The first time your child drops a four-letter word that isn't milk or Dora can be a shock. You've spent the last few years helping him build up his vocabulary with the names of farm animals and G-rated ways to describe his feelings, but the term he chooses to throw around? The one that rhymes with duck. Before you turn bright red, know that most kids this age have no idea what words like this mean. And that you're not alone: Many parents of preschoolers are also dealing with a child who needs to be censored every now and then.
Three- and 4-year-olds are starting to realize that some words get a response from Mom and Dad -- which is exciting for a child who is just learning how to test the limits. And then other words, like butt, are just plain funny to a preschooler who's developing a sense of humor. But how you handle these bathroom blurts and F-bombs can either help tone down the language or backfire on you. "If you overreact to a certain word, it can make your child even more intrigued about using it," says Erin Boyd-Soisson, Ph.D., associate professor of human development and family science at Messiah College, in Grantham, Pennsylvania. We talked to experts to find out how to handle some of the awkward situations you may face with your child.