Bad Language

Bad language can be one of three kinds: (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 use bad language: to gain acceptance, power, or attention; to shock people; to release tension or anger; to defy social rules and be different.


  1. Compile a vocabulary of bad words, discussing their meanings 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.
  2. Ask children to think of acceptable words or sayings they can use instead of swear words, for instance, “shoot,” “darn it,” “get lost,” or make up a word–how about “blooper?”
  3. 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 job of mowing a neighbour’s lawn, and one boy was well-mannered while the other was swearing every fifth word, who would most likely get the job?


  1. Enlist a peer to help the child control his bad language. Whenever the child swears the peer could tell him he doesn’t like it, ignore him, or even move away from the child until he stops swearing.


  1. Ask the child to repeat his swear word over and over again for five minutes, or ask him 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. The goal is to make the child sick of using the word, so he’ll be less inclined to use it again.