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Question of the Day: My Child Keeps Using Bad Language!

3513 angry child fighting with brother

Question of the Day is where Breezy Mama‘s Go-To parenting whiz, Dr. Fran Walfish, who is an Expert in Parents Magazine’s “Ask Our Experts” column, is here to answer your daily parenting questions. Make sure to send us what’s on your mind to and Dr. Walfish will tackle it in a future Breezy post. Now on to today’s question. . .

My child keeps using bad language. How do I explain that this is not okay?

Obviously there are words that most parents don’t want their children to use. They won’t get your children invited on playdates or into the sorority. First off, as a parent, you want to make sure you or your spouse do not use bad language. You are the role model—you use it, your child will copy you.

Also, it depends on the age of your child. Sometimes, 5-7 year olds will use bad language if they hear other students use it. You need to educate your child and let them know that you understand they heard someone else say it, but you don’t want them to because they are not friendly words. You need to keep it in terms of what will make them friends, because that it one of the most important things in their life at this stage—having friends. Friendly language = friends, un-friendly (i.e. bad words) = no friends.

Keep in mind that kids will use these words as attention seeking or shock value. You can tell them, “You don’t need to use these words, just let me know you want me to look at you.”

Each time your child says a bad word, you need to correct it in the moment. Stop what you’re doing, look at him, and say, “Remember we’re working on not saying those words. Please fix it, so we can go on to the next activity.” How do they fix it? Well, for example, if they say “F*** You”, you can say, “I hear that you are super mad at me—that’s what you need to tell me instead of saying a mean, unfriendly word.” You don’t allow your child to resume or proceed to the next activity until he corrects his words and tone.  It may take 2 or 3 tries which require your patient, supportive cues for instance, “Nice try but now you have to say it without a putdown tone of voice.” You want to make sure to encourage their expression of anger, but in a respectful way.

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Frances Walfish, Psy.D. is the foremost Beverly Hills child and family psychotherapist. Her caring approach, exuberant style, humor, and astute insights have earned her a sterling reputation among colleagues and national media alike. A frequent guest on top-­tier TV programs, including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and KABC-­TV in Los Angeles, The Doctors, CBS and often appearing in major publications such as Parents Magazine, Family Circle and Woman’s Day, Dr. Fran continues to lead the field with her expert insights and innovative strategies for parents, children and couples.

Her current book, The Self-­Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child from Palgrave Macmillan’s/St. Martin’s Press, December 7, 2010, is receiving acclaimed reviews. William Morris Endeavor and Lake Paradise Entertainment are presently collaborating with Dr. Fran to produce a television series offering therapeutic guidance and help to families in America. More information on Dr. Fran can be found online at

To order Dr. Walfish’s book ($11.56 on Amazon), click here.

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  1. Totally needed this today!

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