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This is my son’s first year in school (he’s in first grade). He’s developed some bad language and uses terms we don’t say in our house. He’s not throwing around really terrible words but he’s using some general responses (“I don’t care” is a big one) with an awful tone. And he’s using some other words I’d rather my younger kids not hear.
I am guessing it’s from his peers and we’d like to put a stop to it if we can. Maybe it’s inevitable, I don’t know. What’s the best way to go about this?
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This can be such a tricky one to tackle! I agree with all of the comments posted. From a classroom teaching perspective, I've tackled this issue by firstly addressing the expectations with children to focus on speaking to each other with respect. 'Respect' is then defined by the class and explored. After that, we created a 'respect' word chart and tasked the class to find replacement 'respectful' words for all the disrespectful words that they had heard in their day to day lives. Then we made a chart of all these other words (and tones of voice) that could be used when speaking to each other and had it visually posted around the room so that we could refer to better ways of speaking when disrespectful words were heard. This is just one idea that worked for us but can be generalised to sitting with kids at home too. You could use the activity as a means to show that you have noticed the disrespectful talk, you don't accept that way of speaking in your home and that you can problem solve alternatives together. And then when your child uses the alternatives suggested, be sure to praise and notice the change.
I agree with the swear jar concept although it means a little bit more the older they get. For younger kids, constant reinforcement of the house rules is just about all you can do. I'm not a "punisher" but I am very much into the idea of loss of privileges. That might sound like punishment but what I mean is I don't make my son go to his room or ground him. I don't get mad and yell. But I will say that he can't use his iPad for a while if he breaks the rules. I will take luxuries away. I think it has made him think twice about what he does when it comes to following the rules. Just a thought. Oh and try not to laugh when they say something bad. I laughed one too many times on instinct when my son cursed and it was a lot harder to discipline him. And don't ever let them catch YOU saying a forbidden phrase. Then it's over.
Once the children move out from the safe and controlled environment of the house, they get to interact with variety of people. When they are learning to adapt to different type of people, sometimes they do learn things which are not desirable or acceptable.
First we need to understand why a first grader might be using these inappropriate words. I have seen kids who don’t even understand the meaning of the words they are using. They use bad language out of sheer excitement because they get a lot of attention from others on doing it.
Young kids idealize the strong boys in their schools (who might be bullies in our terms) and in order to personify their strength they adopt their language or jargons (which can be abusive or inappropriate).
One thing that can be alarming and dangerous is that during school or while traveling to and from home they get to observe or interact with adults who are not good role models. Protect your children from such negative influence.
Take your time to explore the possible reasons behind such behavior, it will help you in developing your strategies to support your child in unlearning the faulty behavior.
KEY is to address this problem at an age appropriate level. Instead of saying don’t use these words, explain why such language should not be used. It is important that you sit with your child, discuss why certain words are inappropriate and how these words can hurt feelings of others.
It is common for kids to naturally join in on bad habits picked up from others when they are young. With 9 boys in our big family, we went through the "potty mouth" stage where they all gleefully picked up and joined in on using "poop" in every sentence. They sounded ridiculous, but it was great fun for them.
I had to remind them regularly that we do not use words like this. With constant reminders, the talk diminished.
As far as the "tone" of the older kids, that also had to be swiftly nipped in the bud in our family. A simple yet authoritative adult response of "do NOT use that tone on me"! seemed to stop the sassy inflection or remark quickly.
I think that ignoring this problem will only make it worse. Immediate and consistent reminders have worked for us to help curb the unsavory little mouths in our family.
Your son is young and most likely still agreeable to parental guidance. This age is typically a good time to instill house and family rules, how we communicate included.
There could be a couple of different ways to approach this.
1. Have a talk with your son about your own family's values. Why don't you use unacceptable words in your house? How do the values your family has differ from other families and why do you think this is? Gently explaining to your son that different families have different values, and the reasons why your family has your own, may help him to better understand there are reasons for those values, not just because they are bad words.
2. Is your son dealing with a lack of impulse control? Is he feeling angry and thinks he can lash out when this happens? Does he seem to display getting tense when he is not getting his way, and uses these words rather than throwing a tantrum? If he is controlling himself by not being physically aggressive, but instead verbally, there might be an underlying cause for this? Another question could be if he is sleeping well at night, as being overly tired can display itself in not-normal-for-him ways.
3. A "swear jar" could be a practical application resolution. Don't use the money to pay for fun things, though, because that sends the wrong message that swearing helps us have fun. Instead, use if for household bills or groceries.