“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful.” Ephesians 4:29
Grandpa John took four-year-old Mackenzie to the hospital cafeteria to eat and to distract her from baby sister’s anxiety-filled hospital room. Because Mackenzie’s parents farmed with her grandparents, Grandpa knew exactly what to say to get her mind off what was happening on the fourth floor.
“How are your baby lambs?” he asked.
“Good,” she replied. “But we have to do something to get rid of those #$@&%* coyotes!”
There were some older ladies in the room whose heads snapped around when they heard the profanity.
Grandpa John raised his eyebrows. “What did you say?”
Mackenzie innocently repeated her statement word for word. She was simply repeating what she’d heard her father say in a moment of frustration.
Most parents have had their “hospital cafeteria” moments. Even if you don’t use foul language yourself, chances are your children will pick up a word or two on the school bus, at the childcare center, or from Uncle Ralph. So what’s a parent to do?
Mind your mouth
Whether it’s good manners, respect, or any other conduct, the adage “monkey see, monkey do” certainly applies here. The most effective way to teach your children to refrain from profanity is to lead the way.
Establish what constitutes a bad word
In some families, butt is the acceptable replacement for the other word; in other families, it is considered discipline-worthy. As your children become more socially active, spending time with friends and at school, they are going to be exposed to different opinions of what a bad word is and what’s allowed between siblings and what’s not. That’s why it is important to establish your family’s guidelines and expectations early on.
Respond to profanity immediately
Worldly wisdom says to not act shocked or overreact. I say, yes, remain calm but for goodness’ sake, don’t act like nothing has happened. I’m a firm believer that we teach children how to behave by what we tolerate. A child must immediately be told that profanity is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Explain why cursing is bad
As a parent, you need to take the time to explain why bad words are inappropriate. Make sure you explain:
Cursing is unacceptable to God (Ephesians 4:29).
Cursing is offensive and disrespectful.
Cursing is disdained by people important to them, such as teachers and, later, employers.
The important thing is to teach your kids that whatever is in our hearts determines what we say (Matthew 12:33-37). Therefore, their goal must be to prevent attitudes and words that are dishonoring from taking root in their hearts.
From 30 Days to Taming Your Kid’s Tongue by Deborah Smith Pegues