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Curbing language- is it a lost cause?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Is it possible at all to get a child to stop saying words that you do not want them to say or is it a completely lost cause?  I feel so frustrated because my almost 5 year old is constantly saying 'stupid' and 'dumb'.  He calls his brother those things or anything else if he is upset, or not upset even.  So now my 1 year old is constantly going around saying them, too.

 

Once it gets into their vocabularies, is that it?  I cannot convince him to stop saying them.  Has anyone had any success at getting rid words you don't like.  Do I just have to give up and accept that these words are now a part of my child?

post #2 of 6
What worked best for me was giving my dd alternatives. Like, "Silly is a lot like stupid, except it doesn't hurt to be called silly. Let's use 'silly' from now on and not say 'stupid' anymore." And to talk to her about how people have hurt her with words and help her understand how she is hurting others with words. My dd responded very well to that, but I think some kids might really be looking to hurt with words, and also for some kids it becomes a habit. Habits are hard to stop. I think both of those are best dealt with only by being very consistent, by catching it every single time and giving an alternative every single time until a new habit is created. "It hurts to call people 'stupid' and I won't let you do it." And then maybe rephrase what was said if it's possible to say it in a nicer way. Like she might need a better way to enforce boundaries and calls him 'stupid' because she hasn't learned how to enforce them in a nicer way. "Try telling him he isn't allowed to touch X without calling him names, or put X up where he can't reach it when you're done with it."

However it is not easy. Does she go to school? If she'll be going to kindergarten, I promise the teachers will catch both of those every single time and get her out of the habit, until she'll say "ooooooooh you said the S word" with S standing for "stupid". You have to be just as consistent. My daughter's teacher didn't seem to ever punish them for saying words like that, but she absolutely told them every. single. time. that those words were unacceptable and to find other words.

And finally, because I know this is an issue for me, be careful to watch your own language. I told my dd I don't like to hear her say "that sucks" yesterday, and she told me she thought it was ok because I say it. redface.gif
post #3 of 6

Well, you can't unlearn a word (especially not really common words like 'stupid'). However, a child can (and should) learn the pragmatically appropriate places to use them. I feel the same way about swear words. If I drop a hammer on my foot, I'm unlikely to say "oh phooey". A much stronger word is both appropriate and the emotional release that I need. However, if I drop  my pen on the floor, a much stronger word is probably inappropriate (if nothing broke and I can easily pick it up).

 

One way that worked really well for my kids was to substitute and absolutely ridiculous word, and then tell them they couldn't use it. "I don't like 'stupid' too much, but don't you dare call your little brother waffle (or chartreuse or beige or leafy)." The 5 year old, will of course, say "hey waffle!" and then you can ham it up and overreact. "Oh no! You called him waffle! how could you possible do that?!! Don't you ever use that word again. I cannot stand that word!" "You waffle!" "Oh no, I'm going to have to leave the room. I can't stand it." By this time, you're both laughing hysterically and they've forgotten the 'bad' word with all the fun of the silly word. (This is taken directly from Playful Parenting by the way.) My daughter loved this so much she'd asked to play the 'banana' game (that was the word I chose when she started calling me 'boobies'. 'Boobies went away after a week. The banana game hung around for a long time.

 

 

post #4 of 6

We just tell our son that we don't allow name-calling and put-downs. And, we model it for him constantly. We are really careful to always be respectful of people when we discuss situations. He has been following in our footsteps.

 

For "bigger" words (which we do use at times--we're rather colorful at home), we just tell him, "that is a rude word for grown-ups to use, and if you use it, people will think you are rude."

 

 

post #5 of 6

We've never had a "stupid" problem but when dds started bringing home "Oh My G__" and other inappropriate phrases we didn't want them saying we calmly and seriously told them that using those words and phrases could hurt some people's feelings or make them feel badly so it's best not to use them and, miraculously, that was all it took. Now if I hear a new word that I don't want them using I just let them know it's something that may offend some people.  And we have a no name calling policy. 

post #6 of 6

My DS has used words that I consider inappropiate/divisive sometimes, like "idiot"... I think it was used to describe someone on tv, but I still don't care for the word.

 

I told him, "it's not ok to call someone an idiot" and explained what the word meant and how it could make people feel really bad.  And then there followed a talk about how some words are only used to make fun of people.

 

It helps if you know where they picked it up.  But yes, it's possible although it probably depends on the child, where they're hearing it from, and also like a pp said, having alternatives is really important, too.

 

But I also had to realize for myself that some words are triggers for me, and my reaction isn't always in proportion to the action.  I'm not saying that's the case for you, though, just that it's something that challenged me.

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