What He Says: "Where's my *@ing backpack?"
What's Going On You may be surprised to hear your preschooler throw out a cuss you didn't think he even knew, but kids this age pick up on swear words quickly -- whether they hear one slip from you when a car cuts you off on the road or from a pal's older sibling during a playdate. "Even if they don't know what it means, preschoolers understand that they these words are emotionally charged," says Dr. Jay.
How to Respond The first time it happens, ignore it. Your kid will be less likely to say it again if he sees you don't find it amusing. The next time, stay calm and say, "That's not a nice word, and we don't use it in our house."
If foul language continues to be a problem, make sure you -- and the other adults around your child -- are being good role models. But if you do end up cursing sometimes, don't sweat it, says Edward Christophersen, Ph.D., clinical child psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics, in Kansas City, Missouri. Briefly acknowledge your slip ("I should not have used that word") and carry on as if it didn't happen.