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Helpful tips for dealing with swearing

Child development

When parents hear their child swear for the first time, it can be horrifying and quite challenging for them.

They might ask where their child has learned that kind of language and whether he or she really understands what they are saying. Some parents may want to blame other children for their child learning how to swear. However, the fact is that in today’s society, swearing is part of life and it can be difficult to protect children from it.

Although there can be many reason why children may swear, often it can happen accidentally when they are learning to say or are exploring new words. Children may also swear to express their frustration or to get attention. 

There are many ways that you can respond to swearing, but in fact, it’s often better to ignore the swearing. Most experts agree with this and highlight that your reaction to your child’s swearing may also influence whether it occurs again.

How you respond to your child’s swearing now will also have an impact on any future swearing. Here are a few tips to help out:

  • Avoid overreacting. As soon as a child realises that they cannot gain your interest by swearing, the behaviour will most likely decrease or stop.
  • Ignore it. If a child swears to gain attention or reaction, no eye contact or talking can be the most effective way to stop it. Redirection or distraction can also help take the focus off the swearing.
  • Discuss it. If the child is angry or frustrated, a discussion about using more acceptable words may assist. For example, you may say ‘I can see that you are angry. Let’s find words that we can use when we’re angry’.
  • Place clear boundaries. For example, you may say ‘We do not use those words at any time’.
  • Give attention and acknowledgment to appropriate language. Acknowledging this will encourage them to repeat the behaviour.


 Bower, A., & Perry, R. (2008). Hot tips for cool kids!: Practical ways to guide young children’s behaviour. Child Behaviour Solutions: Samford, QLD
 Centre for Community Inclusion & Disability Studies (2006). Shocking language. 

Raising Children Network (2014). Swearing: Toddlers and Preschoolers. 

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