Starting to Swear

Children who use swear words at home are often trying to get a reaction out of you. Here's how to stamp out cursing.

Q: My child thinks that swearing is cool. How can I teach her it's not-even if her friends think it is?

A: "A parent must not become alarmed and not overreact to a child's use of curses or slang words," says Lawrence Balter, Ph.D., a child psychologist based in New York City. Most likely, your daughter is just trying to get a rise out of you or trying to flex her muscles a little bit by using words that she senses are naughty or inappropriate, even though at this age she probably doesn't even know what most of the words mean.

"If anything," Dr. Balter adds, "parents should try to put on an exaggerated air of boredom when their child uses bad language in front of them. For instance, you could say, 'Oh, I've heard all that before. And, you know what? I think it's terribly impolite to talk like that. If you really enjoy using those words, you can go into your room and say them in private as much as you want. But I expect you not to use that type of language in front of me or in the company of any other adults.'" Your daughter's fascination with profanity should soon fade if you make sure that you don't overreact to her cursing and you stand firm with her that she not swear around you or others.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.