Well, we have a swearing toddler in the house. Bear is going through a bit of a blue phase, mostly centring around his mispronunciation of the word truck, but with a few other mispronunications peppered in for good measure. While I realise it’s about him discovering words and saying them a tiny bit wrong, it can be super embarrassing when he gleefully tells me he sees a truck at the top of his lungs and mixes up some crucial letters., leading to strangers staring at me like I’m force feeding him crystal meth. This extremely awkward situation has led me to put together some tips for other mothers dealing with a swearing toddler.
1. But Why?
The first step is to work out why they are doing it. If the swearing issue is due to a word mispronunciation, make sure to correct them instead of giggling. This will in time lead them to say the word properly, but it may also help you feel better about the people staring at your teeny tiny sailor. If they are doing it for attention, ignore them. It’ll pass quicker if you manage not to give them attention for doing it. Don’t outright ban the words because that will just add kerosene to their tiny rebellious fire.
Work out your own limits and choose your battles. Are you okay with swearing as long as it’s not directly insulting another person? Fine. Okay with it but at home only? Great. Pick your limit and stick to it. It’s important that they realise that these words can hurt, even though they are a little young to understand empathy. Teaching kids not to swear is often more about teaching them to respect their parents and others than about not being offensive.
3. I Learned It From You Mum!
I’m definitely guilty of casual swearing. I try not to do it in front of Bear, but I slip up regularly, particularly when I am stressed. So part of my approach was to try and eliminate words from my own speech that I don’t want gleefully shouted in the daycare foyer. All I can say is good luck, especially in traffic.
4. Don’t Forbid It
If you treat certain words as dirty or forbidden, kids will treat them that way as well and shriek them at every opportunity. Words like poo and bum can be used as common place during appropriate times like nappy changes, which robs them of their shock value. Once the fun is gone, kids will move on quickly.
5. Sub It Up
Most adults can admit that swearing can feel good or cathartic and toddlers feel the same. There are alternatives that you can steer your little one towards that feel almost as good and fun to say as swear words, so find some substitutes for your little one and yourself to use. I’m a big fan of ‘Flappity Flippers’ and ‘Shiver Me Whiskers’ from Octonauts personally. If they are using swearing to express rage or frustration, steer them towards the correct words for these emotions to help them feel understood.
Have you had a swearing toddler in the house? What tips do you have for dealing with it?