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How to Punish Children When They Curse at You

by Tiffany Raiford

The first time you hear profanity escape the innocent mouth of your child, you might be rendered speechless. Many kids resort to foul language at some point, whether it’s to test the waters and see what lines they can cross without penalty or simply because they’re so frustrated or angry they can’t find a more appropriate way to express their emotions. Before cursing becomes an even bigger problem with your child, you need to find a way to punish your child’s inappropriate language effectively so that there aren’t any more inappropriate words coming from her mouth.

Make it clear that in your family cursing is not condoned in any way, shape or form, advises James Lehman, a social worker writing for Empowering Parents. When your kids know that cursing is a prohibited rule, you can immediately punish them without resorting to explanations or arguments about why they thought it might be OK to use this word in this situation.

Send her straight to time-out when a bad word comes out of her mouth, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. This punishment works best on children between the ages of 2 and 5, but you can also use it on your older kids. Time-out removes your child from the situation and gives her a few minutes to calm down and think about her behavior. The general rule of thumb for time-out is one minute for every year of your child’s age.

Make a cursing jar for your older kids and make it a family rule that no curse words are permitted in your house, advises Lehman. Making it a family affair might help your child understand that cursing is wrong and it might motivate him to find another outlet for his feelings. Place a jar in a public place in your house and implement a rule that anytime someone curses they put a quarter into the jar. In place of money, you can also have pieces of paper with punishments or additional chores written on them and anytime someone curses, they have to draw a punishment or additional chore and do it immediately.

Withhold privileges for cursing, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. For example, if your child curses at you, take away something he enjoys. You can try taking away his freedom to play outside the rest of the day, permission to play with his friends after school the next day, his video games, his computer privileges or even tell him that he’s not going to be able to join the family for dessert after he finishes his dinner tonight.

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