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My toddler won't stop saying shut up?

My 19-month-old son says "shut up" to almost everyone. How do I get him to listen and understand that this is naughty?

Sheila Isaacson | Pediatrician

Sheila Isaacson

Your toddler has stumbled onto a very exciting way to get your attention! All children love attention from adults, be it positive or negative. When our kids repeat rude phrases or curse, we react big! They notice and look for opportunities to use their new found words.

It is very tempting to yell or punish or lecture in an attempt to reform them.  Unfortuately this adds fuel to the fire for most toddlers. The more effective response is no response. Completely ignore the behavior. You will need to let your family and friends in on the plan. If they receive no attention for these words, it will be no "fun" to use them anymore.

Be patient. If this has been going on for some time, it make take a few weeks to disappear.It would also be helpful to notice and give lots of attention when your child uses "nice words."  If he receives a bigger reaction for "nice words," he is sure to repeat them.

Read more answers by Dr. Isaacson