Show 89 – When Kids Swear

When children swear, it can knock even the most calm and patient parent off centre…or not…and our reaction may influence what our child does next. Today, on Family Matters we’ll explore what swearing possibly means for the child and our reactions to it.


Unlike other Family Matters radio shows, this show comes with a warning…


This show contains words that may be offensive to some.

For example, as my 10 year old son tells the story of his younger sister on the day when she discovered the power of swear words and the reaction she could get, I think he was enjoying swearing on the radio. However, keep listening and you’ll hear him describe his understanding of cursing and their impact on others.


An article written by Teresa Pitman “When kids swear” originally published in Today’s Parent July 2011, recommends parents, teachers, and other caregivers:


Stay calm. As we heard in both interviews, when we do, the fun of getting a reaction passes and we can explore ways to meet our needs. Staying calm also opens us up for discussion so that we can share the impact swearing may have.

Be curious. Assume your child’s best intent. What needs is your child trying to meet? Is it Play? Attention? Power?

Be honest about the impact swearing words can have on others. They affect how your child will be understood. In certain contexts, swearing comes with consequences that the child will likely not enjoy, like being reprimanded in school.

Offer suggestions and alternatives to meeting needs. Play with your child. Give her attention. Let the fun of getting a reaction pass. It will. Find ways of managing stress or frustration. Be there to listen to your child.

Honour your own feelings and needs. If you’re uncomfortable, then say so. Ask to be treated the way you treat others.

Give children the benefit of your experience so that they can learn too. Share situations where swearing hurts or makes others feel uncomfortable.

For instance, swearing is usually uncomfortable and sometimes can make people feel unsafe if they are said around young children or older people, in school, in public places, at places where people worship and pray to their god, and on television or radio.


Swearing is situational. It means so many things.


As we see in these interviews, with my 10 year old son, with Sarah Mangle, an Early Childhood Educator who has worked in a number of daycare settings, and another with Sage, a grade four student, swearing is used as a way to express feelings of anger, annoyance, and frustration, or when we want to hurt someone else’s feelings because we want others to see just how angry and frustrated we are. Sometimes people swear because they think it’s funny. It feels powerful to get a reaction from others and have an effect in the world.


Hurting others is not okay. It’s important that we intervene when people are getting hurt. When everyone is safe, we can explore the meaning behind the words and actions. When everyone has a chance to be heard about how they are and what’s important to them, we can find ways to meet our needs in non-hurtful ways.


Aired live: Sunday, February 19, 2012 0800-0900 Eastern Standard Time on CFRU 93.3 FM, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Listen to Pod Cast (click to listen or save this MP3 to your computer)

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