Posts Tagged toddlers

From Potty Talk to Swearing: 10 Tips to Curb Foul Language

Young boy covering his mouthYoung boy covering his mouth

Young boy covering his mouth


You know how it goes… 

Your three-year-old just called you a “butt face” because you refused to give him an extra fruit snack. 

Your middle schooler muttered something a little more colorful (and offensive) as she begrudgingly took out the trash this morning.

Your teenager shouted his favorite four-letter expletive when his team lost last night’s game.

Whatever the scenario, one thing is clear: any time you hear your sweet child utter some not-so-sweet language, you cringe. 

“How did we get here?” you think.

Was it the time you laughed when your toddler first learned how funny potty language could be? Did they hear it at school? From friends? Around the house?

The truth is–just like button-pushing, power struggles, and backtalk–foul language and swearing is something all children experiment with from time to time. They try it out–just to see what kind of reaction they’ll get. 

I’ve spent years working with countless parents who’ve found themselves stuck in one parenthood dilemma or another. From yelling, to punishments, to misbehavior in general–you name it, I’ve seen it. Which is why I even offer a FREE PARENTING WEBINAR to any parent who finds themselves in the trenches looking for a better, more positive way out.

And when it comes to potty language and swearing? I’ve got you covered there, too. 

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

Tip #1: Watch Your Own Language

You are your child’s first role model. 

Let that sink in for a moment. 

We say it all the time…that kids learn more from our actions than our words. And this is one of those situations in which they learn a LOT from both…how we ACT when we’re excited, frustrated, angry, hurt, you name it–and the WORDS we use to punctuate those moments.  

And let’s be honest, sometimes a swear word just fits the bill for those big emotions we’re feeling. 

In fact, studies show that swearing can actually produce a therapeutic or cathartic effect. And while it can be temporarily satisfying for us, we all know it doesn’t set the best example for our kids!

So, in an effort to be the best role model for our kids, we must be careful to present OUR best self to our kids and, of course, that means curtailing our cursing!

Curious as to how this can be done?

Find a Curse Word Alternative

To jump-start the process, decide on a G-rated replacement word or phrase to use during those stressful moments when every fiber of your being wants to swear. It will take some practice but within a few days or a week, those curse-bombs will appear less often and more positive language will start to pop up in front of your kids. 

Not only should we cut back on the swearing, but we should also be mindful of how we speak to others throughout the day and the week. Try this…

Speak With A Smile

Let’s do an experiment, shall we? It may sound simple but it’s powerful.

For one week, aim to say whatever you have to say…with a smile on your face. (Even if it’s a little fake!) 

Sounds simple, right? But I can assure you, this is so powerful! When we speak with a smile on our face we naturally communicate more positively. Not only will we find ourselves being more encouraging to others, but we’ll be less likely to respond from the gut with a curse word or an unpleasantry!

Remember, our kids are always listening (even when they don’t appear to be). So it’s important to speak respectfully to them, our parenting partner, our family, and our friends. Be a model for appropriate language. 

Oh, and beware of this … the dreaded double standard. You know the one, “I’m an adult and I’m allowed to use adult language.”  Our kids are keenly sensitive to double standards. If it’s okay for us to swear, they don’t understand why it isn’t okay for them. 

Tip #2: Use the Right Terminology for Body Parts

There is a reason why the word “butthead” is enough to send your toddler (and maybe even your older children) into a fit of laughter. It’s exciting for them!

And should you tell them not to say it? Well, nothing piques a child’s interest in a word more than being told they can’t say it. 

Although we can’t control what words they hear at school, we can control the power those words have. This can be done by minimizing our kids’ exposure to them and by taking away the excitement–that wow-factor–by simply using the correct terminology when referring to body parts. 

Want an added benefit? Teaching them the appropriate names for body parts and using them conversationally is a wonderful way to aid in the prevention of sexual abuse.

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review the advanced training module “How to Talk to Modern Kids About Sexuality” for more helpful information.

Foul Language QuoteTip #3: Make This a Learning Opportunity

As much as we would like to raise children who never say anything negative–nevermind curse or use potty language–that just isn’t realistic. Our kids will experiment with bad words at one time or another.

Parents often ask me what are some effective and “related” consequences for swearing. Since you can’t really take away your child’s ability to use bad language, this can be rather tricky to do. 

However, you can make this a learning opportunity!

Educational Psychologist and author, Michele Borba, Ed.. suggests requiring the offender to look up a new, more appropriate word in the dictionary to replace the offensive one. They can then 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.

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Tip #4: Don’t Overreact! 

Did you laugh hysterically when your barely-verbal two-year-old called the dog a “poopie head?” Where did he even hear that? 

And, did you blow up in epic proportion when your teen dropped his third F-bomb that morning? How could he be so disrespectful after all you do for him?

I get it. It can be so hard to keep your cool when your child decides to drop a curse word. Your “practically involuntary” responses in these situations are perfectly understandable. 

But really try to remain calm.

Unfortunately, whether our kids are toddlers, tweens, or teens, the truth is an overreaction–of any sort–creates a payoff for the behavior. Our response will likely be seen as a big win for our children, causing them to want to say it again, and again, and again…

Think about it … our kids have learned from experience that potty talk or cursing is a trigger for us. They’ve seen it push our buttons time and time again. 

So when our kids let the foul language rip, more likely than not, they’re using it as an invitation to engage us in a power struggle. They say a bad word, we react and lose our cool–reinforcing that behavior and just about guaranteeing they’ll use that language again.

It’s a vicious cycle and oh so maddening for parents. So what can we do?

Remove our reaction.

This. Is. Hard.

BUT with a little advanced preparation on our part (like with Tip #7 below!), we can actually completely remove that power payoff, simply by keeping a level head. Do this enough times and we’ll begin to hear less cursing, potty talk, and bad language coming from our child’s mouth.

Tip #5: Emphasize Family Values

I am a firm believer that every family should adhere to a set of clear and concise values and refer back to them whenever conflict arises. These can cover anything from how each member of the family is expected to partake in family contributions around the house to what language is and is not allowed.

Is your daughter’s best friend’s cousin allowed to drop an F-bomb whenever she feels like it? Be clear and concise with your child about what kind of language is and is not allowed by setting clear expectations

Explain it to her simply. “I understand that you hear other kids use that word, but in this family that kind of language is not allowed.”

Sure, we may get a few eye rolls, some grumbling, maybe even a bit of sass, but emphasizing our family’s values (and modeling them for our kids) will ensure our children know exactly what is and is not expected of them when it comes to bad language.

Pro Tip: Family meetings are a great place to set and go over your family values! For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review Step 6 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System® course to learn how you can use family meetings to connect, problem solve, and have FUN!

Tip #6: Understand the Situational Context

Sometimes, as parents, we can jump to conclusions while only getting a small glimpse of the whole picture.

Does your teen swear on a regular basis, or just when he is around his friends? Is stress a factor? How about anger?

For older kids who swear, it’s important to try and understand where it’s coming from. Once we determine the root of the problem, then we can dive in for a solution.

For example, if their swearing stems from anger, validate his feelings while also suggesting others ways he can communicate his feelings more respectfully.

“I can tell you’re really angry about this. I would love to talk to you about it when you’ve calmed down and we can have a respectful conversation.” 

And just know, our child’s swearing is not always a reflection of our parenting.

It can be so easy to take what they say personally, wondering just where we went wrong or how we influenced this type of behavior. But sometimes, it simply isn’t about us.

Dig a little deeper to try and get to the root of the problem. And know that you’re doing a great job.

Tip #7: Decide What YOU Will Do

You’ve tried time-outs, taking away privileges, and an endless list of consequences, but still your son refuses to stop with the potty language. 

Now here you are, trying your best to resist your well-meaning grandmother’s “bar of soap” recommendation. Still, you have to admit, you have no idea what to do next. 

The truth is, we can’t make our child actually stop using potty talk or swearing. After all, he is in control of his mouth and his voice. Short of duct-taping his mouth closed, we can’t control what comes out of it. (By the way, we do NOT advocate duct-taping!) 

So what can be done?

Take action!

Now’s the time to decide what YOU will do whenever you hear any offensive language.

One possible solution? Know when to walk away.

Let your child know that when you hear him using disrespectful language, you will turn around and walk away without saying a word. Let him know you love him too much to argue with him and you certainly wouldn’t want to say anything that you would regret later. (This models personal responsibility, by the way.)

This is NOT about letting him get away with cursing, it simply removes the “payoff” for the behavior and shows him that you deserve to be treated with respect. Don’t tolerate anything less.

In short, as parents, our actions speak much louder than our ongoing lectures.

Our actions speak louder than our ongoing lectures

Tip #8: Monitor Screen Time, Music, and Internet Use

One minute you’re happily jamming to the radio as you drive your twelve-year-old daughter to school, then the next you’re in shock, jaw on the floor as you hear her drop each lyric–curses and all–as if she were Nicki Minaj herself.

This is such a hard reality for so many parents to face, especially at this age when their children are starting to make the transition from childhood to the teenage years

Call it a harsh reality of the times, but our children are exposed to so much more than we ever were at their age. Whether it’s the lippy sass from their favorite sitcom character, the M-rating on the hottest video game on the market, or the slew of nasty comments littered across social media–there’s simply no getting around their exposure to harsh language. 

The key is to manage it!

If you’re not comfortable with the language or values being thrown at your child, it’s time to have a candid conversation with your kids. Monitor their screen time, listen to their music, and keep an eye on their internet usage. 

Now, you may be thinking, “Amy, I am already so busy. How on earth am I supposed to monitor my child’s technology on top of everything else I have to do?” 

Believe me, I understand just how impossible this may seem. But I promise you, a solution is right at your fingertips! Give my FREE PARENTING WEBINAR a try. There I’ll show you a step-by-step process for consequences you can use to monitor your child’s use of technology.

There is no need to fear the world your child is becoming more and more a part of–it will exist no matter what. But you can always be proactive in how you manage it in your own household.

Pro Tip: Worried about your child’s backlash when monitoring their screen time? Positive Parenting Solutions Members can review the “Family Technology Survival Plan” advanced training and learn how to implement technology boundaries you all feel good about–while having a solid plan for any whining, complaining or negotiating that may arise! 

Tip #9: Encourage Good Language Choices

As with anything, when you see your child making good choices, encourage them!

Did your toddler use an appropriate term for one of his body parts? 

Encourage him by saying, “Thank you for using appropriate language when talking about your body. You are really growing up!” 

Did your teenage daughter stop herself just short of cursing at her little brother to get out of her room?  

Let her know, “I see how hard you’re working at editing your language and want you to know how much I appreciate the effort.”

Encourage your children because they are making progress in the right direction. And every step–no matter how small–matters!

Tip #10: Give Legitimate Power and Control

When cursing is intentional, it’s usually a power play. Our children know it will trigger us into giving them attention. When that’s the case, the best thing we can do is find a way to give them legitimate power and age-appropriate control. 

So how can we do this? Give them a healthy dose of control over certain areas of their life. That could be picking out clothes, choosing what to have for breakfast, or picking out their favorite book to read before bed. 

For older kids, you can try giving them a little more control over how they structure their day. Would they rather do homework before dinner or after? Would they like a ride to school or to take their bike?

A child who has sufficient positive attention and opportunities to exercise power in positive ways doesn’t have to use foul language to turn our head. 

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review Steps 3 and 4 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System® course for plenty of ideas on how to empower your children without breeding entitlement. 

Final Thoughts

Children use potty language and swearing for a variety of reasons, and for most parents, it can be incredibly frustrating! 

If you’re currently wading through the filth, trying to figure out how to clean up your child’s language, just know that you are not alone and help is out there. 

If the swearing and foul language are becoming more frequent and increasingly offensive, it’s probably not about the “swearing.” Most likely, your child is using bad language as a potent tool to engage in a power struggle or even as a vehicle for revenge. At this point, it’s time to dig deeper and determine what’s really behind the behavior.

Feel free to join me for a FREE CLASS to see if the 7-Step Parenting Success System® course is right for you. We’d love to help you through every parenting trial you face, and celebrate with you during every success!

4 Strategies for Dealing with Tantrums in Public

Young child throwing a tantrum at their parents feetYoung child throwing a tantrum at their parents feet

Young child throwing a tantrum at their parents feet

It’s an hour past your son’s bedtime, but sleep is the furthest thing from his mind as he throws his little body onto his bedroom floor. All he wanted was just one more sip of water.

He screams, he cries, he shouts. It’s nothing you haven’t been through before, but it hurts nonetheless. No one likes a temper tantrum.

You stand idly by, utterly exhausted, and think, “Is there anything on earth worse than this right here?”  

Of course, you know the answer. 

Yes. There is indeed something worse. After all, you could have an audience.

I’m talking about public temper tantrums. 

I’m sure you can just imagine it now. The snickering, the finger-pointing, the staring. Public tantrums are uncomfortable, awkward, and downright humiliating. But more than anything–they’re common!

In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an experienced parent who hasn’t had at least one mortifying tale to tell when it comes to their little one breaking down in the middle of a crowded place. So take comfort in knowing that you are most certainly not alone.

Still, just because they do happen doesn’t mean they have to happen. Because going out in public with your child should not be something you dread. 

Tantrum Prevention

Naturally, stopping a tantrum from happening in the first place is much more ideal than having to deal with one once it’s already begun. You know your child better than anyone else; what makes him tick and what sets him off. Now is the time to be proactive! Try and avoid a tantrum all together by taking charge and thinking ahead before ever stepping foot outside your house. 

Of course, even with the best preparation, sometimes tantrums are simply unavoidable. Even in public places. When that happens, it’s time to go to the next best option…

Tantrum Diffusion

In a perfect world, our children would behave like angels any time we went out in public. There would be no need to worry about last-minute trips to the grocery store or play dates that extend into naptime. 

But that’s not reality, is it?

Tantrums happen and, all too often, they happen in public. When they do, you may be tempted to yell, threaten, or cry yourself–but don’t! Instead, look for ways to diffuse the tantrum rather than fan the flame.

diffuse the tantrum rather than fan the flame

Here are 4 strategies you can use for dealing with tantrums in public.

Strategy #1: Be Prepared

When it comes to doing anything with children–especially going out in public–preparation is key.

Before leaving your house, make a mental checklist of where you will be going and what issues could possibly arise to trigger a tantrum–then prepare for them!

Does your grocery trip set off a tantrum each time you pass the toy aisle and not allow your son to buy a new Hot Wheel? Is your doctor’s appointment right across the street from your daughter’s favorite ice cream shop?

When tantrums start to arise, distraction is key. Having a few small games, coloring books, or toys on hand can help keep your child’s mind busy and a tantrum at bay.

Not sure what toys would be best to bring along? Aim for sensory toys! Not only do kids find them enjoyable to play with, but they are stimulating enough to help develop their fine and gross motor skills. Textured balls and shaker eggs are perfect for keeping your younger toddlers and babies occupied, while fidget spinners and silly putty are great for older kids.

It’s also equally important to prepare yourself mentally. Despite your best efforts, a public tantrum may still happen. If it does, set your intentions clearly beforehand: You are not going to worry about the judgment of others. Instead, you will focus on the needs of your child and the situation.

Knowing and accepting that a tantrum may still happen will help you remain calm and respond to the situation appropriately.

Strategy #2: Give Them a Job

You’ve tried and tried to put it off as long as you could, but your empty pantry and barren refrigerator seem to be screaming at you, “It’s time to go grocery shopping!”

And if that’s not enough, you have to bring along your four-year-old daughter, which makes the task so much more daunting. After all, her attention span is incredibly short and you’re looking at a minimum hour-long shopping trip. From experience, you know a public tantrum is likely.

You could just stay home. That half sleeve of saltines should be enough to live off of for the foreseeable future, right? 

OR, you could confidently go to the store…and give your daughter a job.

Who says grocery shopping has to be a chore?

Why not make it a fun experience by coming up with a grocery store scavenger hunt? Armed with a clipboard, crayon, and your grocery list, find fun ways to incorporate what items you need with scavenger hunt items she must find. 

Need to make a trip down the cereal aisle? Send her on the hunt for brands that start with the letter C. Looking for some fresh produce? How many green vegetables can she find? Not only will this game give her a boost of positive power from helping you do the shopping, but it should also be enough to keep her entertained for the entirety of the trip.

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Strategy #3: Control Your Reaction

As a parent, your reaction to your child’s tantrum can be a force for good or evil. I’m kidding, of course, but there is a fine line between overreacting and not reacting at all. 

On the one hand, an overreaction on your part could prove to your child that he can successfully push your buttons by acting out in public, thus giving him a reason to continue the negative behavior in the future. However, not reacting at all and ignoring your child’s tantrum may not be wise if he truly does need your help in working through his big emotions.

Like I said, it’s a delicate line to toe. 

In order to make sure your reaction is spot on, it’s important to understand that there are two types of tantrums: upstairs (manipulative) and downstairs (meltdowns).

According to Dr. Daniel Siegel, co-author of The Whole-Brain Child, Upstairs tantrums come from the more highly developed “upstairs” part of the brain used for logical thinking, regulating emotions and evaluating consequences.

With this type of tantrum, the child makes a conscious decision to act out and push the limits to get her way, and can also decide to stop acting out as soon as you give in to her demands. Simply put, these tantrums are designed to manipulate you.

With an upstairs tantrum it is best to simply not react so he doesn’t get a power payoff from acting out. Remove yourself from the situation–no eye contact, no talking down, and no negotiating. 

Downstairs tantrums deal with what Positive Parenting Solutions calls “meltdown” tantrums. These tantrums are controlled by the downstairs part of a child’s brain, which handles such tasks as breathing, blinking, and instinctual reactions. In this type of tantrum, the child has been pushed beyond his physical or emotional limit and “melts down” as a result.

Here the child is so upset he can no longer access his higher-level “upstairs” thinking, such as using any form of logic. Which explains why telling him “the blue plate is in the dishwasher” gets you nowhere when he’s tired and hungry after a morning of errands.

Your reaction to a downstairs tantrum is equally as important as your lack of a reaction to an upstairs tantrum. Here is where your child needs you to help him calm his big emotions while you make a mental note that you’ll want to do some training on managing overwhelming feelings in the future. 

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review Session 4 for more information on how to handle tantrums of any kind, at any place, and for any age!

Strategy #4: Change the Scenery

After a long morning spent running errands around town, you decide to treat your two-year-old to a Happy Meal and a trip to the play place. After all, he did so well behaving all morning.

Once the nuggets are eaten and the restaurant starts to quiet, you look down at your watch. It’s naptime.

You walk over to your son, happily playing in the ball pit and say, “Time to get out, sweetie. We need to go home for a nap.”

Suddenly, the sweet little boy you’ve known all morning is nowhere to be seen. His face squinches in rage as he starts to scream in protest. Before you know it, balls are being thrown, tears are being shed, and a full-on public temper tantrum has begun.

You can feel the other parents in the room staring at you. Some offer a nod of condolence–surely they’ve been in your shoes before–but most just stare, making you feel like an ant under a magnifying glass.

With the tantrum in full-swing and your anxiety rising by the second, the best thing you can do in the moment is to change the scenery. Find someplace in the area more private–perhaps the bathroom or your car outside–and remove both yourself and your son from the room. 

While it can be embarrassing walking away with a thrashing toddler hoisted over your shoulder, finding a more private place to deal with the tantrum will help calm your nerves and allow you to focus on helping your son without the distraction of an audience.

Final Thoughts

No matter who you are or how long you’ve been a parent, dealing with your child’s temper tantrums in public is never easy. 

We’ve all been there–fighting through the embarrassment, anger, sadness, and utter desperation that pops up when it seems as though all the world’s judgment is focused squarely on us. But there is help!

Not only can we help you find ways to stop tantrums before they’ve begun, but the Positive Parenting Solutions course is also filled with useful tools and strategies to help you deal with temper tantrums of every kind, in every place, with every age.

Feel free to give us test us a test run first by JOINING ME FOR A FREE ONLINE CLASS where I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen–no nagging, yelling, or reminding required.

I assure you, no tantrum is too big to handle. Especially when you’ve got the right tools in your belt and the right support to help you every step of the way.

Title Image: Lolostock / Shutterstock

Funny Things Kids Say

What’s The Funniest Thing Your Child Has Ever Said To You?

funny things kids sayI asked that question to our friends in the Positive Parenting Solutions Community and boy, did I get some hilarious quotes! They were too funny not to share!

(Last names have been removed to protect the innocently hilarious and some quotes were altered slightly for grammar & spelling corrections only).

Feel free to add to the list in the comments: Read More

Why Do Kids Talk Back?

Girl standing on chair yelling through a megaphoneGirl standing on chair yelling through a megaphone

Girl standing on chair yelling through a megaphone

It’s enough to make any level-headed parent’s blood boil! “How dare she talk to me that way! Doesn’t she know I spent 15 hours in labor?”

In calmer moments, (deep breath) we can look at backtalk more objectively to understand WHY it happens and what we can do to correct it.

Is Backtalk Normal?

“Backtalk” is a broad term that refers to disrespectful responses from children. Depending on the age of the child, it can range from a toddler’s defiant “NO,” to rolling the eyes, to a full-blown shouting match, and even profanity.

It’s obvious that profanity can’t be tolerated, but what about the more subtle backtalk remarks? How do you know if backtalk is something you have to address or if it’s just your child’s normal progression towards independence?

All children (toddlers to teenagers) seek to exert their independence–it’s what they’re supposed to do. However, to determine if the backtalk you’re experiencing is something that needs to be corrected, apply the “litmus test” question…”Would it be okay for your child to respond in the same way in front of your friends, co-workers or your mother-in-law”?

In most cases, the answer is “no” and that tells us we have to be PROACTIVE in correcting the backtalk.

Join Amy for a FREE online Class

WHY Do Kids Talk Back?

Kids talk back for a variety of reasons. They may be testing their own power to see how far they can take it. They may feel disrespected by parents who overprotect or “boss” them around. Or, they may live in a home in which respectful communication isn’t a priority.

In the majority of cases, however, talking back is the child’s way of exerting his power and saying “you’re not the boss of me.”

We’re all hard-wired with a need for positive power–the ability to have some control over our lives. When we over-protect, over-demand, order, correct and direct…we stand in the way of our children achieving independence and personal power.

The only way our kids know how to respond is to fight back. It’s a basic fight or flight response–they can’t easily flee, so they fight back with backtalk, negotiating, arguing, stomping away, eye rolling, etc.

Now that you know it’s normal, check out the 5 steps to put the brakes on backtalk today!

If the power struggles in your home have gotten out of hand, I’m always here for you.

I’d love for you to join me for a FREE ONLINE CLASS. I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen–no nagging, yelling, or reminding required!

As always, happy parenting!

Title Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock