How to Teach Your Children That Cursing Is Wrong

By Molly Thompson
Kids sometimes use profanity because they hear others doing so.
Kids sometimes use profanity because they hear others doing so.

With cursing on TV and foul language in popular music virtually the norm, along with profane outbursts at kids' sports events and their peers cursing at school, teaching kids not to curse might appear to be an insurmountable challenge. Start when your kids are very young to lay the foundation that certain words and types of language are not okay for your family, even if other kids routinely use them. Monitoring your own language and limiting young children's exposure to profanity in the media will help bolster the rules you establish about appropriate language.

Tell your young kids that there are certain words your family does not say because they are unkind or inappropriate. Explain that other children might say "bad" words, but that these are not acceptable for you. Use examples appropriate to the children's age and from contexts they can relate to, such as a recent exchange on the playground. While young children don't typically start right out with curse words, you can begin instilling the concept of inappropriate language when they say words such as "shut up" or "poopy-head."

Reinforce your language restrictions as children get older and are exposed to more offensive language from peers or the media. Older elementary school kids and preteens often use profanity to test the boundaries of your acceptance. Don't overreact, but do respond firmly and concisely. Tell them profanity is neither appropriate nor acceptable, and work with them to find more acceptable ways to express anger and frustration. Establish clear consequences for your children for using profanity and enforce them consistently.

Remind your teenagers of your family's rules regarding profanity. Teens often go through a phase during which using foul language is considered cool or the norm among their peers, and they are exposed to profanity routinely in the media. Don't throw in the towel at this point, however. You can still require them to observe your rules in your home and when in public with you.

Model the behavior you expect. Children at all ages pick up cues about acceptable behavior from the ways their parents behave, and are particularly adept at picking up on disconnects between what you do and what you say. You cannot expect your children at any age to accept, let alone follow, rules about cursing if you routinely use profanity yourself.


You might need to restrict your young children's visits to peers' homes if they allow the kids to use bad language. Instead, invite the children to play at your house, as long as they follow your rules.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.