#@!!%…What to Do When Kids Swear


#@!!%…what to do when kids swear in your ministry.

I’m a word person…so words matter. I hear some people say that words are just words today and we shouldn’t be uptight about the words people use. I’m not so sure.

I always think about the Scripture where Jesus says that out of the abundance of our hearts, our mouth speaks. So words come from what’s in our hearts. And as we guide children to grow in their relationship with Jesus, we’re cooperating with God to shape their hearts.

1. Determine which words are and aren’t acceptable. Words matter because they reveal our hearts, but words also matter because as a society we’ve determined what is and is acceptable in normal discourse. There are definite words that we consider acceptable and unacceptable. Which words are on your list?

2. Convey your no-no’s to your team. You may have a set of words that you find totally reprehensible while others think they’re no big deal. I’ll refrain from listing what these words might be, but for the sake of explanation let’s talk about the word “crap.” This word in many circles has become no big deal; when I was a child I’d get disciplined for using this word. It may be on your no-no list–along with other words–but it may not be on everyone’s list on your team. Communicate what is and isn’t acceptable in your ministry for consistency.

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3. Stay calm. What’ll you do when you hear these words come out of the mouths of babes (and preteens)? The first thing is to not freak out; stay calm. Often kids are looking for a reaction and that reaction serves to reinforce the use of the word.

4. Give another option. We all need words to express our emotions. For kids who are around adults who use swear words, they may believe those are the only words possible. Instead, give kids other words to exclaim. My family used “crayola” in place of the aforementioned C-word (in case my mother is reading this).

5. Confront in private. For an older child who swears, take the child aside and explain that swearing is inappropriate. If necessary, have a conversation with the child’s parents.

For more tips on why kids swear and what to do about it, read this article by Barbara Bolton from Children’s Ministry Magazine.

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About Author

Christine Yount Jones

Christine has more than 28 years of children’s ministry experience. She is the Executive Editor of Children’s Ministry Magazine, has authored many books and articles on children’s ministry, and serves as co-director of the KidMin Conference. She’s led teams in the development of leading innovative resources, including Buzz Instant Sunday School curriculum, Grapple Preteen Curriculum, and the new Dig-In Sunday School curriculum. Follow Christine on Twitter @ChristineYJones


  1. For substitutions, I prefer to suggest a word that appropriately fits the situation. Like, “That’s disappointing!” Or, “What a bummer!”

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