The “bad words” are something wonderful. At least that’s how most kids feel about it. It begins and gains even more importance at school age: the colorful cursing with mixed fecal expressions á la “ass!”, “poop!” or pretty neologisms like “poop ass”.
Many parents feel helpless because their kids keep using such expressions. In the following, we will take a look at the fascinating world of swear words and address the following questions.
- Why are swear words so interesting for kids?
- What should you do if your child swears at you?
- Is it effective to forbid scolding?
Table of contents
The Magical Appeal Of Swear Words
While sayings like “Blode Kuh!” are still relatively harmless, many kids have far tougher weapons up their sleeves. No matter how figurative the child’s language, how hurtful it becomes: In such moments, as a parent, you always wonder what you did wrong in parenting.
In any case, you should always remember: almost every child uses swear words. On the one hand, to test the limits of his fellow man. On the other hand, to get what it wants. Sometimes kids also distinguish themselves from other kids by scolding. This is how they distinguish themselves and show, “I’m cool because I know a lot of swear words”.
Blunt cursing is also because kids can’t yet discuss things properly. They don’t know any other way to help themselves in many situations. If you feel backed into a corner, swearing seems to be the last hope.
When The Child Swears At The Parents
Your own child uses ugly swear words – an unpleasant thing. It becomes even more disconcerting when these swear words are directed at the parents themselves.
In most cases, however, the kids don’t mean it personally. The scolding is more an expression of anger when nothing else will help and you just can’t soften up mom or dad.
It is interesting to observe that kids can differentiate very early on who reacts sensitively to swear words and who is “not bothered” by swearing. Kids who are considered “good” can spontaneously start swearing at their grandma. The latter reacts as desired so that the child gets all her attention. Saucy grannies realize with time that they have to fight back with the same weapons to make a difference. If, as a child, you then hear “stupid nut” or “dumbass” from your grandma, you actually look a bit “stupid”. The scolding, which was previously considered enjoyable, then quickly becomes uninteresting, so that grandma – spared the kids’ annoying cursing – is allowed to be a grandma again in peace.
In this way, kids test out their entire environment. At least where they dare.
When it’s your turn, you should set clear boundaries:
- Ask the question, “Why are you calling me names?”
- Then explain that you feel hurt.
- Make the child understand exactly what these words mean.
- Mirror the child, “What do you think it would be like if I insulted you like that?”
Let the child understand that it feels uncomfortable to be insulted. If he learns the real meaning of what he has just said, he may be frightened. This is a good thing because it will then be able to deal with the term in question a little more sensitively in the future.
Another possibility would be to do the same as grandma. Kids don’t expect their parents to react with humor to a seemingly serious situation. This is where you can be wonderfully creative. For example, if the child wants “poop” for lunch, he gets chocolate pudding while the rest of the family eats spaghetti. If he’s not satisfied with that, simply affirm, “You wanted to poop, didn’t you?” Of course, this works even better if the child dislikes chocolate pudding and is a passionate vanilla pudding eater. In this situation, it will be confused and refrain from further swearing.
The best thing – as always in education – is to act according to your own personality. Decide on a method that suits you and stick with it. If you have a high pain threshold when it comes to swearing, you can take a humorous approach.
Speaking of humor. Here are some, fun facts on the side.
The Swear Word Gene
For some time now, there has been a special group of sociologists studying swearing. They were able to determine that the very worst swear words indicate the biggest taboos in society. If you think about it (think of the “F-word” or the entire fecal language), this is actually true.
Because Germans, as well as US-Americans, are comparatively prudish, the curse language is correspondingly diverse.
All Quite Natural
It is also interesting to ask why we humans curse in the first place. Experienced physicians answer this question: If you don’t vent your frustration, for example by cursing, you will experience considerable damage to your health over time (especially in the area of the psyche). It is actually only logical: If one eats everything into oneself, the nerves suffer.
But because we humans want to treat each other with respect, adults have learned to keep their frustration under control. According to this explanation, kids react quite naturally when they throw around swear words well into adolescence.
Curse words are an occasion for social learning. If a swear word is used as a provocation, it can lead to a conversation. And one about mutual respect and the fact that no one wants to be called that or treated like a “fool.” Poof and you’re talking about important topics like compassion and respect, even though a swear word was the starting point of that discussion.
Sometimes swear words even bring to light thoughts and feelings that were previously hidden. If kids haven’t been asked their opinion about an important aspect of their lives, they tend to react petulantly. The one or other swear word then shows what the child really wants and cares about. After all, swear words are sometimes an expression of intense feelings – usually of a negative nature.
So it’s important to differentiate. On the one hand, kids scold at toddler age to test themselves and their environment. Later, they want to provoke and specifically shock. At any age, however, swear words can be an expression that something is not OK in the child’s opinion.
The swear word as an outlet for frustration must sometimes be understood as a cry for help. Then we can respond like this, “I don’t think you really mean what you’re saying. Are you angry? What’s wrong?”. With a lot of feeling, we work our way forward until we get an honest answer. Sudden crying and despair over certain circumstances are not uncommon reactions. This is the way to find out, for example, that the child is being bullied by a classmate or has felt ignored by parents in a certain situation. Situations like these are what bring parents and children closer together. However, only if you know how to take advantage of this opportunity by pausing and digging into the reason for the scolding.
Confidence Booster Swear Word
As mentioned earlier, it’s not a deal-breaker if a child throws around swear words. More specifically, in some cases, you can even assume disturbed attachment behavior if kids never express themselves in this way.
It feels embarrassing and uncomfortable when self-appointed parenting experts nevertheless spout sayings like, “Some people really can’t control their kids.” In such moments, you should quietly remind yourself that verbal outpourings such as “shitface” are as much a part of a child’s development as tooth loss or teenage pimples. One could even go so far as to interpret such statements as proof of trust. After all, a kid would hardly say something like that if he wasn’t aware of his parents’ unwavering love. (Quite independently of whether we tolerate swearing words in the long run or not).
You often wonder where the child actually gets his vocabulary from. Most of the time, you are more or less to blame for the child’s cursing. A “Shit!”, “Crap!” or even the “F-word” slips past your lips faster than you think – even in the presence of children.
Apart from that: Sooner or later, every child picks up swear words – no matter where and from whom. Once you have explained to the child what these words mean, you should approach the matter relatively calmly.
For kids, the effect of these words is sometimes exciting: speechless adults who can’t grasp what they’ve just heard. In this game, however, you as parents set the rules.
As already mentioned, you should take a relaxed approach to the subject of swear words. If a child babbles swear words without aim, you can safely ignore it. In this way, you avoid attaching great importance to the swear word. The child learns that the scolding has no effect on you.
One of those rules for kids who overdo it, however, might look like this.
The Swear Word Free Zone
If you prohibit scolding throughout the house, then it becomes all the more appealing. It helps to agree on swearword-free zones. You can mark these on a piece of paper. There, where you spend time together (living room, dining room, and kitchen), there is no scolding. In the bathroom, their own room, or the toilet, the kids can swear to their heart’s content.
With this form of paradoxical intervention, you encourage the child to do something forbidden – under conditions you set. Thus, to a certain extent, swearing loses its appeal.
However, this only works at home. Now you can either make it clear to the child that “outside” is also a scolding-free zone. Or you can think about how to deal with the indignant reactions of other parents or educators.