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How to discourage toddlers from swearing

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…

About Emily

Combining her knack for storytelling and passion for creativity with a strong work ethic, Emily started Nap Time is My Time in November 2010. A self-taught photographer and home cook, she also loves DIY projects and crafts, drinking Margaritas and running half marathons. Married to her Texas-born husband since 2005, they live with their young son and dog on Cape Cod.


  1. I haven’t had any problems with this yet, because our son is only 9 months. I’m not really concerned about him picking up swear words, because my husband and I don’t curse and neither do any of our closest friends/family. BUT Hubby has a road rage problem (shhhh), and I’m concerned our son is going to pick up on the anger and yelling. Like you mentioned, words like “stupid” aren’t good for our kids to say either.
    Elisebet F recently shared..How and Where to $ave on Cloth DiapersMy Profile

    • My husband used to be a “road rager” too. He censors himself when The Boy is with him – and if we got anywhere as a family, I drive!

      Have a great weekend!

  2. This is just not a problem that we have had. The people we hang out with have children as well. The kids are homeschooled, and they play with children they go to church with – so they share similar values. I don’t swear, and my husband doesn’t swear around the kids.

    I try to set a good example for them (although far from perfect) but I do tell them that it is not good to say bad things to or about people. I sort of just drill it into their heads. If they repeat something that they have heard, I kindly and lovely let them know that the word is inappropriate and that they shouldn’t be saying it.

    So far, it has worked.
    Lisa Nelson recently shared..A Little Bit of CrazyMy Profile

    • We don’t swear either, but I am amazed at what I’ve heard coming out of the mouths of kids at the grocery store and other places. Certainly makes you wonder what’s going on in their home!

      Have a great weekend!

  3. We haven’t had a problem with swearing, but my son has picked up “Dang it!” It was cute at first, but it’s a bit embarrassing when he exclaims it in a quiet place, say the doctor’s office!
    Kecia recently shared..Mommy Guilt Lives Here…My Profile

  4. I’m so glad to see stop swearing around them as the first bullet, although these are all great tips. I have a friend whose son swore as a toddler. She laughed about it but it wasn’t cute at all.
    Angela recently shared..Reveal Your Best Skin Ever #DoveTruthMy Profile

    • Oh, that is not cute at all! I’m not a fan of parents who encourage their children to say inappropriate things. Then they wonder why the kids talk back, have no respect, and frequently get in trouble – it’s not so funny then is it?

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great weekend.

  5. We didn’t have a problem when my son was younger, but neither my husband or I swear (much). Since he’s hit his teenage years though, my son has picked up a couple swear words from school and they slip out once in a while…

    • Yes, that will happen! I remember the first time I slipped in front of my parents as a teen. I was mortified. And, why do teens think it’s “cool” to swear any way?!

      Have a great weekend!

  6. I’m glad many of you have not had an issue with this but there are families that do. It hasnt been an issue for us except a one off repeat here and there. Though you may not swear around your kids, they can still learn it from other sources.
    Darcy recently shared..The Differences in Diapering Baby Boys and GirlsMy Profile

  7. My husband had the mouth of a sailor and one time he was upset at his dad (they run a business together) and my husband let a few words fly out. C1 repeated the f bomb over 40 times in the car that day and it was an eye opener to my husband. Really cleaned up his mouth.
    Brandy Myers recently shared..Luck Of The Irish CrunchMy Profile

    • Oh my! I think my heart would have skipped a beat if I heard that coming from my little one. Glad your husband has since improved his vocabulary!

  8. Thank you for the tips! Fortunately we haven’t run into this yet, other than once when she repeated the “b” word she heard on TV. She hasn’t said it again, though, and I’m hoping it stays that way!
    Liza @ Views From the ‘Ville recently shared..Entertain and Educate Your Toddler with Toys from Melissa & Doug (and a $100 Giveaway!)My Profile

    • Oh gee! I wouldn’t know what to do if I heard my son swearing. I know the day will come, and I am dreading it.

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