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Expert advice

14th Jun 2023

Parent-child psychotherapist reveals effective way to stop your child swearing

Ellen Fitzpatrick

A radio listener who tuned into Newstalk this week has asked the public for advice after revealing their six-year-old child can’t stop swearing.

Speaking on the Sean Moncrieff show, the listener revealed that her child had been using offensive and inappropriate words.

“My six-year-old will not stop using bad language,” the listener told Moncrieff. “It’s not just the usual suspects such as the F word, but much more serious and offensive ones.

“He knows it gets a rise out of me, and he knows it embarrasses me when we’re out in public or with extended family.”

She said she has been forced to ground her older son who taught the child the bad language, but it hasn’t stopped the six-year-old.

“I’ve tried removing his favourite things one by one every time he uses bad language, and I’ve spoken to him in a gentler setting about why we don’t use those terms, but he still does it whenever it takes his fancy.”

Parent-child psychotherapist Joanna Fortune told the listener that the child is aware of “the power of language”.

“It is embarrassing. It does elicit a response,” she said. “I imagine he’s selective as to make sure he uses it out in public or with extended family.

“You can do something after he said it, but you can’t stop him saying it and he knows that. So, there’s a bit of a power thing going on.” 

Joanna added that you cannot ignore this type of behaviour but the parent should find a way to “let it run its course”.

Advising them to be “calm, consistent” and “cross,” being quiet and serious about the issue with the child and letting them know they’ve crossed a line can be the best way to combat it.

She also told the listener to stay calm when punishing the behaviour, adding: “When he uses the words, rather than you get into a debate, it might be simple as saying, ‘thank you for letting me know you don’t want to watch cartoons tonight’.

“When he says, ‘but I do’, you say, ‘but you’re using words you know aren’t okay… you’re letting me know you don’t want to go outside or go to party or go out’.”

It’s important to follow through on the punishment and don’t let your child get away with bad behaviour.

“Pick something that you can deliver on because follow through is essential here,” she said. “He has to learn through experience that you mean it when you say it.”


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