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We have recently noticed the foul Language that our child has picked up. We honestly don’t know where he gets it from but it is embarrassing and something we are desperate to get rid of. Can you help?

Unfortunately you do not mention how old your child is so I will go through various approaches for different age groups.

It goes without saying that you do not swear in front of your children. We are role models and the majority of children’s behaviour is learnt from us. You may not think you swear because you simply do not notice. You might be the first place to start working on! However, if you realise it is not you that your child is copying, there are a few ways to eliminate the bad language.

Firstly, if your child is under 3 they simply do not have the capacity to understand bad language and are only using it because it gets a great reaction from you. This can quickly be resolved. You just need to ignore the words and they will soon disappear. Your parents or grand-parents may well have told you stories of how their mouths were washed out with soap when they used foul language. Whilst they may never have used the language again, this method is not one that many parents are comfortable using anymore as it can result in pinning children down, violence and aggression.

With primary school children it begins to get slightly harder as they are now old enough to control their language. It is important to explain to them that words can hurt people’s feelings just as much as hitting and kicking.

It is also good to mention how they might look. This doesn’t always work with some children but for others it is crucial. To know that ‘Sally’s mother won’t let you play with Sally anymore if you continue the bad language’ can sometimes do miracles even if Sally always laughs at you and gives you lots of attention when you swear. If swearing really starts to become a problem it is essential that you praise all the really good behaviour your child is displaying and even resort to taking away something that you know means a lot to the child every time they swear. They should not get it back until they have had two days on the trot without swearing.

Teenagers notoriously push boundaries and one of these boundaries is swearing. Within their peer group they may see positive results from using bad language together with an air of coolness and sophistication. Even if you think your teenager is not listening, explain to them how it makes them look and impose consequences that you can control.

Depending on how strong you feel about the language levels, you might want to withdraw privileges or even suspend pocket money. I have encountered a family who decided to make it a joint effort to curb their swearing and set up a Swear Jar. This did not alienate the teenager but made a negative situation into a positive one. Every time someone in the family swore, they had to put £2 into the jar. At the end of the month the money was given to charity.

Whatever the age, the changes won’t happen overnight. As parents we have to continue with our strategies over a period of time even if it seems like a lot of hard work.

When children see that there is no giving up on your part, they will soon realise that what they are doing needs to change. It will happen so don’t give up hope and if you are co-parenting, remember that you must both be reading off the same page.