Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. ~Robert Fulghum
Impressionable children, in the early years when they are fully alive, fully attentive, and fully filled with the desire to learn it all, are like little sponges. You may think he's "only playing," but your child has both his ears and his eyes wide open and attentive to all that is going on around him - so you need to watch your words.
I think that basically you understand this, but let's look at the idea from a different perspective: would you expose your young child to blaring music, or would you think such loudness might cause damage to his little ears? Well, I think it's the same for the words that get spoken around a child.
You realize that you can pick up on conversations that are going on around you. You can hear snippets of talking in your office, for example. So can your child, and while he might not understand all of the words, his little mouth will surely want to try them on for fit and feel, which is why it's important to watch your words.
You may think that a child is too young to understand what is being said, but in my experience, impressionable children can understand much more of what they hear than we think they can. I can remember how young my own son was when I realized that he fully comprehended what I was saying to him. I could tell by the look on his face, and he wasn't quite capable of having a big conversation with me yet.
I think it's important for us to model the kind of behavior we want our children to emulate. If our vocabulary is filled with expletives, so will our children's be. They will use the words they hear, in particular, those they hear most frequently at home.
It might be fun to teach your child to say silly things in lieu of something he's picked up that is not appropriate. Saying "ketchup head" makes a child laugh and is a great substitute for "stupid."
If your guests are unable to control their vocal habits around your kids, then turn it into a learning experience with your children about what "not" to say and why not to say it!
You probably make an effort to monitor his exposure from television or books or movies. It's just as important to watch your words and to ask your friends and visitors to do the same when your child is nearby. And don't forget the wonderful rule when you're speaking to children: Say what you mean, and mean what you say. They truly do get that!
The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Take Action Now
1. Decide today that you will focus your complete attention on your child when he/she speaks to you.
2. Remind yourself before you walk in the door from work that you will guard your words in front of your children.