Why Kids Swear and What to Do About It


Published:

One afternoon, my 6-year-old daughter came home from school with a question that surprised me. “Mom, me and Eva were in the bathroom today, and there was a word starting with ‘F’ on the bathroom stall,” Leah said. “Eva said it was bad. Do you know any bad words starting with ‘F’?”

“‘F’?” I repeated. Truth? Hedge? Lie? I wasn’t ready for Leah to know this word, to pass it on to her 3-year-old brother or to trot it out in public places where younger kids (and their mothers) would hear. I thought if I ignored the issue it would go away. Thus began a year of language acquisition, and I don’t mean learning how to say “Mama.”

Understand the inevitable

Turns out I was lucky we made it to age 6. Learning language is part of being human, and swearing is part of language, says Timothy Jay, Ph.D., psychology professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and author of Why We Curse. “Swearing is not like a spice added to food. It’s part of the food, the emotional food,” he says.

Infants come into this world wired for emotional communication. Additionally, kids are language “vacuum cleaners,” learning around 10 words a day to acquire some 40,000 words by adolescence. So even if you don’t swear at home, your kids will learn the words.

Elise Dunbar of Greeneville, S.C., recalls the day her preschool-aged daughter was hunting for a lost jacket with Dad. Having searched all over the house, tiny Megan marched into her mother’s closet, put her hands on her hips, and asked, “Where is that f****** thing?” No one knows where she heard it.

According to Jay, learning taboo words at a young age is normal. “Certainly they’ve got a sense of it by preschool, and by school age, elementary-schoolers know this stuff,” he says. Developmentally, part of every child’s job in every culture is to learn what the taboos are. “Everyone learns how to swear . Whether they do it or not, that’s another thing,” Jay says.

Recognize the source

Kids, especially boys, swear for all kinds of reasons, including to be funny, to get attention, to fit in and to prove independence, particularly at middle-school age. However, most people, kids included, swear out of anger or frustration. Two-thirds is anger, Jay says.

When kids are young, they are just repeating what they hear at home, and it’s not coming from the TV. Two-thirds of parents swear around their kids, Jay says, but have rules against kids swearing. “What exists in the media can reinforce what kids have heard, but it has to reverberate with what they already know,” he says.

It’s not just the words kids repeat. When parents curse, kids pick up on your tone, says James O’Connor, author of Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing. Parents are most often expressing a negative emotion with exuberance. Imitation is just a natural thing kids do.

Most kids won’t swear if you address swearing in a calm, open manner. But if the problem persists, try offering alternatives, such as saying the words in his room (my family’s solution), agreeing on acceptable expletives (fiddlesticks!), or creating a swearing jar that calls for a penny or nickel for each infraction — parents included.

Joanna Nesbit is a freelance writer and mother of two who lives in Bellingham, Wash.


HOW TO CURB CURSING

Authors James O’Connor and Timothy Jay agree that overreacting to kids’ swearing is counterproductive, giving offensive words more power. Use the following strategies to lay the groundwork for a cuss-free household:

Ignore it. When a young child curses, consider letting it slide. A huge reaction puts the word on the child’s radar when it could have been a one-time experiment. Don’t laugh, either. It’s a sure way to reinforce the words.

Skip the discipline. For young children, it’s more effective to talk about the words than to enforce a consequence. Disciplining your young child may prompt him to use the words again when he wants a reaction from you, O’Connor says.

Explain your family’s values. Every household is different. Explain that some words offend, while others are plain hurtful, including swear words and cruel slurs. Tell kids you expect them to respect others. And curb your own swearing.

Look for the source of anger. If your child swears out of anger, help your child cope with the crisis at hand. It’s more effective to teach anger management than to punish kids for swearing. Address your concerns about swearing after your child is calm.

Teach positive coping skills. Show kids how to cope without swearing, by teaching them the patience and tolerance to manage everyday problems in a positive way.

Pave the way to the future. Talk frankly about swearing and slang body terms to eliminate the mystique and pave the road for important discussions when children are older. “By the time your kids are adolescents, they’ll be doing things they don’t want to tell you about. If a kid can’t say a swear word to his parents, he’s certainly not going to talk about sex with his parents,” Jay says.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Taming Thumb-Sucking in an Older Child

How to help kids ages 6-10 break that thumb-sucking habit.

When Children Hear Horror Stories on the News

How do you nurture a children's confidence in a safe world even when they are exposed to disturbing news.

Supporting Your Child’s Communication With Teachers

The nature of what parents need to communicate with a teacher changes with a child's age and needs.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

August 2017

Kids can enjoy a free cookie with any purchase, and enjoy kid's books, chess, tic tac toe, and card games. 

Cost: Free

Where:
41 North Coffee Company
41 N. Main St.
Wendell, NC  27591
View map »


Sponsor: 41 North Coffee Co
Telephone: 919-995-0680
Contact Name: Dana
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Spray, drip, and splatter to explore the colors and textures of painted cloth, inspired by artist Yinka Shonibare. Come dressed to get messy!  

Cost: Free Open to all ages; children must be accompanied by an adult

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 BLUE RIDGE ROAD
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Make paint using soil, school glue and water, and create a one-of-a-kind, earth-toned masterpiece. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #203573.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Orphaned in India, 11-year-old Mary Lennox returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle Archibald and his son Colin. The estate's many wonders include a magic...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy the spectacle of giant puppets, stilt dancers, shadow puppets and live music. All ages. A pre-show begins at 2:20 p.m.

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Collect data from milkweed plants to send to the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Scientists use this data to study and understand monarch butterflies. Ages 5 and older. Children must be...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: Durant Nature Preserve
Website »

More information

Orphaned in India, 11-year-old Mary Lennox returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle Archibald and his son Colin. The estate's many wonders include a magic...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come to Duke Gardens on Aug. 21 to observe a partial eclipse of the sun, and explore with free hands-on activities for visitors of all ages. This is a rare event and a great opportunity to...

Cost: Free; parking $2/hour

Where:
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover fun facts about the solar eclipse. Pick up a pair of eclipse viewing glasses (while supplies last) and head out to the park's open field to view the eclipse directly. All...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Find out how people made flour from wheat and meal from corn long ago, and try out a variety of ancient-style hand mills. Ages 7-14. Register online.

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Toddlers enjoy a story.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join Jen and Jen for yoga, meditation and creating worry dolls. All supplies included in the price.  Appropriate for children grades K-5. Registration required.

Cost: $40

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Ave., Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-345-5873
Contact Name: Jen Bluestone
Website »

More information

Ages 5-12 learn about healthy fruits and vegetables, kitchen and food safety, and enjoy a healthy snack. Meet in the bakery side of the cafe. Email sherry.thrasher@wholefoods.com to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods North Raleigh
8710 Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Telephone: 919-354-0350
Contact Name: Sherry Thrasher

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 3-6 enjoy fun games and drills. Call to RSVP.  

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Fitness4Life
6701 Glenwood Ave.
Suite 103
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Sponsor: Fitness4Life
Telephone: 919-787-2250
Contact Name: George Whitten
Website »

More information

Enjoy a story.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble Cary
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Telephone: 919-467-3866
Website »

More information

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A Vision Board is a canvas teens can glue images that represent their desires and goals.  Join Jen and Jen for yoga, meditation and creating vision boards. Supplies provided but students...

Cost: $40

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue, Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-345-5873
Contact Name: Jen Bluestone
Website »

More information

Learn about snakes and spiders in the Raleigh area and gain tips for staying safe. Meet and pet a native, non-venomous snake. Ages 8 and older. Register online. Choose course #203580.

Cost: $2

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate the end of summer and August birthdays with a FIT4MOM Chapel Hill "ice cream" social. Make Yonanas "ice cream" and have a sundae bar full of healthy toppings for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Southern Village Green
400 Market St
Chapel Hill , NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Ages 2-6 and parent learn about snakes with a craft, games, songs, stories and a guided walk through the wetland. Register online. Choose course #203556.

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Preschoolers enjoy a story.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
8030 Renaissance Parkway, Ste. 855
Durham, NC  27713
View map »


Telephone: 919-806-1930
Website »

More information

Preschoolers enjoy a story.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Raleigh, NC  27616
View map »


Telephone: 919-806-1930
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

At this live drawing event/fundraiser, 78 artists at all stages of their careers take shifts to draw in front of a live audience. As spectators spy on the creative process, sketches morph into...

Cost: $5/member, $10/nonmember. Free for children under 6; ticket required

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids enjoy a fun-filled night including exhibit play and exploration, a movie and dinner. This drop-off event is for children ages 3-9; children must be potty-trained. Kids will exercise their...

Cost: $25/first child, $15/sibling

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Register online.

Cost: $17/resident, $22/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Enjoy the spectacle of giant puppets, stilt dancers, shadow puppets and live music. All ages. A pre-show begins at 6:20 p.m.

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Take part in a national touring concert featuring music of the '60s, '70s and '80s. This family-friendly dance party and theatrical performance includes disco, funk, rock 'n'...

Cost: $39-$44

Where:
Duke Energy Center-Fletcher Opera House
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Decades Entertainment Inc
Telephone: 813-586-3577
Contact Name: Sandy Gatti
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

The Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary by expanding the one-day festival to two days. Enjoy arts and crafts from vendors from across the Southeast, festival foods,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn basic canoeing skills and explore the pond's features as only seen from the water. Ages 5 and older with adult. Register online.

Cost: $10/boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Kids ages 4-15 try out their ninja skills. Kids warm up with coaches who instruct them on how to run a course with obstacles. Signed waiver required. Drop-in program.

Cost: Free

Where:
USA Ninja Challenge Durham-Chapel Hill
1810 Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy, Suite A
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: USA Ninja Challenge Durham-Chapel Hill
Telephone: 984-219-2559
Website »

More information

Celebrate the victories for equality that women have won and rededicated themselves to in eliminating all discrimination against women. This year’s theme is “Women Rise...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Campus
318 Blackwell St
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Action NC
Telephone: 919-794-8210
Contact Name: Gloria De Los Santos
Website »

More information

Search Swift Creek for snakes, fish, salamanders and more. Ages 10-13. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Celebrate North Carolina farming culture and history at Duke Homestead. Don't miss the looping contest and Hornworm Race. This event features live music, local arts and crafts vendors, hands-on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 2-6 and parent learn about snakes with a craft, games, songs, stories and a guided walk through the wetland. Register online. Choose course #203556.

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Learn basic canoeing skills and explore the pond's features as only seen from the water. Ages 5 and older with adult. Advance registration required online.

Cost: $10/boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a walk in the woods and discover the animals and plants that call the park home. Help collect data for our Natural Resource Inventory Database and other citizen science projects. Ages 14 and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Learn fun facts about the animals of the park. Drop-in program.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Take a 30-minute tour to view the main power drive and milling machinery. Tickets available inside the park's visitor center. Online registration encouraged.

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 5-8 embrace science and nature while developing skills and knowledge about the natural world. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

More information

Children with special needs experience Marbles in a calmer, quieter environment after hours. This event is free and exclusively for kids with special needs and their families.

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy the spectacle of giant puppets, stilt dancers, shadow puppets and live music. All ages. A pre-show begins at 6:20 p.m.

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Take part in a national touring concert featuring music of the '60s, '70s and '80s. This family-friendly dance party and theatrical performance includes disco, funk, rock 'n'...

Cost: $39-$44

Where:
Duke Energy Center-Fletcher Opera House
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Decades Entertainment Inc
Telephone: 813-586-3577
Contact Name: Sandy Gatti
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2016-17 Education Guide offers 643 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.