My Child Uses Bad Language

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

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Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hey Annie,

My child uses bad language. I mean, what do you do with a three year old with a dirty mouth? My three-year-old keeps saying the same bad word around family, and it’s super embarrassing. Have you got any suggestions for me? Jenna (Calgary)
My child uses bad language

Hi Jenna,

I can understand how embarrassing it is when your child uses bad language. The first question to ask, though, is where your child is hearing this language in the first place. You haven’t told me much about your family, but perhaps you have an older child who needs to curb his language, or perhaps you’ve been known to let rip yourself. When small children swear, it’s usually because they hear it somewhere and then simply repeat it. If that repetition then elicits a shocked reaction from you, bingo! The pattern is set, as children quickly realize the potential for attention.

My child uses bad language: Don’t draw attention to the problem

The less attention you draw to this, frankly, the better. I’d calmly explain that those aren’t words you use in your house, at least not where anyone can hear you. They are “bathroom words” only. You simply tell her that if she wants to use them, the only place that is allowed is in the bathroom or her bedroom on her own. If she uses the word, take her calmly and quietly over to either of those two rooms and leave her. Close the door and let her wait for a moment. Go back to what you were doing. The chances are you won’t get very far before she insists on coming out because it’s, well, boring. So, set her up. Have a load of laundry to sort near the bathroom door so you can keep taking her back as many times as it takes, ignoring her all the while in between. Make sure when you take her back, you deprive her of any eye contact or, frankly, any attention. As soon as you stop giving your child negative attention for the behaviour, don’t worry; it’ll stop simply because all the fun and shock value have gone away. For other questions or on-going support, visit my parent support services. Best of luck,

Here’s Annie’s advice on what to do if your child is mean to others.

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