April 12, 2021

Ask Margaret - Should I Ever Let My Kids Use "Bad" Words?

How much to control "bad" language at home is a parenting dilemma people can have very different opinions about. Margaret advises a mom wondering how to handle this issue with her 4 and 6-year-olds.


Cursing is one parenting dilemma that people have different takes on. Some feel that cursing has no place in the home and some feel that cursing falls firmly in the "no big deal" category.

This week's Question of the Week addresses Brooke's dilemma from our Facebook page:

How should I handle “bad” words with younger children? My husband wants our children never be exposed to cursing at all. I view them as words with functional meaning beyond their use for disrespect. I want to educate my kids on these words, but my husband fears our kids may use them socially and be punished. Our kids are 4 and 6.

While both approaches to cursing (limiting their use at home vs. normalizing cursing at home) may be valid, it is unrealistic to believe that your children will never be exposed to cursing.

If you choose to keep a tight reign on cursing (which Margaret is all for) it cuts down on the work of monitoring the "spaces and places" where using "bad" words is allowed as kids move out into the world. On the other hand, cursing, as a fairly low-stakes behavioral issue, can be an area where parents choose to allow more leeway.

As long as you and your spouse are comfortable with the way your child is using language in your home and in public you are probably doing fine - but look for a few warning signs:

  • A child that is using curse words frequently, in defiance of your rules
  • A child that is using curse words towards other parents or caregivers
  • A child that is getting in trouble at school for using bad language


These uses of "bad language" can be examples of boundary-seeking behavior, and can indicate a child or a family relationship that is veering out of control. If you see these behaviors around language it may be time to revisit and reset your boundaries or seek the help of a professional in resetting the rules at home.

Special thanks to our "Question of the Week" sponsor:

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