Out of the mouths of babes – How to help children stop swearing

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Have you ever had a room full of beautiful 5 year olds working away wonderfully, only to be suddenly shocked to hear expletives to rival a sailor coming out of the mouth of one of said babes?

I have a student with some very colourful language and have been working together with their parents to help this fun and smart little friend overcome their love of swearing.

We get it.  Sometimes there’s not a diplomatic word to quite express a certain level of frustration or anger.  But it can be difficult to get a young person’s care-factor for appropriate up when their emotions are heightened.

But what about when there doesn’t seem to be anything upsetting the child?  When all seems to be going well, then out it comes (verbally…or written all over the desk) – just for fun?

Perhaps attention, underlying emotional stress…whatever the reason.

We’re not quite there yet, but some of the strategies that have helped for us have been:

  • Keep reactions calm – not reacting or overreacting to inappropriate language is key in ensuring negative attention seeking is not rewarded.
  • Increase praise of good use of kind and respectful language.
  • Have a quiet and calm discussion about strategies to help overcome bad language in high emotional situations (e.g. It’s ok to feel angry, but how can we stay respectful to our classmates? Have a chat to a teacher about how we’re feeling ASAP, taking deep breaths etc.).
  • Remind student about agreed rules/respectful behaviours in our classroom/home and the impact breaking them can have on friendships.
  • Remind student about strategies at many intervals throughout the day, checking in on emotional state etc. before things can escalate.  Keep their efforts at the forefront of their mind to make new, positive-thinking habits.
  • Have an ‘I am respectful’ chart – tracking and praising respectful behaviour & language

Have you had struggled with this issue with your student before?  What strategies have you found that helped?  I’d love to hear your suggestions and try them.  Share them in the comments below. :)

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