Do your kids swear, cuss, or say bad words that shock you? Have you wondered where these nasty words came from and why? You are not alone! Kids saying inappropriate words that shouldn’t come out of their mouths is a common issue that many of us parents have faced….

Why Your Kids Really Say Bad Words - little girl looking guilty and covering mouth
Why do they say those things?

When Kids Say Bad Words

Kids saying bad words can stop down your entire life for a moment!

It is startling.


While children are unpredictable at times, kids saying bad words is a predictable situation. 

We were all sharing a family bonding moment on the bed Sunday morning.

My husband, sons, and daughter had cuddled up and spent time laughing and tickling. As we were reading to get off the bed, my little daughter said in her super sweet voice…

“Oh, crap…

My husband looked at me and said, “That’s all you, mommy!” I had to agree. In the grand scheme of things the word crap is tame, but coming from a little short not even in Kindergarten girl, it just sounded vulgar.

And not appropriate.  

We didn’t make a big deal out of it, but just went down for breakfast. Since then I’ve been listening to my words, their words, and words we hear every day. And while older children say bad words for a wide variety of reasons, smaller children generally get their vocabulary and motivations from fewer places.

And these are them.

Decide Boundary or Consequence for bad words in kids - Kids Activities Blog
Why do kids do this??

Reasons Why Kids Say Bad Words

1. They heard it from you

If your children are speaking with a potty mouth the first question to ask yourself is, “Do I use these words in front of them?”  If so, there you go. What words you consider “bad” can vary greatly from family to family, so I’m not here to give you a Don’t Say list. However, if your children start saying words or expressions that give you pause, work on your example first.

Of course, you can tell your children that some subjects, words, phrases, or topics of discussion are adult appropriate, not child appropriate, but that doesn’t mean they’ll listen. If you don’t want them to listen, the best thing to do is save those convos for when the kids aren’t around.

2. They heard it on YouTube, TV, radio or on podcasts

You can control what movies your children watch fairly easily. But TV and radio, that’s more difficult. Unless you are sitting with your kids the entire time they’re watching TV, there are commercials, channel changes, or other advertisements that might be shown you don’t approve of.

That same Sunday we went to Subway for lunch after church. Our daughter was humming a tune from the radio we vaguely recognized, and my husband’s face froze. He looked at me and said, “If she can finish the rest of this line, we are taking away her radio.” He sang it, she finished it, and her radio is gone.

We use the radio in her room for white noise (an awesome sleep association that works well if there are multiple siblings in the home), but now we’ve moved it out of reach to prevent this.

3. They heard it in day care or school

We aren’t around our kids all the time unless we homeschool. Even then, our children will and should be around other people on a regular basis. We also don’t control what other people say and do. Because of this, our little ones will come back from those environments with new skills and vocabulary we might not like.

While we can’t control what others say, we can teach our children what words are or are not acceptable in our own homes (more on that below). If they come home knowing body part slang, curse words, or dirty song lyrics, finding out where they heard it is important, but not as important as teaching them why they should not repeat what they’ve heard.

4. They got a reaction

Kids watch us like hawks. Mine often do something then freeze and watch me closely because they know it’s something I’ll react to. Good or bad. If they say a word and you flip your lid, they will remember. If a phase comes around when they are not getting as much individual attention as they’d like, they may even say things that shock you just to get your attention.

While you should be clear with your child about what they can and cannot say in your home, having an explosive reaction will likely make the situation worse, not better. Not to mention, you don’t want to become an angry mom.

5. They don’t know what words are “bad”

Kids will hear words from everywhere. You, your spouse, your grandmother, the mailman, the grocery store clerk, and the random guy in the waiting room at the doctor. Unless you have explained to your child what words you allow or don’t allow, they may pick up a word and go with it. They will recognize tone of voice and the gravity with which you say something, and they might just start using it.

How to deal with kids saying bad words - Kids Activities Blog
What should you do when kids are saying bad words?

Techniques to deal with “bad” or harsh words

1. Start with yourself

If you have a hot mouth, start watching what you say in front of the kids. Determine what words you don’t want them to say and make an effort to watch your own words.

2. Teach your children what words they can and cannot use

For older children, in a kind firm but not over-reactive tone of voice, explain what types of words, attitudes, or phrases you don’t want spoken in your home and tell them why.

3. Give your children a lot of positive attention

If they are trying to say words to get any attention from you, this will help them be more content, secure, and less likely to act our in order to get a reaction.

4. Give them a do-over

Without getting dramatic, say something like, “Do you want to try that again?

5. Decide a boundary or consequence

You can’t control what comes out of your child’s mouth, but you can decide how you’ll react. Choose something appropriate but not severe and then you can dole out the consequence instead of getting agitated with your child.

6. A bad word doesn’t make a bad child.

Bad word doesn't make a bad kid - Kids Activities Blog
It is all part of growing up!

More Real Life Mom Advice from Kids Activities Blog

Have your kids said bad words?  What advice do you have for others who are dealing with it in their family?

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1 Comment

  1. I love this information. Knowing how other moms have tackled kids saying bad words in their home makes it easier for me!