Working as a nanny, it is unlikely that you haven’t had to deal with swearing from the children at some point. Especially as they get older. Every behaviour can be managed, even swearing. As always, your partnership with the parents is crucial in dealing with the situation. It is up to you to set up a meeting and to have a serious discussion about swearing. Swearing or name calling should never be acceptable behaviour, unless the child has a medical condition. Meeting with the parents should never be done in front of the children, even if it means that you will have to stay late one day, after your working hours.
It is important that you stay assertive and that you listen to the parent’s side of the story.
Did they hear children swearing?
What triggered swearing?
Is there specific situation or people, which bring up the negative behaviour?
If you had a previous discussion with the parents and you worry about not being listened to, or you remember all your arguments only once you leave the house, take some notes with you. You need to be prepared, we all want to be treated as professionals, so we must act like one. Once you’ve had a discussion, hopefully you were able to make the decisions about your next actions. It’s important to agree on this plan of action, work together and be consistent. Consistency makes children feel safe and secure, they learn consequences of their actions very quickly.
You may want to agree specific wording you will use if the child starts swearing, for example: “This is not a nice word, we don’t talk like that in this family” and stick with it – you, mum and dad too. Both you and the parents need to work together and explain the rules and boundaries to the children together. No child is born to this world swearing, there is ALWAYS a reason for any kind of behaviour.
Questions to ask:
- Is the child going through transition, significant changes in their life?
If the child faces changes, they can become frustrated. Be honest with them, talk to them, explain what is happening and what is likely to happen in the future.
- How long has the child being swearing?
If you are new to a position, you should find out when the swearing started, so you can work backwards to figure out the triggers.
- Are there specific dates and times that trigger swearing?
There could be a link to certain date, day of the week, time of the day- write down when the swearing is happening and you will be able to start identifying the patterns; maybe the child had too many activities that day? Did they have to do something they dislike? Once you know when is the behaviour likely to happen, you can prevent it from happening in the first place.
- Who is around when the child is swearing? Siblings, parents, friends?
Is the child’s behaviour being influenced by people around them? Is there anyone who triggers child’s swearing? If there is, it will help you to figure out the issue easier.
- How many siblings does the child have?
There have been many studies written about the birth order and its effects. Sibling rivalry comes into it too, observe, learn and make sure you treat each child as an individual and treat all children fairly.
- How old is the child? What is their stage of development?
There are certain ages and stages of development, when swearing can be part of the development, for example child at six may start swearing and their favourite saying is ”You are not the boss of me.”
By this age, children have been in primary school for a while, they have gained confidence, they listen and copy their friends; we have been encouraging children to be independent and they are starting to feel it and they may want to prove it. The best way to deal with this is to repeat, repeat and repeat. Explain what acceptable behaviour is and expect it from the children at all times.
When I say repeat and explain, I don’t mean get upset and give a child attention for their negative behaviour. If you do, the child will learn that they will get reaction from you every time they use swear word. If the child is swearing at you and calling you names, telling you they hate you, stay calm (breathe!) and be honest with the child.
For example, you could explain: “Can we have a little talk? I just wanted to explain to you how it makes me feel when you call me names. It makes me feel very upset, because I then think that you don’t like me and that I don’t care for you as I should.”
If the child answers that this is the case, ask for child’s opinion.
- How can I change this?
- What can I do differently?
By listening to the child, you will often find the most interesting and unexpected answers. Then it’s up to you in regards to what you will do with this information. It should be part of our jobs to evaluate and to reflect on our practice, it’s easy to get stuck in a routine and assume that your tactics will work on every child.
This is simply not the truth.
Every child is unique and it is my belief that every single one requires an individual approach and that most of the time, it is the carer’s behaviour that needs to change first, to be able to help improve the behaviour of the child. If what you do, doesn’t work, it is your reactions not the child, which are the reasons. Work with parents, talk with other professionals- within the confidentiality boundaries and try new ways. Often, the smallest changes make the biggest difference.
If the child didn’t swear or he/she managed their behaviour well by themselves, praise them and explain what they have done right. Be honest again, tell them that you are proud of them, that it makes you happy when they are being good – it gives the child motivation to do better next time. A reward system may work here as well, you can decorate the mason jar and fill it with marbles every time child behaves well, the reward can be outing, book, etc… Consistency is a key with a reward system and it must be done well for it to work. Work with the parents so you don’t have a confusion over the rules.
Following the child’s age and stage of development will help you take a step back and realise that the child is not yet equipped to recognise and deal with negative emotions. It is then up to you to show and teach the children about different emotions and how to describe them. There are so many books you can read, creative activities can do to explore emotions, role play opportunities are aplenty – use these to support the child and don’t forget to let them play.
Even if they are six or over… Asking “Would you like others to call you names?” will also help the child reflect on their own behaviour and identify their own feelings. I sincerely hope that I don’t have to mention, that you must be a good role model to the children yourself. If you are not respectful to others; or children heard you swear on the phone, in the car, they will copy you.
So next time, when other drivers make you angry, think of the flying duck…