5 Keys To Cleaning Up A Potty Mouth

At some point, nearly every parent has the agonizing and possibly amusing experience of seeing their small child pour forth an obscenity. Her Bad Mother shares a hilarious account of coming up against this with her own five-year-old, who reasoned that if she met someone whose name is F***, she should be allowed to use the word to call them by their proper name.

I’ve had my own run-ins with kids and cursing, most memorably when my toddler turned my own foul language into a song.

These things can be hilarious, but they’re also a real social problem. No one wants a kid who curses uncontrollably. So what can you do?

  1. For starters, clean up your own language. Your kids copy everything you say, so say the things you want to hear coming out of their mouths. This might be easier for some of us than others. But even those of us who curse like sailors – or, more accurately, like liberal arts college students – can be schooled in the niceties of polite society by the horrified looks we get in the grocery store when our sweet little angels pop out with “Oh S***!” after dropping a toy. Trust me on this one.
  2. DO NOT LAUGH. This might be the most important one. Don’t encourage the behavior by reacting in a big way. Do your level best to keep a straight face when your kid swears.
  3. Don’t get mad, either. You also want to avoid yelling at or punishing a small child who swears. The last thing you want is to turn foul language into a power struggle between you and your three-year-old. Everyone will lose.
  4. Tell them clearly what you want them to do. Your kid heard this word somewhere, and probably the adult they picked it up from wasn’t corrected for using it. Be clear and gentle in saying, “That is not a nice word. I don’t want you to use it.”
  5. Keep doing these things. You and your child will keep right on living in a world where bad language is sometimes uttered. Possibly sometimes by you or your kid. These days, my daughter will say, ‘Mommy, that is not a nice word,” and I apologize for using it and try to do better next time. Very, very rarely I have to remind her that some words are not nice, but mostly she’s learned the lesson better than I have at this point.

For tips on handling this with older kids, check out’s article on curbing tweens cursing.

Photo: Josh Liba

Article Posted 6 years Ago
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