When Your Preschooler Has A Potty Mouth

How to nip cursing and other naughty words in the bud

child potty mouth
Not crazy about what's coming out of your preschooler's mouth? Strategies to stop a child from cursing.. Adrian Myers

Most of the time, the things that your preschooler says are delightful. Funny, charming, even Facebook-status worthy. Sometimes however, what comes out of your child's mouth is less about telling grandma and more about the time out chair. Potty language. Not something you'd like to hear from your preschooler, but a likely reality at some point. Whether he's influenced by an older sibling or friend, the television, someone at school or even (gasp!) you, a child cursing or having a potty mouth is not something you should tolerate, whether the utterance was with purpose and malice or simply a language misunderstanding on your child's part.

So how do you stop this not-so-great behavior? There are a few different approaches you can try:

Ignore it. If your child is using words that make you cringe (or let's face it, laugh), try not to outwardly react. Certainly you can and should correct your child, but try to have as little as a reaction as possible. Why? Because your reaction (negative or positive) is still a reaction. And there's nothing a little kid likes more than to get a strong response from a grown up.

What's the motive? If your preschooler truly didn't understand what he or she was saying, simply correct the mistake each time you hear it. It is very common at this age for kids to misunderstand or mispronounce words, so don't get too upset if it was an honest accident. If your child is old enough, you could even very gently explain what is going on so they work harder to not say the same thing next time. 

Punishment. Sometimes a swift reaction is all you need to get your message across.

If you child says a bad word or uses language you aren't crazy about, react immediately. Say something like, "We do not use words like that in this house," and then put him in a time out. When the time out is finished, ask your child why he was punished, so you are reinforcing the lesson and then have him say that he is sorry.

Explain that if he uses language like that again he will return to time out.

Watch your own language. Children truly do learn what they live, so if you are using foul language on a regular basis, chances are she's picking it up from you! If that's not the case, try to figure out where your child did learn the naughty words, such as at school or at daycare or even a friend's house. If you have concerns, address them directly with the adult in charge, explaining that lately your child has been speaking some not-so-great words and you are wondering where she got them from. It's possible there is a child in the class or an older sibling who has been serving as a "teacher."

Be direct. If your child regularly speaks words you aren't happy hearing, it's time to have a talk. Tell your child you don't like those types of words, that most people don't like those types of words and that she needs to stop saying them. If it helps, pick a favorite preschool character like Lightning McQueen or Dora the Explorer.

Ask her if she thinks that character ever says naughty words.

Offer up a substitute. If your son is constantly using the word "poopies" in conversation (and not in a potty training sense), you need to teach him an alternative -- "pickles" or "pineapples" for example. If your child is mad, using expressive language is a way for him to express himself, so the key is to take the naughty word and swap it out for a funny one, but giving your child the opportunity to still make his feelings known. When Even "I'm mad!" can go a long way to helping your child let off some steam.

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