Dear Teacher Landa,
I am currently writing an article for a magazine about what to do when a child starts swearing or using bad words. I need your help and I hope you can answer the following questions. Thanks!
Ceia Ylagan, Writer
What is considered swearing?
Swearing or using swear words is the display of verbally disrespectful behavior towards someone or something. This is manifested through words or expressions that society generally takes as rude or insulting.
Why do children swear? Why do you think they start using bad words? Where do they get it? What factors influence them into using bad words?
There are varied reasons why children swear. However, most of them are caused by modeling or mirroring behavior from significant others. Some children hear swear words at home, often from persons of authority, while some copy peers. Other children, on the other hand, experiment with words they don’t know so they can understand what they mean. This is especially true for words copied from television shows, cartoons, books or stories. Still others enjoy getting attention from people for using profanity or are simply upset and don’t know how else to express their frustration.
What should you do when you hear a child use a curse word?
Parents and teachers must respond as calmly as possible and ask where the child heard the word he/she used. Understanding the reason behind a child’s use of profanity will allow parents or teachers to deal with the problem better. It is always best to identify the cause of the behavior and address it. If significant others are the culprit, parents or teachers must talk with the concerned parties. Often elders forget that children don’t know any better and as such must be guided accordingly. Talking with children and explaining how others feel when he/she uses bad words will help the child understand the situation better. Saying, “That word is hurtful and rude. It means something bad. How would you feel if I or someone else called you or used that word with you?” will help the child understand its effects better.
What can parents do to discipline a child who uses a curse word? How do you correct them?
First of all, parents must establish a zero tolerance rule for swear words. Once this has been established, children need to learn that cursing has consequences. Parents and members of the household must also ensure that everyone follows the same rules.
What trick works best for you? What do you tell them about cursing and saying/using bad words? How do you explain to a child that cursing is wrong?
Children need to understand that words are powerful and can be very hurtful. When I talk with my students, turning tables around always does the trick. Once they can empathize with the receiver of curse words, they are better able to understand why swearing is unacceptable and does not have a place anywhere.
What kinds of punishment should parents give if the child starts cursing or saying bad words?
The best way to deal with cursing, as is the best way to deal with any other negative behavior, is the establishment of consequences. These differ from one child and family to another, however. It can range from the withdrawal of a privilege such as allowance or favorite activity (e.g. taking away video time or play time) or giving extra chores to do.
Parents must remember to make this system consistent though. That way, the next time a child is about to curse, a mere “you know what will happen when you curse”, will help him/her think before swearing.