Healthy Ways to Stop a Child From Cursing

Children may curse for a number of reasons, including frustration, anger, boredom or when they simply don't get their way. In some cases, they might be trying to get attention by mimicking curse words they've seen on TV or in the movies. Cursing is your child's method of solving the problem of feeling frustrated, but in an immature way, according to James Lehman, MSW, with the Empowering Parents website. No need to wash your child's mouth out with soap -- skillful parenting can teach your child to use more appropriate language.

Establish Rules

Children often believe they can get away with cursing because their friends do it or they're not reprimanded for it at school. It's important to establish a zero-tolerance policy for cursing in your home. Explain to your kids about family values and why you object to foul language. You might say, “Your friends might use bad words in their homes, but we don't allow them in ours." If your child continues to curse, avoid becoming angry or upset. He might swear to provoke a response from you, which makes it important not to respond with anger or become upset, recommends 1. Instead, get down on your knees until you're looking your little one directly in the eye and firmly say, "We don't use bad words like that in our family." To an older child, you might say, "There's no cursing in this home 2. Period."


Your child needs to learn that cursing won't solve his problems -- it only adds to them. Not only will he still have the original frustration that led to the cursing, he'll have to face the consequences of using bad language. Warn him in advance that there will be consequences for cursing. You might say, “If you're unable to speak without saying bad words, you'll be sent to your room" or “If you can't use appropriate language in this house, you won't be allowed to use your cell phone." You can also create a curse jar. Each time your child swears, he's fined a certain amount of money, such as a quarter, and must drop it inside the curse jar.

Healthier Communication

Many children curse because they haven't yet learned how to express their anger, frustration or other emotions more skillfully. When your child curses, encourage him to express what he's feeling without cursing. You might initiate the conversation by asking him what led him to feel the need to curse. If he's hesitant, you might help him out by saying, "Are you mad that your sister took your toy without asking?" or "Are you upset that you didn't make the basketball team?" When he successfully expresses his anger or frustration using appropriate language, always praise him. You might say, "I understand why that made you mad. I'm proud of you for expressing yourself so well without using bad words."

Be a Role Model

One of the most effective ways to stop your child from cursing is to set an example 2. Children often mirror the behavior of their parents, especially how they handle stressful situations. If you lose your cool and curse whenever you're feeling angry or frustrated, your children might follow your example. In some cases, young children don't fully understand what the curse word means, and they're simply parroting the words you use. When you're frustrated, try using alternative exclamations such as:

  • "blast it," "shoot," "dagnabit"
  • "phooey," recommends author James O'Connor

Fun terms instead of curse words might make your kids laugh, and they'll begin using them instead.

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