Listen, but don’t repeat after me!
Being a mom brings a whole new set of joys and challenges to life. Nothing is sacred, especially not the words that come out of your mouth. I used to think I knew it all before I had kids. What not to say, how to say it, and how to control their mind sponge. Somehow I forgot that mom and dad aren’t the only people who open their mouths around children.
I used to swear a lot. Maybe I thought I was cool, I don’t know, but it is what it is. Now, I’ve been censoring myself around certain people and in public for years out of respect for others. Still, I felt I could talk how I wanted. There was nothing wrong with cursing gosh darnit!
Now that I have a toddler that continues to amaze me with her vocabulary nearly everyday, I notice swears more often and they often make me cringe. My child is a parrot, like many toddlers and preschoolers. When she was a baby I paid little mind to my words because I thought, “Hey, she’s not talking yet! I’ll watch what I say once she does.”
Let me tell you, they learn a lot before those first words tumble off their tongues.
Then I’d foolishly think, “Hey she can’t hear me because she’s [insert distant place] or because I muttered it under my breath.”
No, toddlers have super hearing just for bad words. She might not look my way after I say her name 10 times, but let one “s” or “f” word slip and she’ll repeat it crystal clear. I now have become one of “those moms” who gives The Look to people swearing loudly in public places while around small children (like a family restaurant). It’s not cool. You can control your mouth, they can’t yet.
So how do I keep my daughter from continuing to say inappropriate words (including words like stupid, not just curse words)?
How to discourage toddlers from swearing
- Stop swearing around them, even if you are only thinking the word. They are less likely to ever pick it up if they rarly (if ever) hear it.
- When they repeat it, ignore them. Don’t yell, don’t laugh. They don’t give it meaning unless your reaction gives them reason to. If you are struggling with the laughing part try to turn away or cover that smile so they don’t see it. (I know, sometimes it is so ridiculous you almost can’t keep a straight face.)
- If they keep repeating it, calmly offer an alternative. Something that sounds similar that you can guide them towards. Ex: Oh you silly fox is what mommy said!
- If they keep it up, calmly tell them that isn’t appropriate to say and apologize for saying it (or explain that the man at the table next to yours shouldn’t have said it).
- If they continue to bring it up at other times use time outs or another creative disciplinary action (i.e. swear jars). Honestly it shouldn’t get this far with a little one, at least in my experience. My daughter tends to repeat it once then never say it again unless she overhears it again.
All kids say things we wish they wouldn’t in public once in awhile, but we can do our best to keep that moment in kid-friendly terms rather than adult language!
How do you keep your child’s vocabulary rated G? Have you ever had an issue with a problem word?
Darcy Zalewski is a work at home mom with a daughter born in 2010 and a son born in December of 2012. Thankfully she never fully grew up and still loves to play with toys. She shares her experiences and passions about birth and parenting on her blog, Tales From the Nursery. Never try to stand between her and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup though…