Bad language usually falls into one of these three categories: (a) profanity–using the name of God in a disrespectful way; (b) cursing–expressing a wish to hurt someone; (c) obscenity–words with sexual or elimination connotations. Why do children use bad language? For many of the same reasons we do: gain acceptance, power, or attention; to shock people; release tension or anger; to defy social rules and be different.
o Compile a vocabulary of bad words, discussing their meaning with children, and when and with whom they can and cannot say them. An open discussion like this usually dampens some of the fire behind using bad words.
o Ask children to think of acceptable words or sayings they can use instead of swear words. How about “shoot,” “darn it,” “fudge,” or make up a word like “blooper?”
o Discuss the value of good manners, and how bad language is often looked upon as a sign of poor manners, which some people may hold against them. For example, if two boys wanted the same lawn-mowing job, and one boy was well-mannered while the other was swearing every fifth word, who would most likely get the job?
o Enlist peers to help children control their bad language. Whenever children swear, peers could tell them they don’t like it, ignore them, or even move away from the children until they stop swearing.
o Ask children to repeat their swear word over and over again for five minutes, or ask them to write an essay on what the word means, where it originated, and how many ways it can be used in written and spoken language. It shouldn’t be too long before they get sick and tired of using the word.