The Answers to Parents

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The Answers to Parents Most Common Questions


My child uses profanity. How do I respond?

Parents often forget that children are active listeners and imitators. If parents use profanity (and most do, either regularly or during moments of anger), so will their children. And children are surprisingly good mimics. They swear with their parents’ tone and intensity, and they use curse words in the appropriate contexts. Young children pick up profanity, which they also hear from playmates and on TV, just as they pick up other phrases.

When people respond with surprise to a child who’s used a curse word, or when they say, “That’s bad,” the child learns that profanity has power. He may continue to use swear words to test out their shock value and to try to understand what makes certain words bad.

Parents are usually alarmed by their child’s swearing. They fear embarrassment and worry that he will be blamed for teaching profanity to other children. Parents also fear that his cursing will reflect on the entire family, and that people may assume such language is used and condoned in his home. Because of these fears, many parents become angry and react strongly when their child uses profanity. But they should be careful not to blame him for his natural tendency to imitate what he hears.

If your child uses swear words only occasionally, there’s no need to be concerned. But if he uses such words often, there are several things you can do. The most important is to stop using profanity yourself. If he no longer hears the words from you (or from the TV shows you let him watch), he’ll probably stop cursing. You can also explain that you don’t want him using profanity, and you can set firm limits on his language. As long as you don’t overreact, he’ll probably give up profanity once the novelty wears off, although during the elementary years he may experiment with it again.






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