Every once in a while in one of the preschool classrooms a student will use undesirable language. Although it can be shocking and a little disturbing we would like to take this opportunity to share with you how we respond to it and suggest that you do the same.
First and foremost, we always encourage the use of appropriate language. We spend a lot of time modeling the appropriate way to initiate and interact with peers and how to use words in an appropriate way to have needs and wants met. Children learn at a very young age that language is a powerful tool and is a great way to get adults attention both positively and negatively.
The following techniques are great ways to divert attention from negative language and reinforce appropriate language:
Don't laugh. It may seem funny at first to hear such language fall from the lips of your child, but letting them know that only encourages more of the same. Don't quote your child to another adult for a laugh either, at least not within your child's hearing.
Don't overreact. Acting shocked or horrified teaches that the word is powerful, thus giving your child incentive to repeat it.
Ignore the first incident. It's possible that your child has no idea that she's uttered an inappropriate word and may simply be repeating a new word much as she would any other new word. Paying no attention to the word can help it disappear from her vocabulary.
Remind your child of the rules. If your child repeats a forbidden word, state firmly, "We don't use that word in our family."
Set a good example. If you curse or swear, expect your child to do the same. Modeling appropriate verbal responses to anger helps your child learn socially acceptable language, too.
In school we will ignore a child that uses negative attention to have needs and wants met. We will quickly use this opportunity to praise children that are using appropriate language. Reinforcing that the use of positive language not only gets your needs met but it gets you lots of attention from adults. If a child uses negative language when angry we will say to them, “looks like your angry right know what else could you do to show anger or frustration?” We would then model appropriate ways to use language when angry. We might also suggest that the child take a break in the quite area to calm down and pull themselves together. If negative language persists we will then put a plan together to eliminate the behavior. Plans will be developed in tandem with parents so that reaction to negative use of language is consistent and the child never receives attention for it.
Please keep in mind that the use of negative language is a learned behavior. The best way to eliminate this behavior is to make sure your child is not exposed to it. Don’t use poor language in front of your children and make sure they are not watching programs on TV that would teach them bad words.
If your child has learned a negative word in school we apologize but if you use the above techniques your child will quickly learn that the words they are using have no power and they will stop using them.