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Holy Shirt Balls, How Do We Stop Cursing?! Slow Your Swearing With These Tips

You farting got this!

Originally Published: 
An ill-timed bad word can make you wonder how to stop cursing.
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All those cheesy shirts that say things like, “I’ve got a good heart, but this mouth!” or “This mom drops f-bombs” are, well, let’s just say most of us can probably relate. We might even have a t-shirt or two like that, gifted from a friend, tucked into our “wear around the house” drawer. And here’s the thing: Before you have a kid, a lot of people — although perhaps mainly your mother-in-law — warn you that not curbing your cursing will come back to bite you in the ass (oops). Even more infuriatingly, they’re sort of right. Raise your hand if you can remember the first time “f*ck” flew out of your precious angel baby’s sweet little dimpled cheeks. Thus began your journey down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out how to stop cursing. Or, in the case of that sailor-mouthed toddler of yours, how to stop a child from saying bad words.

Sure, your baby girl might have learned her first curse from her Pop-Pop, but you probably can’t deny that all subsequent four-letter words she’s uttered have come directly from her mama (and maybe her dad). In a perfect world, life would be like living in The Good Place, and your curse words would automatically change to things more innocent, like “forking” and “shirt balls.” But that’s not realistic, and, honestly, it’s bullshirt.

Since we don’t have a magical aura that changes all our curses to something more pleasant, what do we do? How do we stop cursing? Why do we curse so much? And what the actual fudge do we do when our kids inevitably learn to curse? Don’t worry; it can all be figured out. You simply have to agree to fix the problem, if you think there is one. Now, let’s get to work.

Why do we curse?

While many people frown on cursing, there’s also reason to believe that cursing is good for you. When your emotions are boiling over, dropping an f-bomb might just be the force you need to make yourself feel better. “We’ve been socialized to believe that swearing is universally really bad, but it isn’t always about being aggressive or overwhelmingly negative towards people,” Emma Byrne, Ph.D., and author of the book Swearing Is Good For You, told Health. “Studies show that when you put people in stressful situations and tell them they cannot swear, their performance goes down and their experience of stress is much greater.” In other words, cursing can be an effective outlet for blowing off steam.

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We curse for many reasons, though, not just to let off steam. We may use cursing to fit in or even stand out. Cursing is also often used as a way to strengthen an argument or send home a point. “I’m hungry” and “I’m f*cking hungry” hold two very different meanings. “Really” or “very” just don’t have the same effect. Cursing adds emphasis when we need it most. And, let’s be real, a huge reason many of us swear is that it has become habitual.

How to Stop Cursing

Of course, while not everyone is against using curse words, many places (like schools and workplaces) still prefer you find other forms of communication. So… how do you quit? Here are a few ideas to help slow down the swear words.

1. Find an Accountability Buddy

Leaning on people around you seems obvious, but it can be surprisingly easy to overlook — especially if you’re a mom who is used to doing it all on your own. But enlist a friend (or all your friends) to call you on your shi-DANG IT!

2. “Eleanor Shellstrop” the Heck Out of Your Vocab

Obviously, we’re a little obsessed with The Good Place and, because we already know their PG replacements, that’s a pretty forking good way to start. It’s hard to be creative in your moment of distress, right? We’re also big fans of “son of a nutcracker!” from Elf and “Oh, Kelly Clarkson!” from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But, uh, we might be a bit immature.

3. Ask Yourself: WWGS?

As in, “What would Grandma say?” You may no longer care if you look sweet and innocent in front of your mom. But nobody wants to lose “favorite granddaughter” status with Grams.

4. Get a Swear Jar

Remember the douchebag jar from The New Girl? Same concept. Every time you curse, put in a dollar. Healthline says it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. Since replacing a curse word with a less curse-y word means forming a new habit, this is probably your timeframe as well. Can you imagine how much money you could save in two months of having a swear jar? Hawaii, here we come!

5. Try the Rubber Band Trick

Some experts mention using intentional thinking. That means catching yourself when you swear, thinking about why you chose the curse word, and then replacing it out loud with a more appropriate word instead. Since most of our cussing happens when someone cuts us off or we stub our toes, this may not be realistic. Snapping a rubber band on our wrist, however, seems a lot more feasible in any scenario.

6. Find a Less Verbal Form of Catharsis

It’s the cathartic quality of cursing that makes it so difficult to give up. So, try to find another outlet for stress relief that isn’t quite so… verbal. Get yourself some stress balls. Take up kickboxing. Learn to release your emotions in a bullet journal.

7. Start Small

To truly tackle your swearing problem, make an effort to swear less. Sometimes swearing can be an appropriate response, like if you hurt yourself. But the key is to recognize the difference between the unnecessary and “necessary” times you should curse. Cut out the curse words during conversations or while driving. You’re not perfect, but if you can do it less, it makes a difference.

What to Do When Kids Curse

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OK. So, you curse. Even if you’re attempting to stop, you’re no doubt going to slip up eventually. And then that sweet little mockingbird in the backseat is going to try their hand at tackling that loud, vicious four-letter word, too. If it makes you feel any better, studies show children as young as 2-years-old swear and that swearing becomes adult-like by ages 11 or 12. By the time your kiddo enters school, they’ll probably have a working vocabulary of 30 to 40 explicit words. In other words, cut yourself some slack if your little one occasionally sounds like a sailor. You definitely aren’t the only mom living with a pint-sized potty mouth.

What do you do when your kiddo curses, though? We have tips.

1. Don’t React

No, seriously. The best thing you can do is to stay calm. If your kiddo is particularly little, simply not acknowledging that they just repeated your curse may be enough for it to never happen again. Toddlers, after all, typically need to hear a word more than once before it sticks in their brains.

2. Address It Calmly

If you’re in a place where you feel the need to address the cursing or if your child continues to repeat your cuss words, you can respond — but don’t freak out. Yelling, laughing, or letting your face show a big expression will just make the whole thing more memorable. Instead, get eye-level with your mini-me and simply say, “That’s a bad word. Don’t say it anymore, please.” If they’re older, apologizing for saying it yourself will help acknowledge the severity of things.

3. Talk About the Meaning of the Word

This applies more to older kids. Explaining in as PG as possible terms what the word means and why people don’t like it may help curb the behavior.

4. Find New Words to Use

Just like us, kids need ways to vent their frustration or feel like they’re pushing limits. Those same replacements we listed above will work well for your kids, too. Finding movies or shows that use funny replacement words will give them something to latch onto, so it doesn’t feel “baby-ish” to say the replacements instead of the “real thing.”

Know That (Most) Cursing Is Morally Neutral

Words are only bad if they hurt someone. If your kiddo gets angry and drops the f-word in class, they probably won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. But it will “hurt” them when they have to serve detention. Calling someone the b-word, though, can hurt feelings. So, that’s a different story.

Many modern parents have taken the approach of teaching their kids when it’s “OK” to curse. Giving your children, tweens, and teens boundaries might be a better answer for your family. Our kids need safe places to express themselves while still obeying social contracts and respecting others’ spaces. Perhaps teach them that alone with you in the car is a safe space, but it’s isn’t appropriate at Nana’s house because her rules forbid cursing. Consider it cursing etiquette, if you will.

It might take some time, but they’ll get it eventually. Take heart in knowing, too, that your child cursing doesn’t mean they’re going to turn into an awful human. Cursing is an inevitable part of language learning and one that often starts when kids are young. By all means, work with your little one on stopping any bad language if that feels right for your household. But don’t be too hard on your kid if they sometimes drop a swear word or two (like you).

Replacement Words for Curse Words

Looking for language to help sanitize your dirty vocabulary? Check out these words below:

  • Aw, duck water!
  • Balderdash!
  • Barbra Streisand!
  • Blimey!
  • Bogus!
  • Bull spit!
  • Buggers!
  • Cheese and crackers!
  • Cheese whiz!
  • Corn Nuts!
  • Cowabunga!
  • Crap!
  • Crappity!
  • Crikey!
  • Dagnabbit!
  • Darn it!
  • Dillweed!
  • Drat!
  • Egad!
  • Fart knocker!
  • Frack!
  • Fraggle Rock!
  • Fudge berries!
  • Gee whiz!
  • Gee willickers!
  • Geez Terwilligers!
  • Geez!
  • Good night!
  • Gosh darn it!
  • Holy cow!
  • Horse pucky!
  • Jerk water!
  • Judas Priest!
  • Leapin' lizards!
  • Malarkey!
  • Merlin's beard!
  • Mother fathers!
  • Mother of pearl!
  • Mothersmucker!
  • Oh, coconuts!
  • Oh, ship!
  • Oh, snap!
  • Peanut butter and jelly!
  • Peas and rice!
  • Phooey!
  • Poo on a stick!
  • Sam Hill!
  • Schnikes!
  • Scuddle butt!
  • Shitake mushrooms!
  • Shut the front door!
  • Shuzzbutt!
  • Son of a biscuit!
  • Son of a bucket!
  • Son of a gun!
  • Son of a monkey!
  • Son of a mother trucker!
  • Sufferin' succotash!
  • Sugar!
  • William Shatner!

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