Don't Want a Potty-Mouth Toddler? Don't Be a Potty-Mouth Parent


toddlerThis week on America's Supernanny, childcare guru Deborah Tillman came across the most foul-mouthed little kid she's ever seen. Poor little Armani (NOT pictured here), just 4 years old and already cussin' like a pirate. "Hey listen, you #$%@-head! &*$# face!" Poor mom! Where did he pick up such language? From his daddy, Bill. 

Bill fessed up: "The only person on earth he would've gotten that from is his dad. I knew that was my mistake ... that's what got me, he was sounding like me. But I know I'm gonna stop." Good for you, Bill, taking responsibility for poor modeling. But the time to really stop swearing is way before your kid turns 4!

This is a problem a lot of us parents face. Oh, I know there are some disciplined folks out there who never swear at all. Good for you. But especially if you've waited to have kids -- and are mired in your old habits -- kicking the potty mouth is awfully hard. And it needs to happen early on, before your child learns how to talk. Use the swearing jar, whatever it takes.

I still remember when my son was a baby and he would stare at my mouth while I spoke. After a while, he started mouthing along with me, almost like he was trying to lip-sync along with whatever I was saying while he learned how to talk. It brought home to me how much he watched his parents' every move -- and heard every word. They're listening even when you're not talking to them! (Except when you say "stop that.")

Of course, just as your child is learning to talk they're at their most exasperating. Never did I have more REASONS to cuss than when I was dealing with a curious, rambunctious, stubborn little toddler! Needless to say I'm not perfect and I did let a few 4-letter-words fly. And then I apologized. "Mommy needs to stop saying that word!" Even if you're not perfect, making it clear to your kids that you're trying can make a difference. One of the big surprises of raising my son was learning that he actually doesn't want to hear his parents swear. And he gets that we don't like hearing him swear. Along with your words, kids pick up on your actions and your attitude.

Was it hard for you to stop swearing around your kids? What are your tactics?


Image via efleming/Flickr

child care, language, learning, mrs manners, toddler development


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nonmember avatar Guest

I do not believe necessarily in not swearing around kids. I believe that everything is ok in moderation and that children should be taught there are adult actions and child actions and just because an adult does something does not make it ok for a kid to do....It's similar (in my opinion) with alcoholic drinks. If I want to have a beer it doesn't mean my 6 year old can have one too. It doesn't mean the beer is bad.
That being said I don't think that every other word out of your mouth should be a swear word, but if you let one slip every once and a while I think the best thing to do is explain that it's ok for adults to do it but not kids.

stace... stacey541

I am sadly still working on it. My older chid (3.5) was great-she has never repeated any naughty words I have used. My younger though (2) has picked them up. I never realized before he started repeating it my bad word of choice is damnit-whenver he gets upset you can hear him say dramatically "Oh Damnit!!" Oops!

nonmember avatar Shelly

I agree. I think parents who cuss often around their children, come across and uneducated and trashy...even if they truly aren't. It's just tacky and unattractive.

ashjo85 ashjo85

It's so obvious my daughter is around my dad so much. She'll hit a phone or whatever it is she's playing with that isn't doing what she wan't and say "Damn thing!" It's so hard not to laugh when she does it.

Kritika Kritika

I have the worst potty mouth sometimes as does my husband...gonna have to work on that.

Marjc... Marjchaos

My kids have picked up some of our less appealing exclamations. We try to watch it, and not make a to-do when we hear them. I think they were like them more if we made a big deal.

yayhe... yayheadstart

i let my kids curse. As long as they din't do it at school or at another kid's house it doesn't bother me. They are just words- we are the ones that give them power.

Logan... LoganTroyMom

they are 'grown up' words.. My 3yo is a big boy, not a grown up. He knows that and doesnt swear.

slw123 slw123

I try very had not to cuss in front of my kids.  My husband doesn't try too hard.  My kids know what words are not for them to use.  I have caught them saying "oh shit" under their breath when they've dropped something and then they look up at me and are like "oh my gosh, I'm so sorry mommy, it was an accident".  They know it's not ok.

Momma... MommaGreenhalge

I've never had trouble with that.  Swearing has never been a part of my vocabulary, so I never had bad habits to kick there.  Now my anger issues.... That's another story.  But I've gotten that under control in the past year, and I'm proud to say I'm not a yeller any more.

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