It’s bound to happen. As many times as you try to say “shoot” not “s***”, or “fudge” not “f***”, you will inevitably use some bad words in front of your children. Which your children will inevitably use in the worst place possible (school, church, visiting grandma). I have taken care of a lot of kids and had some pretty fabulous moments listening to kids drop some word bombs!
While kids will sometimes throw out a word they hear because they are looking for a reaction, the best times are when kids actually use curse words correctly. Once while taking care of a four-year-old, she very sweetly asked me if she could carry her ice cream into the living room and eat it in front of the TV. I told her that was fine, but walk very slowly and use both hands. As she slowly approached the living room, being very careful to take her time and watch her step, she carefully placed her bowl on the table and it slipped off the edge and crashed to the floor. The four-year-old let out a heavy sigh and said “well, s***”. I stifled down a laugh as hard as I could and corrected her, “we say shoot”.
Cursing is pretty easy to correct. If you don’t make a big deal about the word they used and substitute it with an age-appropriate word, you can clean up your kid’s potty mouth. Some of my favorite replacements are “shoot”, “fudge”, “oh my gosh”, “hot as hades”, and my personal favorite “cheese and rice” for Jesus Christ.
What is interesting is when kids use normal words that for some reason just rub me the wrong way. Like “shut-up”. Not a bad word, but when you hear a little one say it, it feels just as bad as cursing. One of my little boys went through a “shut-up” phase around age three. I was concerned because he had started pre-k and I didn’t want him telling friends or teachers to “shut-up”. I had asked him to replace “shut-up” with “hush” and then went to talk to the teachers. I walked into the three’s classroom full of boy wrestling and saying “you shut up”, “chair shut up”, “door shut up”. I asked the two teachers “so when did this shut-up become a thing.” The poor sleepy-eyed teacher said “I have no idea how this became a thing. It has taken on a life of its own.” One group email later, all parents agreed to try help our poor teachers out by recommending “hush” to all our shut-up-saying boys!
Another word that surprisingly rubbed me the wrong way was “whatever”. For some reason the five-year-old came home and responded “whatever” to everything I asked him to do. He still did everything he was asked but it was like he had a “whatever” tick now. Finally at the end of the day I decided to squash the “whatever” use. I asked him to please not use that word anymore. He nodded knowingly at me and said “is that a grown-up only word?” Yes. Yes it is.
Once you have control over the inappropriate words and the annoying words, then you have to be ready for the potty words. Good lord help me once kids start potty training. Then everyone is a “poop-head” or a “pee-pee head”. Then they start learning the proper terms for their body parts. Once I picked up the four-year-old from pre-k. He was in my car, buckled and ready to go. As we were driving away, he spotted one of his little friends from class. He asked if he could roll down the window and yell bye. I said of course, and the four-year old proceeded to roll down the window and shout “HEY CHARLIE! YOU’RE A PENIS!” Charlie, unfazed and to the horror of his nanny screamed back, “YOU’RE A VAGINA!” I quickly rolled up the window and sped away in shame.
We do the best we can! We unfortunately can’t ask all adults to watch their mouths as we are out and about. We also can’t expect all the videos they watch will be age appropriate. You just have to do the best to keep it clean. If there is any advice I could give about keeping kids from using bad language it would be DO NOT LAUGH!