Hearing children use swear words or ‘bad’ language can bring up some pretty big reactions for many adults.
It can draw us into our old childhood wounds, feelings of powerlessness and throw us into a spiral of power over our children through judgment/ threats/ shame/ punishment.
Using words that get such a big reaction from adults gives a child a temporary sense of power. Underneath the offensive language though is usually a child who is feeling powerless himself. Vicious cycle!
Asking your child to stop using these words doesn’t normally have much success.
Punishing your child for using these words will possibly stop them from using the words in close proximity to you, but they will still want use them with others. Punishing your child can also damage your relationship in the long term and lead to them rebelling later in life.
So what can we do?
1. More connection. Create time daily or weekly for 1:1 connection. It really helps so much!
2. Empathise. When big feelings (and words!) are coming out, empathise with your child. “I can see you’re feeling really angry/ upset and I’m listening. It’s okay to be angry, I’m here, I’m listening. I love you etc” Sometimes, using this approach will help to peel back even more layers of the feelings. They might start shouting things at you like “you don’t love me! I hate you! Go away!” We need to remember that these are just feelings coming out, they don’t mean these things they say in the heat of moment and try not to take it personally!
3. Play. When your child is using ‘bad’ language to get a reaction from you (connection seeking) try a playful approach.
Laughter allows children to release their underlying feelings of powerlessness and contributes to connection between you.
When your child swears you might try
:: jumping up in the air in surprise
:: falling over dramatically on the ground
:: pretending you misheard and repeating something that rhymes or sounds like the offensive word. Eg, if they call you “Bum Bum”: “Drum? Oh no sorry I don’t have any drums.” And when they repeat. “Plum? Oh no, no, no there’s no plums around here!” And so on.
This approach will temporarily encourage your child to use the offensive words more but as they work through the underlying feelings of powerlessness in this playful approach the need to seek power through swearing will reduce and eventually stop altogether.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please share with me in the private Lightfilled Parenting circle here
B. Ed Early Childhood
Certified Lightworker Practitioner
PS I empower mothers to transform issues and challenges like this one everyday in my online program Emotional Balm.