Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: Toddler swearing. Do you laugh or cry when your cute-as-a-button toddler drops F-bombs like a sailor? Need some advice? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
My three-year-old is super sweet, very loving, extremely adorable, and also extremely good at swearing. Specifically the F-word. He did it the first time after his dad stepped on a dreaded Lego and swore. He did it the second time after he heard me drop a casserole dish. After that, he did it all on his own when he dropped a toy train he was playing with. And we laughed, because come on—it’s hilarious. But that was a huge mistake, because now he won’t stop. He’s swearing at daycare, at grandma’s house, and in the car. How do I get him to stop?!
Oh no doubt about it, kids swearing is absolutely hilarious. And this is such a common issue, honestly. Because kids are both sponges and parrots—they absorb and mimic everything they see and hear. They’re testing out their language skills, and, well, curse words are part of our language!
Now if you really want to nip this in the bud, we can explore some tips. It sounds like your little sailor isn’t dropping F-bombs out of anger or frustration, but because he knows it makes you laugh. He likes the attention, and honestly, don’t we all love making people laugh? It’s addictive!
Since your little one is very young, telling him that it’s not polite or nice to say that word is a solid start. You can acknowledge that “yes, Mommy and Daddy say it but we know it’s not nice and we shouldn’t say it either. We’ll try not to, too.” Give him some other words he can say if he drops his toys or, like ol’ Dad, steps on a Lego. Get fun with it, too. If you want to keep things silly, you could teach him something like “Oh, fiddlesticks!” or “Corn nuts!” or “Oh snickerdoodle!” Here are some resources for more inspiration.
As always, positive reinforcement goes a long way. When your son sounds more like Ned Flanders and less like Al Pacino in Scarface, make sure you praise him for his efforts. Personally, I think swearing should be more widely accepted, but since it isn’t, we must adapt to the world around us on that one. You and your family will be just fine. Keep me posted on any creative curse word alternatives you come up with that are especially funny!