When a very young child uses profanity, it is likely that he or she is just repeating something they heard. It is important for the parent not to overreact (i.e. with laughter or anger), and instead, ignore the word. Model the language that you want your child to use; just like teaching children manners, using proper language must be modeled consistently. It is important for all of the child’s caregivers (i.e. parents, grandparents, babysitters, etc.) to avoid cursing in front of him or her.
School-aged children sometimes curse to get attention or they repeat words they hear in television shows, movies, songs or videogames. Try to ensure that your child’s exposure to developmentally-inappropriate content with mature language is limited. Also, as noted above, avoid using words that you would not want your child to use. Whenever your school-aged child says an inappropriate word, state calmly why he or she should not swear (i.e. “it’s not nice”, “it hurts other people’s feelings”, etc.).
Pre-teens and adolescents
When older school-aged children curse, they often do it to feel mature, assert independence, to express strong feelings (i.e. frustration), and fit in socially. Talk to your child about what it means to be more mature and encourage them to come up with other, more adaptive ways they can use to assert their growing independence. When your child swears to express strong feelings teach him or her other ways of dealing with emotions (such as taking deep breaths, slowly counting to 10 or walking away from a frustrating situation). This is particularly effective when parents lead by example.
Ensure your child knows what words are inacceptable in your home and what will be the consequences for using them. Follow through with the consequences each time your child curses (for example, losing the privilege of computer time).