How can I get my son to stop swearing?
Ask yourself a few easy questions:
When does my child swear?
How often does he swear?
What activity is he doing when he swears?
What is reinforcing the behavior of swearing?
Is it a positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement?
Does your reaction reinforce the behavior so that he will repeat it just to enjoy the change in your facial expression?
Is it due to a lack of speech and language skills? an inability to communicate in a more desirable manner?
Is it a sensory issue? self stimulatory?
Is it delayed echolalia? something he heard somewhere else and continues to echo, repeats over and over again, because he does not comprehend its meaning or the social relevance?
Without understanding the context of the situation it becomes difficult to impart useful information. There is no one size fits all formula for any child. Here are some suggestions you might consider.
Ignore the swearing, do not reinforce or acknowledge it in any manner.
Simultaneously praise him and provide a tangible reward for using good words. The reward should be a highly preferred item of his choice, not yours, Reinforcements need to be immediate, and should have time limitations on use. (Food is not recommended) Consistency in providing reinforcement is absolutely necessary!
Keep a visible record of tally marks (data) to help you determine if the intervention is changing the behavior. Your child will need many opportunities to learn desired behavior. When you begin provide frequent rewards for “good words” or “good language” and gradually decrease the quantity of rewards increasing the duration or time frame between rewards.
The optimal objective is to change the behavior, using positive reinforcement, then gradually fade out the reinforcement and replace with self regulating behavior and or self monitoring. Some children will continue to need some type of reinforcement, visual cue or prompt to maintain the new behavior. What happens on your worst day? What’s the first thing to go? Language and routine.
Depending on the cognitive level of your child, develop a social story with your child, using words or pictures he understands, about swearing to help him gain social understanding. A social story will explain and describe the problem behavior, explain the social situation, provide a perspective of others, provide examples of good language and implications for using good language or “good words”.
Social stories do not dictate rules but lay out a foundation for expected social behavior and social understanding. Social stories can be read together several times a day and used in close proximity with the undesired behavior.