Inappropriate Language (It’s Not What You Think!)

Q: For a few months now, my 9-year-old daughter has been fixated on talking about underwear, potty stuff and kissing. She started it after a weekend visit from her best friend and their family. They are believers but let their kids have almost free reign on TV viewing. We are the opposite, so my assumption is that her friend is mimicking what she’s seen or heard on TV.

However, my daughter’s behavior is starting to rub off on my 4-year-old son as well. As a Christian family, we stress living by the Bible, do daily devotionals with the kids, are active in our church and pray a lot.

That said, I have tried not to make a big deal of her talk and, well, obsession. I thought maybe it would just go away and she would eventually forget about it if I did not stress about it. But now it has gotten out of hand. Every time she plays with her brother, I hear talk about underpants, potty and kissing. I talked with her about it yesterday, I calmly showed her why God says that our bodies are a temple for the Lord, and that kind of talk is not appropriate.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped her (her younger brother gave her away). Today I took away two of her stuffed animals which she loves and told her every time I hear that kind of talk, more toys will be taken away and she won’t get them back. I have no idea if this is an appropriate consequence. I have no idea why she is so fixated on this kind of stuff nor how to help her get un-fixated on it. I am also wondering if I should allow her to hang around this little girl anymore? I really appreciate your help!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: It sounds like you have two issues at hand. The first is that you want your daughter to stop talking about underwear, potty and kissing. The second is that you are concerned about the influence of this friend on your daughter.

Let’s tackle the first concern. Kids say the darnedest things—and sometimes, they get fixated on one subject, especially if someone (usually a parent) tells them it’s in some way forbidden. Your daughter likely has no idea why kissing, underwear and potty talk is so disturbing to you and why you want her to stop. She also likely doesn’t fully understand the whole kissing thing anyway, even if she’s seen some teens or adults kissing on TV.

It’s good that you recognize that you might be trending toward making a big deal out of this. But as you’ve seen, sometimes even ignoring a behavior or speech pattern will not make it simply disappear. Here’s my solution, one that worked like a charm when my two boys went through a potty talk stage themselves: Tell your daughter she can talk about underwear, potty and kissing all she wants to…in the bathroom with the door closed. That’s the only appropriate place for such discussions, since much of what she’s talking about concerns things best kept in the bathroom. Gently redirect her to the bathroom when you hear her start to talk about those subjects—and sure, let her brother come with her. The bloom will fade soon enough when she has to leave her playing to go to the bathroom to talk like she wants to at that moment.

Now for your second concern that this friend might be a corrupting influence. If this is the first incident, then I would probably adopt a wait and see approach. If you find more inappropriate talk, I would consider talking to the other mom or the girl herself. When my sons used very inappropriate language one day that had been picked up from a neighborhood boy, the next time the boy came to ask my sons to play, I very gently told him that my boys would not be able to play with him if he continued using language that wasn’t appropriate. He knew exactly what I was talking about and it hasn’t been an issue since.

Overall, the softer approach can often be the one that works the best, and giving our kids the responsibility to control their tongues—whether it be telling them where they can talk a certain way or that playtime would end if such language continued—is the best solution.

Until next time,

Sarah

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