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Putting a Stop to "Shut up!": Advice from Moms

Stephanie in Conyers
Make sure that those words are not used in the home. Give him alternate words, like “Be quiet.” I told my daughter that “Shut up” is a bad word. Now, when she hears others say it, she lets them know what her mom told her.

Kacy in Wilmington, NC
If it happens in a public place, and you can leave immediately, do so. Tell him that if he says, “Shut up” again, you will go home. Then, if he disobeys you say, “Let’s go” and leave. My 18-month-old loves to be out, so it works every time. At home is a different story, but if you’re consistent in your demands and follow through with whatever you decide to use as punishment, he will get the point very quickly.

Carrie in Salt Lake City
It has worked really well for us to tell our son to say “Hush” instead. When he says, “Shut up,” he is not allowed to watch a favorite movie that day, or he does not get a special treat.

Jeanette in Meriden
When he says, “Shut up” I would calmly tell him that it’s not OK to say that. If he says it again, I would ignore it and do something positive like singing the alphabet song or counting. It takes time to change, so be patient.

Kelly in North Wales
My son used to say “stupid” all the time. I told him that was “potty-mouth” talk and he would have to get his mouth washed out with soap. Of course, I would never actually do this. For a while I just left the soap on top of the refrigerator—just seeing it discouraged my son from saying “stupid.” Now when I slip up and use the wrong word, he tells me I have “potty mouth”!

Jen in San Francisco
Let your son know those are not the manners and words that are acceptable with you. Tell him if he needs to use those words, you’ll have to leave wherever you are. If he says it in the grocery store, stop everything and walk straight out of the store with him. Do the same thing if he says it at the park, etc. It should only take two or three times for him to understand the consequences. Make sure you follow through. That is, don’t say you’ll leave if you don’t actually plan to.

Dr. Kenneth N. Condrell, Ph.D.
Your son probably is, at times, using the word “shut up” on purpose. His behavior is very typical of this age. I suggest you lighten up and stop the punishments; as you can see, they’re not working.

I also suggest you and your husband make sure neither one of you are saying “shut up.” 2-year-olds love to copy adults and if you speak this way, he will imitate you.
Next, explain to your child that a better thing to say is, “Be quiet.” Don’t count on his understanding this and cooperating, but it is worth a try. Continue to offer “be quiet” as a better alternative to “shut up.”
When he says, “shut up,” simply say—with somewhat of a frown on your face—“That is not being nice.” And when he handles his frustration without saying “shut up,” praise him and give him a hug.
Don’t be surprised if your son drops “shut up” for some other bad word or phrase: 2-year-olds are famous for finding ways to shock their parents. It is part of growing up. Don’t over-react, and just repeatedly point out the better words to say.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education