The ideal, clean mouthed child is a rarity these days. This is partially due to the fact that once we turn on the TV set, we rely upon the broadcasters to impose a particular amount of censorship so that children are minimally exposed to the language of adults.
This language is otherwise referred to as "swear words," "bad words," "naughty words," and "grown up words" etc.
Is the answer to shield children away from all media and foul influences?
I hope not. Hiding them away is the worst possible solution. Sure, over exposure creates a desensitisation towards the utterance of swear words; however by not biting the bullet in the face and explaining to your child what the impact of these words entails, you will find yourself in a worrisome corner shielding your ears for years to come.
Photo by Marcalanddavis via Flickr CC
What can I do to educate my child about what the impact of this language means to others, and in public places?
Words are just words. If you think like this, then ponder whether you would like to be called a #@%*%(*))^%$&. No, I didn't think so. Why is this? This is because we have been taught to recognise that words are loaded with meanings. Some are literal, and some are implied or suggested. Just as you teach your child the difference between hot and cold (which can be recognised as good or bad depending on circumstance; for example it is good to be cold on a hot Summers day and warm on a cold Winters day), so too must you inform them about which words are appropriate and when.
Just as a child is expected to ask please and thank you in order to receive something of benefit to themselves; the child needs to come to learn that swear words are unacceptable to be said out loud; especially outside of the home, but can be thought in your mind, and if another suitable word cannot be used to express the emotion.
Should they be reprimanded or punished for stepping outside of the boundaries set for the use of swear words?
No. This has shown to instil the opposite effects, and encourages the unsuitable behaviour further. Generally a stern face and look of unacceptability is something to put to good practice over time when in the presence of a child who utters a swear word, as this will convey to them that they know better. The more emphasis placed upon the uniqueness of the swear word language, the more ammo the child has to use their use to an advantage.
Photo by Scott Harris via Wikimedia Commons CC
The greatest antidote ammo of all is an adult who can lead by example.