My Child Has Used a Bad Word That I Have Never Heard Before. What Do I Do?
When you’re a parent of small children, you’re likely to have a lot of “say what?” situations. Even though it’s nice to see our kids’ vocabulary expand, it serves as a reminder that we have a role to play in ensuring that they comprehend the nuances of the language.
If we are being honest, our initial reaction may not be the greatest one. When your 3-year-old said a swear term you swear you never used in front of him, you may have erupted into laughter. Repeating it again and over again, he gets the same great response. I’ve also had the experience of slamming down hard on a word I don’t want my kids to use, only to discover that I’ve given them a shiny new button to push during power conflicts. As soon as the 3-year-old hears the command “don’t say that,” she is enthralled by her new limit-setting ammunition.
However, disregarding new terms that we don’t want our children to use isn’t a good use of our time as parents. It’s worked for me. Because we didn’t want to draw attention to his newfound enthusiasm for “potty phrases,” we opted not to make it a big deal. “Buttcheek slapper” has been a favorite nickname of his for at least three years now, so clearly we haven’t made any headway.
What Parents Need to Know
In other words, how do we find a middle ground between over-reacting to a new term and disregarding it at our own peril? “Where did you hear that?” is the simplest first step in dealing with a 3-year-old. Three-year-olds are obviously not the most dependable reporters, but they are a fantastic starting point for the project. Children they play with who have older siblings are often a source, according to what I’ve learned.
When possible, keep an eye on what they’re seeing.
It’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on what your parents are watching on YouTube when they’re using your tablet computers in this day and age. At first, I assumed my own son was playing age-appropriate superhero games, but upon closer inspection, I discovered a graphic depiction of Spider-Man that I swiftly prohibited. If you’re looking for a compilation of kid-friendly hilarious films, you may want to steer clear of some of the more risqué clips, even if they appear to be G-rated.
Teach vocabulary that can be used in their place.
Even if you and your daughter are unable to find the source of the “boobies” (or if she refuses to rat on you), you can use this as an opportunity to discuss how your family uses language. In order to clarify why “breasts,” for example, is not a word you employ, explain that you use “breasts.”
Make sure you know the difference between proper and inappropriate methods to express oneself.
As a family, we have established rules on what constitutes “acceptable” and “inappropriate” language, and our children have embraced these definitions as their own. Students benefit greatly from hearing a wide variety of new words from their peers as they progress through elementary school. We can’t stop kids from seeing and hearing things we wouldn’t say, but we can prepare them to come to us for help when they need it.
To help your 3-year-old traverse the complex world of language, you should be able to respond to her in a matter-of-fact manner and explain why she shouldn’t use a certain word. That way, when she’s 10 and has an even more impressive vocabulary, she won’t be afraid to ask you about it or embarrassed.