So, I’m going to blab at you about kids and swearing again, sorry. If you’re a bit sensitive to swearing, now’s a good time to move on to some better blog reading. The thing is, the swearing preschooler in our house is still going strong, even at school, and I’m kind of perturbed that no one’s advice is working.
Thankfully, the F word seems to have waned a little bit. It still comes out from time to time, but nowhere near as often as “shit”. Shit is probably the word he uses the most on a daily basis. Well, it’s in the running, along with “want” and “juice”.
These are the main things we have tried to combat the swearing:
1. Pretending not to hear the words. This trick is a lot more effective when we are at home. Because when you’re at a preschooler birthday party, packed with other parents and kids, and he yells at top volume, “You’re just a stupid shit mama!” and you try to ignore it, you just look like a loser. Seriously. Like you don’t care, and aren’t trying. But, at home we’ve tried the tactic of seeming unfazed, to take the power out of the words. Because, that’s what it’s really all about, right? He’s somehow learned that particular words hold power. He has power by saying them. And power is all a preschooler really wants out of life, because their opportunities to have any are so few. But, all this tactic seems to have done for him is made the word more accessible, and more a regular part of his daily vocabulary. It’s similar to an adult’s use of swear words in that manner. Have you ever challenged yourself to not swear? Or even to stop saying any word? A college friend and I challenged ourselves to cut out the word “like”, at least in the context of “you know, like, totally awesome” and I think we made it…an hour? Point being, the more regular use a word gets, the more likely it is to pop out at every given chance. So, this isn’t working. At all.
2. Getting super angry when he says the word. We’ve also been known to make threats, like taking toys away, not going somewhere special, even the dreaded Soap in the Mouth (which pre-parenthood I was sooooo against, funny how things change. But, we get organic, plant based soaps so…are we less evil???). But, this comes right back to the power element of it. Us getting angry gives the behavior some pretty big time attention. Negative attention, yes. But when you’re 4, it doesn’t really matter if the attention is negative or positive, as long as it’s there. Hey, when I say “shit”, mom and dad flip out at me, awesome! So, obviously, this isn’t going to work. And in general, it makes all three of us miserable.
3. Replacing the word with other words, or encouraging him to choose words to say in place of swear words. We’ve repeated his own sentences back to him with different words, similar to the preschool teacher from my last post. We have also asked him to choose different words to express his anger and frustration. AND, we have ALSO suggested he choose and/or make up a new word that he can use in the same context he would use a swear word. For instance, “shoot” or “fudge”. So, you can still release the bad feelings by yelling out a word, but that word doesn’t actually have to be a swear word. This suggestion seems to offend him, and he gets angry and refuses. Still hammering home with this one, it seems like it should work so well.
4. Referring to all swear words as bad words that we don’t say. And if he hears it in a movie, or out in public, we will point out that the person saying it is an adult, but he is still just a kid, so it’s not appropriate for him to say it. Now, any fellow parent or child psychologist or anyone really can tell me this method is not effective with any child for any behavior. But, that didn’t really stop us from giving it a go. We are very, very desperate.
We were still seeing the occupational therapist when all of this first started, and her response was that he’s picked up the words, figured out how to use them in context, and refuses to stop using them no matter how much mommy and daddy plead because, “He’s so smart!” Which is a nice and thoughtful thing to say about my son, but really, not so helpful.
And I know my son well enough, and know parenting well enough, to know that eventually it will all pass. It will fade away, the luster will be lost, the words will make their way out of his everyday vocabulary. But, it seems to be taking an awfully long time for this to happen. And, I can’t really do anything about the Shock and Awe he’s causing the general public. All those perfect, do-good parents out there who never allowed these words into their child’s pristine ears. In addition to making a dramatic, taken-aback face at him, they also look to me for some kind of response. Something to the tune of one of the four aforementioned methods, which have all failed miserably for us.
I didn’t get much of a response last time I posted about this. I think simply because you guys just don’t know what to tell me. You probably haven’t had to deal with it (and I hope that you never do!). And that’s fine. But, what are some of your other methods of getting through to your kids about an undesirable, yet very stubborn behavior? How can we get inside their little brains, and make them think curbing their bad behavior was actually their own idea?
Behavior chart? Some version of a “swear jar” that will resonate with a kid? Any advice or idea very welcome at this point.