Even if you are extremely careful not to use harsh language in your household, your child will eventually be exposed to it. Whether it’s from peers, in public places or on television, bad language exists and you can’t shield your child from it forever. Don’t let this become a point of contention in your household. There is help for children who have potty mouths. Here are some tips to help clean up your child’s vocabulary.
- Give positive attention. Most behaviors we don’t want our children to practice are attention-seeking behaviors. Giving your child plenty of positive attention when he or she is acting appropriately reinforces the good behaviors and reduces reasons to act out.
- Monitor what your kids are watching. Between television, the Internet, music and video games, there are so many opportunities for your child to pick up bad language. Even shows that are rated as appropriate for younger children can display bad habits like back talk. When you see this, have a frank conversation with your kids and explain the household expectations concerning back talk and bad language, so that they know what they see on television is not acceptable in your home. If you children are too young to understand this conversation, don’t expose them to this kind of media.
- Don’t have a big reaction to potty talk. When children use bad language intentionally, they’re trying to get attention and power. Seeing you upset gives them the power and attention they’re going for–don’t give the desired reaction to an undesirable behavior.
- Set clear expectations. Some families allow use of certain words that your family may not. Make sure it’s very clear to the children which words they can say and which they can’t.
- Teach younger children the correct words for body parts. They get excitement out of saying things like butt or poopie. Using the proper words conversationally takes the excitement out of using those words.
- Think about why older children may be cursing. They could be testing your limits. If this is the case, reinforce household expectations and have a consequence associated with cursing. If you think they are cursing because they can’t appropriately express anger, have a conversation once they have calmed down and try to get to the root of that anger. Validate their feelings and look for better ways to express them.
- Encourage even baby steps in the right direction. If you taught your toddler appropriate body part names and you hear those words being used, reinforce that behavior with positive attention. If your teen is appropriately expressing his or her feelings without swearing, also use positive attention to reinforce the progress.
- Have appropriate consequences. If the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, things just become more confusing for your child. Having related and appropriate consequences for violating household expectations will help your child learn how repercussions work in the adult world. An example of a related consequence for swearing (for older children) would be to make that child look up an alternate appropriate word for that swear word or put money into a swear jar.
- Closely monitor your own behavior. If you are still using foul or harsh language, your children are going to see that there is a double standard. Model the behaviors you want your children to follow. Speak to your children and others with respect, and avoid bad language so your children see the proper way to communicate.
Setting a good example and monitoring children’s behavior can be taxing. If you would like more tips or information on how we approach fostering correct verbal (and other) behavior at Sparkles!, contact us. We’d love to share what we have learned!