My 3-Year Old Had a Potty Mouth — Had! Here Was My Strategy

a year ago
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“You gave me the same lunch, again?” my 3-year old asks, looking up to me with his big eyes and he’s not done yet. He has a big smile on his face and that sparkling look in his eyes and then he drops the bomb, “What the f*#k, mom?” I become engulfed with rage, but I hold it together and explain to him calmly that it is not appropriate to use words like these. 

Yes, he might have heard it on TV or from either or both of his parents and caught it from there but it was exhausting to explain him the nuances of his newly-acquired vocabulary. After all, we’ve been working with him to build up his vocabulary since 3 years and instead of using pleasant words, he throws around the one which rhymes with duck. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this and there are millions of moms who need have kids who need some censoring. 

The first thing I asked myself was why is he doing it? I realized that, of course, he doesn’t know what that word means but he gets a reaction from me everytime he uses it which excites him. Plus throwing around words like butt which sound funny and makes him cool. So, my strategy was to keep a poker face and resist any reaction when he says a swear word. At first, I used to have a chuckle, raise my voice and even wince at him when he did that, which only encouraged him more. Showing emotions isn’t in their best interest when it comes to potty mouth. 

Our minds and learning process are wired in such a way that we pick up cuss words more quickly than other words and it feels good. My kid stopped using these words on a lesser extent after I stopped giving him a reaction. The next step was to give him alternatives. First we agreed on completely eradicating f*#k and poopyface in sentence building and came up with less crude words like darn or heck. We came up with more goofy-sounding words and agreed that instead of using more vulgar words saying ‘I’m mad’ and ‘I’m so annoyed’. That worked a bit more. 

Finally, I decided that his cuss words won’t yield results. If he threw slang he won’t get anything for me. If he says, “I’m so pissed at my friend, I need an ice-cream.” He’s not getting any ice-cream. There should be consequences. Finally, it’s time to teach him calm and respect. I explained him that he just can’t hurl abuses at anyone. Everyone deserves respect, bad words hurt feelings and if he doesn’t stop, he might be left with no friends. I and my husband cleaned our act and finally he stopped it (at least at home).


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