It’s guaranteed to be one of those all-time embarrassing moments for any parent. Your highly verbal child, who seems to declare a new word each day, all of sudden yells an expletive for all the world to hear.

You’re mortified. Who can blame you? Still, not to put too fine a point on it, but “S--- happens,” as they say. And when it comes to profanity and young kids, it happens all too often.

Children are like sponges, sucking up the marrow of life. But along with all that marrow, they sometimes suck up a few words you’d blush to say at the local bar. Words come at them from everywhere – swear words included. It’s not just at the movies or off the television set – kids hear bad words at the playground, in a traffic jam, at the grocery store, and lots of other places you’d never expect.

You can’t walk around all day with your hands over their ears. But here are a few tips to help you stop naughty language at home, when and if it turns up:

Find the Right Words
For some kids, the real pay-off from using a swear word is the reaction it gets from others. Very young children, who may not even know the meaning of a bad word, will sometimes say it just to test limits. Older children may want to appear powerful or accepted by their peers. Either way, parents should help their children expand their vocabulary so that they can call upon a repertoire of acceptable words when they experience strong emotions or need to make themselves heard.

Role Model What You Want to Hear
One of the best ways to be ensure your kids don’t use inappropriate language is by not saying cuss words yourself. Some parents even invite their kids into the “policing effort” in order to keep profanity out of the house. In our family, any time mom or dad utters a swear word our kids get to collect a dollar (fortunately this has not filled up their piggybank!).

Encourage Critical Thinking
Unfortunately cursing is a part of our culture. Your kids are bound to hear it – through media, sports, the stranger on the street, the park and even from older siblings passing on what they’ve heard. A parent’s job is to help their children develop their own screening mechanism, so when they hear a profane word, they can understand that while others may use those words, they don’t have to.

Establishing Consequences
When profanity is repeated or becomes a habit, more drastic consequences may be appropriate. Every parent will have to decide what those consequences may be… everything from taking away privileges to “washing” a mouth out with soap. Whatever the choice, a parent needs to be ready to take a stand to ensure that their child knows that some words are never okay. No excuses.