Potty Talk to Swearing…10 Tips to Curb Foul Language in Your House

End the Foul Language Today

10 ways to curb foul language

As much as it makes parents cringe, all children experiment with foul language and swearing from time to time.

Your toddler may be fascinated with the words “poopie head” or “butt face.” And of course, we know older kids can be more colorful and even offensive in their use of language.

Whether you’re trying to shift the tone with toddlers or teens, we’ve got you covered! 

Follow these 10 tips to curb cursing and potty talk in your house…

1. Make sure children have plenty of positive ways to get attention and power. A child who has sufficient positive attention and opportunities to exercise power in positive ways, doesn’t have to use foul language to get attention and power.

2. For younger kids, teach them the appropriate names for body parts and use them conversationally to remove the excitement of using those words.

3. Monitor TV, video, music lyrics and Internet usage. Kids see and hear much more than we did when we were growing up. If you’re not comfortable with the back talk you hear coming from your television, have a candid conversation about that with your kids or make that show off-limits in your house.

4. Don’t over-react! Kids use foul language to get a rise out of you and engage you in a power struggle. When you get upset, they score a big payoff of attention and power and just about guarantees that they’ll use the word again!

5. Be very clear about what words are okay and not okay in your family… “You may hear other kids say that word but it’s not okay in our family.”

6. For older kids who swear…try to understand where it’s coming from. Are they trying to fit in or act cool? Do they struggle to express their anger in appropriate ways? If the swearing stems from anger, validate the feelings but suggest other ways to communicate their anger… “I can tell you’re really angry about this and I would love to talk to you about this when you’ve calmed down and we can have a respectful conversation.”

7. Decide what YOU will do. You can’t “make” a child stop using potty talk or stop swearing. (You may try, but you really can’t.) Instead, decide what YOU will do when you hear offensive language. Let your child know that when you hear disrespectful language, you will turn around and walk away without saying a word. (This removes the “payoff” for the behavior.) Walking away without words isn’t letting him “get away” with foul language, it’s saying, “I deserve to be treated with respect and I choose not to listen to potty talk/swearing.” Our actions speak much louder than our ongoing lectures.

8. Consequences…parents often ask about the “related” consequence for swearing. I like turning the situation into a learning opportunity instead. Educational Psychologist and author, Michele Borba, Ed.D. suggests requiring the offender to look up a new, more appropriate word in the dictionary to replace the offensive one. The child can be asked to use that new word throughout the day in conversation or write it on an index card and teach it to the rest of the family.

9. Encourage your kids when you see them making any progress in the right direction. When you hear your toddler using the appropriate terms for body parts or using jokes (instead of potty words) to get attention – make a point of encouraging her “grown up” ways. Encourage older kids when they express their frustration without using offensive language. Even if they haven’t curbed their foul language completely, encourage ANY movement in the right direction.

10. And of course, watch your own language. Speak respectfully to your kids and to your partner and model appropriate language. Kids are keenly sensitive to double standards. If it’s okay for you to swear, they don’t understand why it isn’t okay for them.

If swearing and foul language becomes more frequent and increasingly offensive, parents should recognize that it’s not about the “swearing.” Most likely, the child is using bad language as a potent tool to engage them in a power struggle or is using it as a revenge tool against the parents. At this point, it’s time to dig deeper and determine what’s really behind the behavior.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.