When you least expect it, your child comes home from school one day and utters a swear word. Many parents have found themselves in this predicament before since time immemorial. It was my turn recently when my seven-year-old said a swear word. This lead me to finding out how that word found its way into her vocabulary and how best I should tackle the situation if it happened again. I discovered that she learnt it from a classmate but did not know its meaning.
Before we lash out with a torrent of swear words ourselves or inflict any form of punishment in reprimanding our children for swearing , we must remember that we are their role models. If parents or other adults in the household swear, the children will very quickly and easily pick up these words. Young children not only pick up words but also the feelings that come with them when they are used. They observe and learn how you look and act when using those words so the next time they are angry, they will also use the same words you use when angry, for example.
According to a tip I read in the Internet, do not encourage the child to think it is funny or interesting. If you laugh when he says a swear word, he will pick up your feelings and think you find it pleasing so he will very likely say it again, as he wants to please his parents more than anything else.
On the flip side, if you react with anger, he may use it again when he is upset with you in some way and wants you to know about it. You could tell him firmly: “We don't use that word in our family and I don't want to hear it again" and then ignore it and do not respond if he says it again. Fortunately for me, I was driving when my child pulled that shocking surprise on me and could only react with a “What did you just say?” I kept my cool and told her it is not a nice word to use, explaining to her that if she didn’t know the meaning, she should not use it.
Set a rule that everyone in the family must know the meaning of a word in order to say it, and they must mean what that word means. If your child says a swear word when he is angry or upset, focus on helping him express his feelings using words he understands and means, instead of fussing over the swear word. Explain to him the meaning of the swear word and that it is wrong and rude to use it, and it may hurt others’ feelings.
Some children use these words to get attention or to show off, thinking that it is a ‘cool’ thing to do. Find out the reasons why your child swears, if he is under any stress, is crying out for attention or just wants to fit in with his ‘cool’ peers. Explain to him that it is not necessary to swear to gain friends and be ‘cool’, and in fact, swearing is not a smart thing to do as it reflects one’s lack of knowledge in using proper words.
Finally, be in tune with your child's activities and feelings. A child who has a balanced lifestyle and access to open communication and love from parents is more likely to understand that it is not necessary or good to swear and swearing is simply not 'cool'.
This is my unedited article scheduled for publication next Tuesday.