Children will be exposed to swear words at one time or another, be it in school, at home, or while travelling on public transport.
Young kids will often repeat something they’ve heard, out of curiosity, while older kids may start to use colourful language at home to test their parents’ reactions or push their buttons.
Here are a few strategies to curb junior from developing a habit of using ‘colourful language’.
1. Don’t ignore the situation
It is tempting to take the easy way out and ignore your children’s less-than-desirable language use at home.
But ignoring the situation does not make the problem go away. Worse, it can signal to them that it is okay to use foul language in daily life, or that it is no big deal.
So, bite the bullet and find a suitable time to sit down with the children, and discuss with them why using bad language can be harmful to ourselves or disrespectful to others.
Ask them how they would feel if someone else used a bad word on them. This will help them to consider the wider repercussions of making vulgarities a part of daily life and language.
2. Seek to understand the reasons
Do your children think that swearing is cool? Are they swearing because they lack communication or anger management skills? Are they using it to get our attention?
It’s important to first understand the situation, before attempting to solve the problem. Without fully understanding our children’s needs, it will be difficult to accurately diagnose the issue and tackle it.
Be ready to hear your children’s points of view too. Don’t be too quick to shut them down or dismiss them as this can cause them to feel unheard or misunderstood.
3. Talk about values
Whenever tricky situations arise in the home, it is a signal for mum and dad to carve out time in our daily routine, to have conversations about values with our kids.
Values guide our behaviour and choices. Over the long run, these habits and choices form our character.
Have an open discussion about the values of respect for others and integrity in our behaviour and speech. Use real family and friends as role models and examples of how best to treat others.
Just as it is not right to get physical when we are angry, talk about the importance of exercising self-control over our tongues.
4. Set the gold standard
As parents, we must set high standards for our children’s behaviour, and hold ourselves accountable to the same.
In order to be effective role models, we need to be authentic and vulnerable with our children at times. Letting them see our struggles, and talking about ways we dealt with our own temptations and failures can help them realise that such temptations are normal and that through perseverance, we can overcome challenges.
It is good to bear in mind that as our children approach adolescence, they will also seek greater autonomy and freedom in their lives. As they grow, they will begin to appreciate advice, backed by logic and reason, better than stern warnings or threats.
Coarse language may have become part of society’s common vernacular, but it doesn’t have to be – for my family, or yours! We can choose the better paths for our children.
Written by Judith Xavier.
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