How to Respond to a Cursing Toddler

As they learn the power of language, some toddlers use words they know are naughty to get attention. If your child blurts out words that would shock a sailor:

  1. Don't laugh. It may seem funny at first to hear such language fall from the lips of your babe, but letting her know that only encourages more of the same. Don't quote your child to another adult for a laugh either, at least not within your child's hearing.
  2. Don't overreact. Acting shocked or horrified teaches that the word is powerful, thus giving your child incentive to repeat it.
  3. Ignore the first incident. It's possible that your child has no idea that she's uttered an inappropriate word and may simply be repeating a new word much as she would any other new word. Paying no attention to the word can help it disappear from her vocabulary.
  4. Remind your child of the rules. If your child repeats a forbidden word, state firmly, "We don't use that word in our family."
  5. Set a good example. If you curse or swear, expect your child to do the same. Modeling appropriate verbal responses to anger helps your child learn socially acceptable language, too.

From The Parents Book of Lists: From Birth to Age Three, by the editors of Parents magazine with Marge Kennedy. Copyright © 2000

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