When a Child Uses Profanity

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Here's some advice on how to handle a seven-year-old who is using profanity he doesn't even understand.
Q
My seven-year-old has been using profanity that he doesn't even understand. His friends in first grade are creating vulgar poems and songs with words they don't know the meaning of. His school has a zero tolerance policy and he is getting into trouble. Any ideas on how to handle this other than defining the bad language and taking away privileges if we hear the profanity?
A
This sounds like a school problem or at least a first-grade problem. I would encourage you and the other parents to contact the school counselor and see if together you can work out some kind of solution to this problem. Perhaps the school counselor can do some classroom guidance work on using "bad words," or find the source of songs and poems. They just don't pop into a very young child's head.

As for your child, I would simply explain that the words he is using are ugly and hurtful to others. As for defining them, I would do that only if he asks and in a very limited way. Usually just telling kids the words are hurtful and that you won't accept his using them is enough. If he continues after that, then follow your usual consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

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