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How to Stop the Curse of the Cursing Kid

I’m salty.

I admit colorful language seeps through my filter, especially in situations when emotions are elevated. If my toe is stubbed, I don’t say, “Golly cookies!” When miffed, “Sweet beans!” isn’t my go-to way to let the world know how I feel about spending more than $100 on a tank of gas.

I try to be mindful when my kids are around, but sometimes little ears hear words straight out of a can of Morton’s Iodized. Salty.

Avoiding the big bad naughty words is important to me. If a word is banned in courtrooms, classrooms, or on sidelines, I probably shouldn’t use it to describe my disappointment that the hot dog buns are stale or the diaper has leaked. My downfall are the words that linger in the fuzzy grey area. My kids pick up on these. I am not proud.

Recently, we tried chocolate almond milk for the first time. Most of the kids loved it. They wanted to marry it, bathe in it, become one with it. My four-year-old son, Archie, did not. He said, “It’s a disaster!” I laughed. His word choice perfectly expressed how he felt. Chocolate almond milk = very bad.

The next day, I was telling my husband how Archie pronounced the new drink a disaster. Archie piped up, “I said it was crap.”

Guess which word made me put a whole roll of imaginary quarters in an imaginary cuss jar for an imaginary trip to an imaginary island? Hint: It’s not I, said, it, or was.

A lot of people wouldn’t put “crap” in the same category as The Big Cuss Words. But it’s crude and it’s not age-appropriate. If there’s an upside, he used it in context. This means he’s been paying close attention. The first word he used, “disaster” was marvelous. It’s a big word for a new four-year-old and I was proud. It also means he’s paying attention. Lesson: Little ones don’t turn their watching eyes and listening ears off, even for a second. Imagine what he’d say the next time he’s confronted with a nut-based beverage if I do my job as a mom and fill his days and nights with meaty words, impressive words, words that paint vivid pictures!

“Mother, this rhubarb walnut milk tastes as if it hails from the weeping gangrened udder of a mange-ridden chupacabra’s insane pet goat!”

See? So much better.

How do I stop the bad habit of cursing?

1. Don’t start to begin with. This overly simplistic advice is true. Once those iffy words leave the barn, they’re hard to cram back inside. They like running around, looking all free and untamed.

2. Use the classic punishment jar. Your fine could be a quarter. It might be a piece of chocolate you were going to eat. Put something inside that stings a little, but make sure to reward yourself, too. If you get through a week, then a month without dropping bombs because you dropped a pork roast on your foot, pay yourself back.

3. Don’t overreact when your kid gets salty. A simple, calm correction is better than running for a bar of Lava soap. The old methods of correcting language are mean and ineffective. If they worked, certain words would be just as extinct as “egads!” and “zounds!”

4. But take it seriously. Most schools have rules regarding cursing. If you don’t nip it in the bud before the school years, you and your child may find yourselves in trouble. Also, it doesn’t reflect well on them—or on you. This may seem deeply unfair, but some parents don’t want their kids to be bffs with the class pottymouth.

5. Laugh when they aren’t looking. I will admit something. I know I’m not alone. Sometimes, it’s kind of funny when a toddler uses colorful language, especially when it’s in context. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is laughing in her presence. Leave the room, bite your cheek, hold your breath. Laughter = approval to small children.

6. Monitor media. On TV and in the music world, censors “bleep” out bad words. It’s easy for adults to fill in the blanks, which leads me to wonder why they bother. We all know the thrift shop is blankin’ awesome. If a song or TV rant has more bleeps than dialing ten digits on a cordless phone, look for more kid-friendly entertainment when they’re around. If you’re in your bleeping car going to bleeping work, be my bleeping guest.

I’m hoping my younger children will grow up hearing a nicer stream of words than my older kids. It starts with me being mindful. And not buying nut-based beverages ever again.