand more in life!

(07 Oct '09, 08:57) Mommy trial and error
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Asked: 06 Oct '09, 14:07

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Last updated: 04 Nov '09, 13:16