Big Question: How Should I Respond to a Mild Expletive ?
My three and a half-year-old child has started using a mild expletive around the house when she drops something, or her block building tumbles down. We rarely use swear words and want to discourage this kind of language What do you think?
It is entirely normal for children to explore language, especially words that I include in the “strong “ language category. My definition of “strong” includes words that are emotionally charged or taboo. And not just the four-letter words, but works like “hate” and expressions such as “shut up.” It sounds like a four-letter word muttered after something happens that your child doesn’t like, indicates her attention to the correct usage, but not the proper decorum.
While the source of this vocabulary may or may not be relevant, the feedback your child receives is. The conversation should begin with a neutrally asked “what does that word mean and where did you learn it?” Children are usually very forthcoming when they are not being criticized. Again, in a neutral voice, a parent can explain that a better word to use might be “oops” or “sugar.” You can even make a silly game naming scenarios when you might say “oops.” I put my shirt on upside down…. Oops! I tried to eat my soup with a fork… Oops!
A child your daughter’s age, is beginning to understand that actions have consequences. It is important to mention that you don’t like that word and that its use makes you and others feel uncomfortable. Your nonchalant attitude about this language and matter of fact delivery about its use should help to minimize its use in the future for attention or button pushing.
Children are imitators, and your modeling of acceptable alternatives will go a long way.