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Do your kids use foul language?

Andrea Gogri | March 22, 2006

The use of abusive words or foul language is becoming increasingly common among the younger generation today. Most of us have, at some point, experienced a child swearing but, when it comes to dealing with it, we often don't know what to do.

Maria Antao, child and family counsellor at Fatima High School, Goa, explains, "Kids rarely use these words for the same reasons adults do. They could be swearing to get a reaction or to establish their independence. They could be innocently imitating what they've heard someone else say."

Whatever the reason, parents feel embarrassed or perturbed when they hear kids -- especially their own -- using foul language.

Kinneri Valia, who interned at the Children's Orthopaedic Hospital and Nalanda Institute for slow learners in Mumbai before starting her own classes in phonics, Little Popcorn Tree, says, "A child's mind is like a sponge and absorbs whatever it hears in the environment it is in."

Hence, we need to determine exactly where a child could be picking up such language.

A few probable sources

i. Television serials, music channels, films, media

These have a direct bearing on a child's mind. The availability of cable television, videos and DVDs means that any child of any age has access to uncut versions of R-rated films. These are filled with not only abusive words but also unhealthy values.

Check the programmes/ films your child is in the habit of seeing. You will have to monitor the programmes or lock certain channels. Television foul language control devices are easily available abroad and in some parts of Mumbai. These devices automatically filter out offensive words.

ii. Music

Although it is not possible to stop your child from listening to hip-hop, hard rock or rap music, try and distract him/ her into taking up sports, games, hobbies, playing an instrument or introducing him to different music beats.

However, don't be alarmed if you hear your child listening to rap music. Get to know the artistes before putting a stop to the music heard; children are more influenced by the artistes than the songs sung by them.

iii. House help

Children are often left in the care of maids, drivers, house help, etc, who have a direct influence on them.

Warn them beforehand of the use of such language in front of your kids.

iv. At school and family

Children could also hear it from classmates, older kids or someone in the family.

Keep a watch to track the same and take adequate action.

v. Do you use bad language?

Be honest with yourself. If you are in the habit of using bad words, stop it at once.

How to combat lingual disasters

Although you would like to rub soap into your child's mouth or give them one tight slap to kick the habit, today's kids are more aggressive and conscious. They will use the words more often just to anger you.

Here are a few tip to help you nip it in the bud.

Identify the sources

Observe your child's daily routine and the people he interacts with. A checklist of the probable sources has already been mentioned in this article. By identifying the source, the use of abusive language can be minimised.

Make rules

Make it a rule that no bad words will be used in the house or in or around your company. Teach them that the use of foul language is bad manners and disrespectful.

Make sure everyone -- both family and friends -- understand that trash talk and bad language will not be tolerated in your home. A firm stare or sharp reminder is usually enough to remind your child's friends not to use foul language. You don't have to shout, just be firm.

Explain the meaning of the bad word

By explaining the meaning of the word; your child might be embarrassed to use the word again.

Penalise them monetarily

Make your child pay a small amount from his pocket money each time you hear him use a bad word.

Award him with a little extra each time you feel he has minimised the use of foul words. This will encourage him to kick the habit of swearing.

Put them in your shoes

Tell your child it is not okay to use bad words. Ask them how they would feel if you used the same words. You could say "Is it okay with you for me to use that word with you? Does it sound nice? How would you feel if the words were used against you? Can I use it often in front of you?"

This will make your child think the next time he wants to be abusive.

Things to do


Why not ask your child to come up with ways to kick the habit? Or what punishment should be given to anyone who curses in the house? Involve them in the decision making and it will help them to kick the habit quicker.


If your child is very young (two to four years of age) and doesn't understand what he's saying, ignoring the word can work sometimes. If he persists, then pick a one-line response that's emotionally neutral, such as 'Those aren't very nice words to say.'

React to others using foul language

Sometimes media, music channels, playgrounds, etc, expose children to a vast vocalbary of linguistic disasters. Reacting to such words in the presence of the programme or person will make children realise it's not okay to use offensive language. You could say things like, "That was not a very nice thing to say" or "It's wrong of him/ her to say something like that."

Don't make it an issue

Antao feels it is important to involve your child and discuss if the use of abusive words are justified. However, don't make the use of foul language an issue.

As children, more often than not, when asked not to do something will do it all the more just to anger you, get your attention or to prove a point. Hence handle the situation delicately.

In most cases, using foul language is just a phase. As a parent, a little guidance, patience and a lot of respect for your child as an individual will go a long way in helping your child kick the habit.

The author works for YoungBuzz India ltd, a career guidance and people development company. For more information, contact

Does your child use bad language? How do you deal with it?

Do you have parenting insights/ experiences you would like to share with us? Please do write in. Don't forget to add your name, contact number, how many children you have, their age, the place you are from and a little bit about your background.


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Number of User Comments: 3

Sub: Now i know how to deal with my kid

Hi, Thanks Ms. Gogri...infact last week only i heard Dan, my 8 yr old son, cussin & i was shocked to hear... And as mentioned ...

Posted by Porus Satwe

Sub: do your child use foul language

it is very nice to read such article as my child is also 2 year old and it is very helpful for me .please send ...

Posted by anupama mandal

Sub: Foul Language

Thanks for showcasing this most alarming trend in Indian youth. As is usual with our young people they choose to ape everything that's worst in ...

Posted by Inez Rufus


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