Bad language and unwelcome habits

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In her latest blog, author Cathy Glass addresses what to do when the children and young people you are caring for develop bad language or unwelcome habits.

Bad language

Children’s and young people’s speech and language skills change as they grow and not always for the best. Fashionable interjections ‘cool’, ‘wicked’ and ‘sad’ appear and then disappear. These ‘in’ words clearly don’t have the same meaning that adults attribute to them and are updated regularly. Claiming words as their own is part of growing up and while such words might be irritating to carers and parents if they are used in every sentence they don’t do any harm. 

Purposely dropping letters from words, such as ‘t’ from party, or  mispronouncing words – ‘ain’t’ (haven’t), ‘gonna’ (going to) or ‘fink’/‘fought’ (think/thought), in imitation of the in-vogue East-End London accent can be irritating but will not do any lasting harm.  It’s surprising just how nicely children and young people can speak when they want to impress – listen to them talking to their grandparents or the parents of their friends. If your child or young person knows you like correct pronunciation, then corrupting language is an easy way of rebelling. My advice would be to ignore what you can and correct what you can’t. 

Swearing is a different matter and should be discouraged, with a sanction imposed if necessary. Young children often simply repeat what they hear without knowing the meaning of the swear word. Older children will know the meaning and use it for effect. It’s therefore a good idea not to overreact. I am firm when it comes to young children swearing, it’s not acceptable or attractive. Neither do I condone it in older children but point out that swearing is a sign of a limited vocabulary and not at all impressive. Obviously you can’t go around effing and blinding if you expect your child not to. 

Unwelcome habits

By this I mean slouching against things, chewing gum with the mouth open, feet on the coffee table, nail clippings in the bath, music or television on too loud, laundry dropped on the floor, muddy footprints in the hall, and so on. None of these are likely to cause a problem to a carer or parent individually, but all together over time they can become immensely irritating. The tension builds and can explode into a scene. Address what is unacceptable to you and your house rules, and ignore what you can live with. No child is perfect and you don’t want to be continually nagging, but you do have a right to be treated with courtesy and respect.

Cathy Glass