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Watch your Mouth

At some point as a parent, you may come across a rough patch because your child has started to use ‘colourful’ language. Here’s what you need to know to nip the habit in the bud. 

It is important to understand why your child swears. It happens primarily because what is different is exciting to a toddler. It is an act of mimicry more than anything else. So the best way to handle it is to ignore it until you notice a loss of interest. When a child understands that he/she can get a reaction out of an action, they repeat it, aiming for more attention.

Distracting them with a song or story helps as well. With the censor-free shows on television and careless games on smartphones, they are exposed to foul language. Let’s not forget the other kids in class, who have already been introduced to bad words.

The first steps
Learn to restrain your laughter, anger or surprise when you hear them use a swear word for the first time. You do not want to give them the feeling that you are amused by it as they see it as reinforcement. In short, no response is the best response.

If your toddler appears to be latched on to a few serious profanities, it is time to set guidelines. Remember, whatever you do, you need to do calmly. Getting agitated reminds your two-year-old that he/she has the power to reel in your attention (with one word!).

In the case that they’re just making up words, look at them and tell them that there is no sense in what they just said and that such a thing doesn’t exist. If you can’t understand them, they will not use that ‘mode’ of communication.

A more serious variety of swear words does not demand any explanation. Some people might argue that having a list of banned words will not help. Some live by the rule. See what approach works best for your family. Be straightforward and say that such words are off-limits in the house or anywhere else; remain disinterested.

Offer alternatives that are fun and clean. These words are mostly used by them experimentally. Substituting them with funny sounds like ‘abracadabra’ or a rhyme excites them more than a curse word would. Invent a word if you will; it’ll be your secret around other people. This helps them feel special and entrusted.

Other tactics
Not every child let’s go of a word after several warnings. Know when to introduce disciplinary measures. Give them a temporary punishment as small as time-out alone facing a wall.

In no circumstance can you allow your child to get results from their swearing habit. They will use it as a threat in public spaces for treats. If you buy it anyway, remind them that you were being lenient. He/she should know they won’t be lucky the next time.

It’s never too early to teach your child to respect others. They should know that they cannot just hurl epithets at others. It will get them in trouble in school, at the paro.

Sometimes, the easiest way out is to simply watch your own mouth.

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