teach_kids_about_bad_language.jpgIt’s surprising to hear children lightly drop “bad words” into their daily conversations. Name calling, mentioning “grosswords, and even casual curse words here and there are usually delivered without much thought to what they actually mean. Children have a tendency to mimic what they see and hear—so whether they pick up a bad word from TV or a book, or overhear a foul conversation between two adults, their vocabularies are built on what they pick up from their environments.

Clue your kids in on the rules of bad language and help them learn about major language no-nos with these easy-to-follow tips!


Young kids often tease each other with seemingly innocent labels like “silly” or “dumb,” which often turn into nastier names like “jerk” or “moron” as kids get older. Children may not mean to offend when they dole out these labels; sometimes they’re simply meant as casual jokes among peers. Despite that, name-calling can turn into mean-spirited behavior that can easily put down another child and make him feel worthless and disrespected.

To discourage taunting, tell your kids that name-calling can hurt another person’s feelings and is something you simply do not do. If they are annoyed, irritated, or upset by someone and feel the need to call that person a bad name, it is better to criticize their words or actions rather than the other person. Encourage them to say things like “I don’t like what you’re doing because . . .” And one of the best ways you can do so is to practice this yourself!


Joking around among children usually involves the use of words like “poop” or “pee”—anything that can trigger a violent reaction from others because they’re revolting. Some adults may argue that this type of language is all part of growing up, but it’s important to make clear to kids that there are places and occasions where this type of “gross” talk is simply not acceptable.

Discourage “dirty” language by not giving kids the reaction they expect—this means not shrieking, squealing, or even laughing. You can also give them a talking to through gentle reminders like “not at the dinner table” or “be respectful when grown-ups are in the room.” Explain to them how language is a good reflection of how you conduct yourself and how you’re brought up—using polite language is more likely to make people think you’re a polite person.


It surprises a lot of parents when they find out their kids are aware of all the four-letter words that they’re not supposed to say. Though you may not realize it, kids can pick up these swear words from conversations they overhear at home, in school, at the playground—virtually anywhere. Oftentimes, kids don’t even realize what they actually mean when they swear, only that it gets adults upset when they curse. It’s a parent’s job to monitor a child’s language and find out the triggers behind them—the best way to find out is to ask, “Why did you say that?”

Most of the time, kids think it’s cool to use casual slang—and in this case, parents have to talk to them about what these expressions mean and why it isn’t good to say them. If your child spoke ill because of anger and frustration, their use of this language indicates that deeper emotional or psychological probing has to take place, so it’s important to look beyond the words they’re saying to what they’re actually trying to tell you.


Now that your kids know about foul language and why it’s so bad, it’s good to offer them alternatives that are less offensive and more kid-appropriate. Whenever you hear your child begin to utter a bad word, for example, you can immediately say, “Remember, we don’t say that word!”

Some popular substitutes include: “Oh man!” or “No way!” or “Gosh!”


Make an example of how no one is exempt from being a potty mouth, regardless of age, by giving even the adults a strong consequence whenever a bad word is said at home (especially in front of the kids).

Take away a privilege or a toy whenever a slip-up happens—consequences that apply to both kids and parents work well, for example taking away X-Box privileges or subtracting an hour of Wii or TV time for the whole week. Other parents put a household ban on curse words by requiring anyone who breaks the rule to pay money into a swear-word pot—this may cost more for adults (even yayas, grandparents, or guests) than for teens or children, or it may be a universal charge for anyone who uses offensive language.

This will let kids know that you are serious about your rules, and will also help provide them with a home where bad language is not spoken at all—no exceptions.


While it may seem a good idea to expose your kids to books and family friendly movies, not all reading materials or seemingly kid-friendly films are free of foul language. Take the time to go through the video games, movies, and stories you expose your children to. That extra effort is all it takes to make sure your kids grow up in an environment that nurtures and promotes good curse word–free language.

(Photo © iStockPhoto.com/Karen Town)
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