Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mind your language

Forget washing their mouths out with soap, there are easier ways to stop your child from swearing
I know a grandmother who regularly babysits her grandkids and she has always said: “There’s no such word as ‘bored’ in my house.”
Initially I took this to mean that she provides lots of amazing activities for the kids, but what she explained is that the minute a child says “I’m bored”, she replies, “There’s no such word” and encourages them to find something to do.
This got me thinking about other words that we don’t like our children saying.
In our house we discourage our children from saying words such as “hate”, “stupid”, “dumb” or other insulting words or phrases.
Then there’s minor swear words such as “damn”, and the big ones such as the f-bomb.
Every child at some point will probably let one slip, so here’s some tips on how to treat a foul mouth before reaching for the soap.
Young children under school age often swear because they’re exploring language, and often don’t realise they are doing something wrong.
Quite often toddlers are simply repeating a word they’ve heard an adult say.
Older kids are more likely to have heard it at school or on television.
For young ones, the best thing you can do is ignore it, especially if they are trying to seek attention.
The more you make a big deal out of it, the more exciting it is for the child.
If they continue to swear you can take the opportunity to teach them about swearing by saying “We don’t use words that upset people”.
You don’t need to give them explanations about swear words as they are too young to understand some of the concepts associated with them. It’s enough to say “That’s not a nice word”.
In cases where swearing becomes so bad that you can’t ignore it, then it’s time to take action.

For school-aged children, it is best to speak to them right away rather than ignoring the behaviour.
Stay calm and explain that words hurt, too, so swearing at another person is just as bad as hitting or kicking someone as they leave emotional bruises.
Try to find out why your child feels the need to swear. 
Perhaps they are angry about something, and need to find another way to vent their angry feelings. I have written an entire column in the past on managing anger so look it up on my blog, but also keep in mind that simply talking about it can often help kids feel better.
Perhaps your child feels the need to fit in socially with their peers. If this is the case, there isn’t anything immediate you can do because it’s probably happening outside of the home.
However, you can teach your child about other ways they can gain acceptance from their friends, and let them know why swearing in front of people who may be offended, or swearing in certain places, is unacceptable.
Since you don’t always know how different people will react or feel about these words, instead of telling your child to avoid using them altogether, advise them to use their best judgment when choosing their words.
When your child uses obscenities to express themselves, other people may view them as rude, ignorant and vulgar. If you explain this to them, they may decide that the more adult thing to do is to use more intelligent words to express themselves.
If you treat them like an adult, it may trigger a more positive response, instead of a rebellious one.
Another possible solution is to tell them what the word actually means. Often they are using it in their language without realising what they are saying. If they know the meaning it may cause enough discomfort to make them stop saying it.
You could encourage them to use alternative words that are not offensive. You could say words such as “chips” or “sugar” instead, or you and your kids could make up a funny word together. 
Finally, being a good role model is really important, so make sure you are modeling the behaviour and speech you’d like to see from your children.
If you have friends or relatives who swear, ask them to mind their bad language around your children.
Remember, these are just words and although we don’t want to encourage our children to use them, it’s important we don’t overreact and make it a bigger deal of it than it really is.
Top tips to remember:
* Be a good role model by not swearing.
* Discuss family rules about acceptable language.
* Become aware of what your child watches, listens to and who they play with. Supervise TV, movies, music and multimedia. It’s a good idea to have the computer and TV in a part of the house where you can see them.
* Give your child consequences if they continue to swear, such as time out, or loss of privileges such as pocket money or TV time.
* Praise them for doing the right thing, especially if they catch themselves about to swear and stop before they say it.


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