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What's the best way to handle the situation when your toddler says a bad word and why did they say it in the first place?
Using bad language is fairly common in toddlers. They pick up new words from other children at nursery or school and suddenly you hear them say things you've never heard before! Using a bad word is a way of expressing frustration or anger. They may say it because they think it's funny or because their best friend at school said it. But, what ever the reason behind saying that word, your reaction is the most important thing.
How to react
- Try not to react too much. Ignore it if you can the first time. They might see that there's no reaction from you and never say it again! Certainly don't go crazy and tell them off as this will get them lots of attention which may be what they are after! Just explain calmly there are some words we don't say.
- If they are over 2 years and know how to say sorry, ask them to apologise to you or whoever the bad words were directed at. Explain that it was offensive or hurtful and try to make it clear that it's not nice or acceptable.
- Don't laugh, because they will think you've found it funny and will do it again and again to make you laugh even more.
- Think of other words to say when they are angry. 'Upsy Daisy' or 'Oh Dear' when they fall over or stub their toe rather than anything more aggressive.
- Look around at the environment or the people round your child and see where the language might have come from: an uncle who uses bad language, older cousins who might have said things between themselves and been over heard. If it's just 'potty' talk, then it is probably just children at nursery, but do have a look at the people who spend time with your child just in case its a family member and you may need to request a "toning down" of their language.
- If they keep using profanities, then you have to make clear what will happen: introduce "time-out" or withdraw privileges as a means to make it clear that you do not approve and will not tolerate the bad language.
- Television may be the cause. Make sure they watch appropriate programmes!
- If they are using bad language to get something definitely don't let them have it. Say 'no' and explain that using bad words will not get them what they want!
- If they are copying an older sibling, trying to be like them, make it clear to the older child that it's not acceptable language and show how it's causing problems. Copying and imitating older children (in language and behaviour) is a way of learning, so it's not something they are doing wrong necessarily.
Make sure you don't use bad language either... watch what you say because they will hear, copy and think it acceptable to be like you!