When Kids Curse

How to delete the expletives from your child's mouth.
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You're shocked. Despite your best efforts to keep your tongue in check around the kids, suddenly your 7-year-old is using expletives. Why? Though parents often assume the blame when children begin swearing, most kids learn these words from watching TV or listening to friends, and commonly use them to express anger, shock adults, or assert independence, says Stanley Goldstein, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Middletown, New York. Goldstein advises parents to keep these things in mind when four-letter words fly:

  • Don't overreact. The worst thing a parent can do is flip out over a few dirty words. Especially in dealing with teens, who are probably swearing to assert autonomy, it's best to stay calm.
  • Open the door for communication. Explain that while grown-ups may swear sometimes, it doesn't make cursing an appropriate way to express anger. Offer to talk with your child about his frustrations.
  • Look for signs of something more serious. If your child doesn't stop swearing within a few weeks, it's often a verbal red flag. Ask her about possible problems at school or with friends.



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