All Articles Discipleship ideas

Talking to Kids about “Bad” Words: Tips for Christian Parents

What do you do when your kids learn a “bad” word? Here is a simple but effective tool that parents can use to help their children evaluate the words that they hear and say.

Anxiety workbook for kids

We’ve all been there. Our child comes home from school and asks, “What does the ___ (fill in the letter) word mean?”


As much as we (or maybe it is just me) would like to keep our kids in a little protective bubble, the world is full of “bad” words. Knowing how to deal with it as a Christian parent is important. The key is to present the information in a way that will explain but not overwhelm them.

Since young children are most often visual or tactile learners, visual aids with these kinds of matters can be very helpful. Below is an image that you can copy if you would like. I have not made this tool into a PDF printable because I feel that it is most effective when drawn out in “real time” with your kids as you explain it, rather than teaching them from a pre-printed form.

The Continuum of Words

As the image indicates (click for a close-up), all words can be placed on a continuum.

On the far left are wonderful words: words that build one another up, make people feel good and are encouraging.

The next category includes good words as well. These are positive but not necessarily uplifting or encouraging.  Neat and cool are some examples.


The middle ground includes neutral words. This is where a lot of everyday words are found. See if you can look around the room you are in and find a list of your own. Have fun with it.

The next level is getting into the negative area. These are words that don’t tear people down, but may be words that your family chooses not to use. They are not “bad” in the sense that they can almost always be replaced with a socially acceptable word instead. These include potty talk, slang and crude words for body parts (the correct terms for body parts would be in the neutral zone). Your family’s list might differ from mine.

The last category of words on the spectrum includes words that are demeaning, belittling and tear people down. These include words like dumb, stupid and swear words.

Some Final Thoughts of Application

If your child asks, “Is calling someone a ‘silly head’ a bad word?” you can remind them of the continuum of words and ask some probing questions: Do those words build the other person up or tear him down? Would you like to be called that? By themselves these words may not be bad, but if they hurt someone, we need to avoid that particular combination.

As far as explaining the meaning of swear words or crude language, this will depend on several factors: the age of your child, maturity level, her need to know, and the possible negative impact of having such information in her possession.

You want your young children to have correct information about these things but at a level that is appropriate for them. If your child has misinformation, it is important to correct it. You want them to have a general idea, but the specifics you can save until they are older. You can say things like, “That is an angry word that tears women down” or “That is an angry and hurtful word some people use when they don’t take the time to express their frustration properly.”

Let’s make sure that we are modeling positive language for our children as well. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a brand of hypocrisy that can become a stumbling block for our children in this area as they grow up.

Here is a great list of Bible verses that you can use during these discussions with your children. Use them as the basis of a Bible scavenger hunt and have your children write their favorites on index cards and then post them on the refrigerator.

And finally, keeping the lines of communication open is very important. You can periodically say to your child, “You can always come to me if you ever have a question about something you hear or a word that someone says. It’s important that you get the right information from me. I’m always here to talk.”

 [Photo credit: clarita from]

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

Follow on Facebook

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.


  • This is a great article. It’s meeting my needs for a discussion with a friend who has a very different philosophy of parenting, putting my kids in a position that needs guidance. I’m not seeing the printable.

    • Hi Beth,
      So glad this was helpful to you. There isn’t a pdf printable with this particular post as I think it is more helpful for kids to sit with you as you draw it out. However, you are right- the image was stripped from the post somehow. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I have fixed it now and you should be able to print the image if you would like.
      God bless,

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.