When toddlers swear & ask awkward questions

Kids will be kids and there will come a stage when they swear or ask awkward questions at inappropriate times, but what can you do to help address it? Check out these useful tips.
Kids will be kids and there will come a stage when they swear or ask awkward questions at inappropriate times, but what can you do to help address it?

Don't panic!

While you might be mortified when your child talks loudly about someone nearby or has swear words coming out of their mouth, it’s actually quite common and very normal and doesn’t mean that your toddler is mean or insensitive.

What to do when toddlers swear


1. Mimicry

The first thing to remember when it comes to toddlers or young children swearing or saying inappropriate words, is that they do it because they’ve heard it from somewhere else.

In most cases a child's first swear word is the result of direct mimicry.

Even if you’re careful about not swearing in front of your children, they may have heard it from other members of your family or friends, a buddy at daycare or even on TV.

2. Testing new words

Young children don’t understand that the word they’re saying is offensive and generally aren’t saying it for a reaction. They’re just testing out different words.

However, it’s the way you react that will make them feel tempted to keep repeating it if they know they’ll get a rise out of you.

So if your toddler swears, you can very calmly say, ‘don’t use that word’, and instead suggest another completely unrelated word and teach them that instead.

3. Setting guidelines

If your toddler has latched on to a serious profanity or two, they need you to set some guidelines.

It's crucial to do this calmly otherwise, each time you react, you just remind them how much power they have to make you pay attention to them quickly.

You don't need to explain what the words mean or why they're unacceptable. Just make it clear, in a matter-of-fact and disinterested voice, which words are off-limits.

Something along the lines of ‘That's not a word you may use in our house or around other people.’

Don't let swearing get results. If your child is cursing because they want something, make sure they don’t get whatever it is they’re asking for.

It isn't appropriate to say, ‘That was terrible language to use, but here's your ice cream anyway.’

4. Don't react

Another option is to completely ignore your toddler and change the subject or activity they’re doing, because a reaction will only make them want to say it again.

They have such short attention span at this age that generally they’ll find the new activity more exciting than the swear word they were just trying out.

What to do when toddlers ask awkward questions


1. Dealing with curiosity

Toddlers have boundless curiosity and no concept of how their questions will impact on others around them.
So when they turn to you and ask loudly why that woman has a big tummy or why that man has no hair, they’re doing it because they’re curious and don’t understand the social rules that would normally stop them from asking.
If it happens and the person mentioned hears, apologise but don’t make a big deal about it because, like swearing, your little one will feed off your reaction.

In most cases, the person you’re talking about will understand that young children are curious and naturally ask questions.

2. Empathy 

Children don’t grasp the concept of empathy or think about how their comments will be taken by others until they’re at least seven years old. 

As far as your toddler or pre-schooler is concerned, they can’t wait to tell you about this new, different and exciting person they’ve seen, and as is often the case with children, their little voices have no volume switch!
The challenge is to find a way to explain the situation to them, while also introducing ideas such as sensitivity, respect and empathy.
If you’re concerned, you can say to your child, ‘You are so good at noticing people, like the colour of their hair and the size of their body. But sometimes people can feel hurt if we talk about how they look, so you can always tell me in my ear what you see, instead of saying it out loud.’

3. Patience

Try to be patient with your toddler. 

They won't transform into a little diplomat overnight, but with time and guidance, they’ll learn how to think before they speak, at least some of the time!

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Image source: bauermedia

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