Very Bad Behavior

The Bad Mouth

Even the most angelic child can sometimes sound like he's been possessed by Denis Leary.

Who does it? Kids of all ages

What they're thinking This behavior is usually modeled. Kids pick up bad words from classmates, siblings, and, um, their parents. If your preschooler keeps doing it, it's probably because he got a big laugh the first time he blurted one out, while big kids curse to be cool.

How to deal Make sure the only feedback a younger child gets is negative. Instead of cracking up after he curses, let him know the behavior isn't okay. Try, "We don't use that word in this family." If he's imitating you by swearing after he's dropped something, give him an alternative, says Dr. Hertenstein. For example, drop a toy and say, "Oh man!" Older kids may respond to your reprimands with, "But you say it!" If so, try creating a Swear Jar. "Every time you curse, throw in a dollar. " When the jar is filled, take the kids for ice cream.

When to call an expert "Don't worry unless it's really inappropriate--for example, he's swearing at a teacher," says Dr. Hertenstein. "In that case, the behavior could signify power and defiance issues."

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