Why Your Child Curses

‘Poopy Butt’, ‘Jerk’, ‘Meanie’ are a few of the names I hear from my own clients when they talk to their parents or even describe their parents to me. But, for this blog, I am specifically talking about curse words. You know the one’s I am talking about. Many, many, many children and teens curse, you are not alone in this. In my experience, the children I work with are cursing for a reason. They are not doing it to be mean, get in trouble, or cause more chaos. They are doing it for reasons we don’t often think about. I have one particular client who often screams “‘F*** you” loudly to her teachers and parents when she is upset. Does she get their attention? Absolutely. Maybe not in the way she was hoping, but she definitely had everyone turning their heads. Take a look at a few reasons why your child may be cursing.

  1. They want your attention- So, she screamed, “F*** you!” and you definitely heard her, looked, and reacted. She got what she wanted. Maybe she was feeling overwhelmed, over stimulated, or frustrated. The easiest way for her to get your attention is through acting out. Try to sit down with her and sort out what it is she is actually feeling. Maybe she simply needs more one-on-one attention.
  2. They learned it from you- Yes, adults can be the culprits sometimes. What we do, they do. What they hear, they say. Our children look up to us, model our behavior, and strive to be like us. Be careful what you say around them, as they are like sponges and will soak up your commentary.
  3. They want to fit in- This goes for both children and teens. Often I hear from clients that they learned curse words from their peers. Just like children modeling adults, they model their peers, too. Anything that’s funny to them, they want to be a part of. Boogers? Funny. The “F” word? Funnier. They want to fit in and be a part of the fun. Most of the time, they have no idea what the word means however they know it to be a bad word. They use it simply because other’s are using it and want to feel a sense of belonging.
  4. They struggle to express themselves- This is the main reason children curse. Children especially are still forming emotional reasoning, understanding, and concepts. They are just learning what emotions and feelings are and often times struggle to articulate what it is they are experiencing. I recommend making “Feelings Cards,” which I use with my own clients. They allow children to pick from a host of feelings they may be experiencing and then vocalize them to you aloud.

So, next time your little one spews out a bad word, take some time to understand what it is that they really need in that moment. Maybe it’s simply a hug, some attention, or finding the real words to express what they are feeling. Avoid punishing severely the first, second, or even third time you hear the curse word. Take the time to really help then vocalize what their experience is.

About the Author

Marianne Riley, LGPC Marianne Riley is a psychotherapist and a professor of psychology. Marianne work’s with a range of different issues, but specializes in body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, ADHD, anxiety and depression.

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One Comment


YES!!!! Exactly! My six year old cousin said, “F’**k off you b**ch” to my aunt!! My aunt got really mad, but then realized that all my cousin wanted was attention. Thanks:) <3

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