Most people cringe inwardly when they hear a child pepper his everyday speech with offensive words. They wonder where on earth he could have heard such inappropriate language.
If he uses these words naturally and always in the correct context, it is safe to assume that he comes from a home where this type of language is considered acceptable, and is probably used by his parents daily as a normal mode of communication. This child will start school with a definite handicap.
His language will pose a problem for him, for his teacher, and for the parents of the other children. The teacher will receive complaints from the parents of his classmates, who have started to repeat the offensive words at home. The child will be viewed as a bad influence and have few playmates, because his peers have been ordered by their parents to stay away from him.
Nevertheless, many children will pick up their first “bad” word from the playground at school. Because of the snickers and giggles from the other children when the word is spoken, every child will have at least an idea that this is no ordinary word and he will repeat it at home to see what kind of reaction it will get.
The worst thing a parent can do is to make a big fuss. That will cement the word in his memory as a definite attention-getter. He may not even know its meaning, but he will remember it and repeat it whenever his parents are not around and he wants to be noticed. Maybe with Grandma and Grandpa?
The first time he tries out the word, he should be ignored. The child may very well forget it. If the word surfaces a second time, sit the child down calmly and explain that there are some words we don’t use in our family and that is one of them. Leave it at that and go back about your business.
It he uses it again, a slight punishment should be applied, such as a ten minute “time out”. If this is not sufficient, increase the length of the isolation period, until the child gets the message that you meant what you said.
Other sources of offensive language abound in today’s society. Television shows, cartoons intended for adult viewing, movies, older siblings trying to impress their friends, even parents or other adult family members who forget that “little pictures have big ears”, can all be sources of colorful language we don’t want our children to hear or use.
As a parent, you must guard your tongue even when you think your children are busy with other things, or asleep, because they may very well be listening. Parents are their first and most important role models. You cannot convincingly forbid them to use words they have heard you yourself use, no matter how infrequently.
If you want your child to be well-spoken, it is important to, first and foremost, watch your own language at all times. In today’s society, you cannot realistically prevent him from hearing unacceptable words outside the home, but you can insist that only proper vocabulary be spoken within your walls. As a parent, that is one of your rights, and also a very important duty.