Doing Life Together

Child HalloweenQuestion: I was shocked the other day when I was playing in the park with my son. He is three-years-old and fell off the monkey bars. When he did, he swore. I could not believe it. I admit that when my husband and I get mad or upset, foul language does come out of our mouths. We are working on cleaning up our talk. Both of us grew up hearing swearing on a regular basis. How should I have responded to my son’s words?

Answer: According to a study by psychology professor Timothy Jay at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the rise in adult vulgarity is being mimicked by children and teens. Jay says that swearing really takes off between ages three and four. The reason for the rise in children who swear has everything to do with adults who swear at home.

According to Jay, cursing is a form of coping, a way to reduce stress and vent anger. Adults who have rules against children swearing, but do so themselves, can expect children to model what they hear, not do what they are told. Also, neuroscience confirms that swearing becomes embedded in the brain and is hard to remove. This may be due to the emotional component involved that processes swear words differently.

So next time you hear your son curse, follow these guidelines

1. Stay calm and do not laugh or react with horror. He does not know what he is saying, but your strong reaction in either direction will reinforce him doing it again.
2. Set a good example. Do not swear. Control your own mouth.
3. If you slip, back track the word and say something like, “Fiddlesticks” or “Sugar” and say it with emotion.
4. For older children, set boundaries and rules for language in the home. Discuss why swearing is offensive, what the Bible has to say about the power of the tongue and the intent of the heart (Ephesians 4:29; James 3:6; Proverbs 15:4)
5. For older kids, have consequences for cursing.

Bottom line, cursing is not a good way to represent Christ to a broken world. It is important to look at your heart because Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). Parents, you set the example!


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