What you say

5th November 2004 at 00:00
* "A major part of the problem is what children hear at home. Nine times out of 10, primary children do not understand what they have done wrong. It is the norm nowadays for parents to swear and, if children hear it at home, they do not see it as wrong. Swearing is no longer seen as taboo; it is simply part of language." Sukubus

* "Explaining that swearing is a liability, and may affect their employment prospects, can work. Being realistic and adding that most people do swear, but there is a 'time and place', counters the 'everybody swears' attitude.

Then give examples of how people can be offended, which leads to discussion about school being the wrong time and place." Boristhebad

* "Grown-ups swear. We've just learned when it's appropriate and when it isn't. I consider it part of my job to teach kids when it isn't. When they swear in front of me, not directed at me but in their 'normal' language, I ask them if they think it's appropriate. Being confrontational doesn't work. It depends on your style: if they're testing you, you have to react in a certain way; if it's accidental, they need correcting."


* "Swearing is not just a problem with older children. I have experienced some very colourful language from key stage 1 children.

With the younger ones, it tends to be used for effect, to get a reaction. I have found that not reacting is sometimes the best response, although I have come back with, 'Do you know how to spell that?' They are so shocked, they soon forget what they were saying." angeldust

* "Part of the problem is defining which words are swearwords, and which are slang. In which circumstances is swearing intolerable, and when is it just undesirable? I reprimanded a child for saying his task was 'crap', only to be told it isn't a swearword, it just means rubbish. On the other hand, a child accidentally pulled my blind off the ceiling, and said, quite quietly, 'Oh shit!'. I didn't feel the need to respond to this, as he was swearing for a reason." lilachardy

* "If the pupil swears directly at a member of staff, we telephone home and tell the parents about the language used and exclude the pupil for a day.

We ask him or her to apologise to the member of staff before they are allowed back into the class. If the language is part of a conversation, I stop the class and explain why it is unsuitable. An apology usually follows quickly." lowesiobhan

* "Selective deafness sometimes comes into play. For example, if I stopped football games every time I heard a child (just out of my immediate vision) swear because heshe had lost the ball, or fallen from a bad tackle, I wouldn't be able to teach the subject. Sure, if it's overt, and in front of me, I'll deal with it. But if it's said in the heat I'll either ignore it, or just give a look." watchya

* "My subject is languages so I can (with the right class) simply tell them that if they really feel the need to swear they can do so in the target language and give them a less offensive translation. Other than that, I simply point out that if I can hold back from swearing in the classroom, then so can they." racheyg

* "It depends on a number of things: the word used, age, school policy, as well as any background issues relating to particular children. In my experience, a child who swears does so because either they hear it used at home and think it is normal, or it's a peer issue. Both of these can be dealt with in a number of ways so that it doesn't escalate and become a big problem.

"I usually discuss swearing with the childchildren, the reasons for its use and its effect and, if appropriate, the meaning of the word! If it has become an issue, I tackle it with the whole class, perhaps through PSHE or in circle time." maccy

If you want to contribute to next week's behaviour forum, go to www.tes.co.ukbehaviour

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today