By Raising Children Network
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Toddler laughing cheekily

Half of kids aged one to eight swear, and nearly all of their parents worry about it.

The Raising Children Network surveyed 663 parents about their children’s swearing behaviour, asking whether they swear, how often, where they learn it from, whether parents swear and what parents think should be done about swearing children.

How much swearing?

According to the survey, 10% of children are swearing every day and nearly half of children learn to swear from their parents. As children grow up, though, their friends take over where parents left off: once they’re older than eight, half of them learn swear words from friends.

Swearing gets more popular with age, with 80% of children eight and over using bad language.

Where do they get it from?

It’s not surprising that so many kids are picking up a few choice words – more than 40% of parents say they swear every day. Interestingly, of the parents who never swear, 19% believe their children are learning to swear from parents, suggesting there are quite a few Australian families where one parent has more colourful language than the other.

Why kids swear

Although a lot of parents believe their children only swear to be funny or playful (two of the top three reasons for swearing, along with ‘expressing negative feelings’), more than 90% worry about swearing.

Swearing is considered unacceptable by 99% of parents.

How parents handle it

Almost all parents agree that swearing children should be disciplined, and their solutions range from swear jars to withdrawing privileges and explaining the effect swearing has on others. By far the most popular measure, though, is to teach children more acceptable words they can use instead.

  • Last updated or reviewed 08-02-2008