EXPERT Q&A

How do I stop my toddler from swearing?

It’s not uncommon for children to use swear words as they explore language. CareNectar expert Mirella Alexis provides tips to help you stop your toddler from swearing.

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Question

Help! My toddler overheard a television show my husband and I were watching that had some colorful language. We had no idea our 3-year-old was even paying attention—she was playing with her dolls in her play area. Ever since, she’s been dropping a few curse words here and there. We have been ignoring it for some time, but today, she said the F-word out of anger. Instead of ignoring it, I addressed the issue directly with her. I was firm with her, explaining to her that this language is not okay for kids and that I don’t want to hear it from her ever again. Was this an appropriate response? Is there anything else we can do?

Answer

Great question!

First, rest assured that you are not alone. And if you find yourself in a situation in which your young child is swearing in front of other parents of young children, don’t fret. They likely have gone through a similar situation.

Young children tend to swear for a variety of reasons, even more so than older children as the little ones are testing out different words and phrases and are also pushing boundaries. Young children also enjoy copying other people or repeating words they’ve heard on TV or in music. And of course, they swear to get attention, and this behavior will likely continue if adults in the room react with laughter or respond in frustration.

It sounds like your daughter first swore simply because she heard it, but then began using it out of frustration. Your initial reaction to ignore this behavior is good. In fact, it’s often best to ignore curse words from a preschooler or toddler because it is usually just a phase that they will likely grow out of with time.

But it also seems like your daughter may be old enough to understand that swearing is not appropriate, so explaining it to her as you did is another step in the right direction. In doing so, explain to your daughter that her frustrations are valid. You may have to have this age-appropriate conversation with her a few times so that she can begin to understand what this really means. And show her that instead of using the inappropriate curse word, share new words and respectful language she can use instead, encouraging her to use those terms instead. As she starts using more respectful language when she is feeling frustrated, be consistent about praising her. By providing her with positive praise when she uses these age-appropriate words or phrases, she will likely feel encouraged to use them in the future.

Also, since young children absorb everything around them, even language that adults think is out of earshot, be mindful about setting no swearing rules in the house. This is especially important if someone in your household or someone your child is frequently around tends to swear a lot. Take the extra step of asking that they watch their language when your child is around.

We hope these tips will help swearing be a thing of the past, but be sure to reach out if this behavior continues. Best of luck to you and your family!

Meet The Expert


Mirella Alexis

Mirella has been a family and childcare advocate for nearly two decades. With her bachelor’s degree in early childcare education, Mirella immediately started expanding her portfolio as a professional nanny, early childhood educator, and newborn care specialist. She later obtained her certification in child nutrition, positive discipline, and child abuse prevention. She expanded her professional reach more in 2016 by taking on the role of labor and postpartum doula. In 2020, Mirella became the Vice President of The Nanny Sitter Fund. She’s excited to be bringing her passion for childcare to the masses, making child welfare everyone’s responsibility. Learn more about her at MirellaAlexis.com