Solution to Swear Words
Toddlers inevitably reach an age where they start repeating everything they hear. Sometimes it can be incredibly cute when this happens, such as the first time my daughter put her hand on her hips and declared, “Oh my goodness!” to something that took her by surprise. Lately my son has started labeling things as “awesome” and “cool,” and to me that’s just…well…awesome and cool, to tell you the truth.
There is another side to this issue, though, and that’s when toddlers start to repeat words that are considered rude or shocking. We don’t use swear words in our house – don’t get me wrong; I’ve found myself muttering a few choice words but never loud enough for the kids to hear – but I can’t stop the kids from being exposed to swear words outside the house.
Sometimes it’s appropriate to ask people to tone down the cussing. One time, for example, I was walking through the grocery store and I passed two men in their early twenties who were analyzing the cheese selection. As I passed them with my two kiddos the men started letting out a slew of dirty words. They weren’t directed at us, and I don’t think they even noticed us there, so before I could stop myself I blurted out, “Hey, mister, watch the potty mouth!” They looked up and turned beet red out of embarrassment and apologized profusely, and then I hightailed it out of there because I was in shock that I had used the term “potty mouth” in public.
There are other times when I haven’t said a word. Walking out of a dining establishment with my kids we encountered two very drunk men who were speaking in dirty terms very loudly. This is an example of when it’s probably not a good idea to confront someone. The men weren’t rational, and I wasn’t looking for a fight.
So what do you do when someone in close proximity to your toddler starts yelling out words that you would rather your child didn’t repeat? I don’t remember where I read this advice, but it has always worked for me: immediately follow the swear word up with a word that your child is familiar with, and do it loudly. The phrase we use is “Peanut Butter.” If someone near us drops a swear word, I sing out “Peanut Butter!” and my kids usually join me because they think it’s a game. The theory is that you can cancel out the new and interesting swear word with a word or phrase your kids are already familiar with.
I know I can’t keep my kids from swear words forever, but for right now I would rather not hear these words come out of their mouths. Give this a try, because it has been successful for me so far with my kids.