37 Hilarious Phrases Parents Say to Avoid Cursing in Front of Kids

What the fork?!

Portrait of a lovely young girl in dress standing with mouth covered and looking away at copy space isolated over blue backgroundDean Drobot/Shutterstock

“Mrs. Andersen? We need to talk about your son’s new favorite word.” I’ll never forget that phone call from the preschool teacher of my adorable, cherub-cheeked four-year-old. Like many kids his age, my son had discovered a fun new word and wanted to use it all the time—and the fact that it got a major reaction from all the adults around him made it just that much better. The word? Motherf*****.

The day prior, I’d been bending over to tie his shoe when his older brother threw open the front door, nailing me right between the eyes with the metal doorknob. I’m not much of a curser but there’s nothing like pain so searing that you see stars (literally) to make a mom lose her, um, shiznits. I let out a string of curse words that would make a sailor blush. And of course, my kiddo remembered the best one.

When he got home that day, we had to have a long talk about appropriate language and I learned as much of a lesson as he did. If you don’t want to hear your toddler call their friend a “d*****bag” then you’d better not say it in front of him. As a parent, your creativity is one of your best skills—and we don’t just mean with Play-Doh. Here are some of our favorite swear-substitutes real parents use.

1. “My curse words come out sounding like a mix of Yosemite Sam, the Swedish Chef, and (before we knew what a horrible person he truly is) Bill Cosby, along the lines of Flootin’ frappin’ shligmen durnkin!” —Ted Williams

2. “I will call someone a ‘Richard’ as shorthand for ‘d*ck.’ My twins and several adult friends actually think my boss’s real name is Richard.” —Tracey Having a “creative vocabulary” is one of the 11 surprising signs you’ll make a great parent someday.

3. “The other day I dropped something in the kitchen and, because I could see my son watching me, I exclaimed, ‘Ugh, fork me!’. He thought it was so silly; I was glad it was safe.” —Kylie Larson

4. “Once, when I was opening a fizzy drink, it sprayed purple juice all over the bench top, the floor, the ceiling, and my clothes. ‘F…’ I started to say until I felt three sets of little eyes staring at me. I immediately changed it to ‘F… or coughs and colds take medicine!’ It was so funny that now we just use ‘for coughs and colds’ to express frustration.” —Nate Hamon

5. “Shut the f*** up used to be a part of my pre-kids vocabulary but now it’s ‘shut the front door!‘ which is way funnier anyhow.” —Amber Graves (Here’s why kids behave so much worse at home.)

6. “During the Great Lice Outbreak of 2015 (from which our household will forever be scarred), I discovered my new favorite phrase ‘holy cannoli!’ It replaced holy sh*t whenever I found another bug and it’s even better because it rhymes.” —Maryrose DeGroot

7. “My son once told friends from church that ‘my daddy says the F-word all the time at home.’ I had to quickly explain that I say ‘fart’ instead, and that’s what we call ‘the F word’!” —Tor Bailey

8. “‘The classic ‘fudge! is my go-to for anything from stubbed toes, to an eggshell in the omelet, to a realization that I posted a comment on social media with a spelling mistake.” —Nate Hamon

9. “I’m from Minnesota and for whatever reason parents here always say ‘Uff da!’ I’m not sure if it’s from our Norwegian roots or even what word exactly it’s supposed to replace, but it always makes me smile.” —Kim DeBerge

10. “The c-word is the curse word I hate the most but if I ever have to say it, I spell it out with ‘see you next Tuesday.’ Adults know what I mean and young kids don’t even pick up it’s a bad word.” —Alison Hill (Have you read these hilarious texts gone wrong, from parents?

11. “As a foster mom, I’ve had quite a few kids that come with serious potty mouths, so I have a lot of practice with fake cursing. The one I probably use the most is ‘friggin!’ which I don’t love but it’s better than the real thing.” —Lisa Gunn

12. “Oh shnuck! It gets my kids laughing every time—mostly because it comes out like oh shhhhhhhhhnuck!” —Emily Tessman

13. “‘Fart knocker‘ is the one I use as a direct cuss at the kids. As in, ‘Stop fighting you little fart knockers!’ For emphasis, I’ll add frickin’. ‘Stop fighting you frickin’ little fart knockers!'” —Nate Hamon

14. “When I slammed my finger in the door, I yelled out ‘son of a… nutcracker!‘ Another favorite for when I hurt myself is cheese and rice!‘” —Casey Wetjen

15. “I like to yell ‘shoot a monkey!’ when I drop things, break something, forget something. I have no idea where that came from but it works!” —Presley Salmon

16. “‘Shiitake mushrooms!‘ is apparently my go-to swear for when I’m in pain. Like, I’ve sliced my shin open on the dishwasher twice and both times I end up yelling about produce? We all know what word I was really thinking!” —Presley Salmon

17. “I like to say ‘well butter my bum!’ and ‘son of a biscuit!‘ I guess I like food curses!” —Jeni Svestka (Polite language is just one of the 17 forgotten manners parents should be teaching their children.)

18. “Clusterfluff. It has almost all the satisfaction of saying the original but it’s way more kid-friendly.” —Anda Teverzczuk

19. “I started out by using ‘hells bells‘ a lot and somehow it morphed into ‘hells bells and cockle shells’ which my kids mistakenly heard as ‘hells bells and taco shells‘ and so now I just yell ‘taco shells.’ Yep, it’s like playing ‘telephone’ but with cursing.” —Carlie Pehrson

20. “Sometimes I say ‘sugar dumplings‘ but, let’s be honest, I just straight up curse most of the time.” —Cheri Gould

21. “Some parents are so creative! In the heat of the moment, all I can think of is ‘curses!‘ Because I’m original like that.” —Shanae Briggs

22. “I go full-on sound effects. Like I say, ‘Are you (beep noise) kidding me?’ so that the part that is censored can be filled in by whatever curse word the listener imagines.” —Tor Bailey

23. “I say ‘shoot the dog!‘ when something goes unexpectedly wrong, like a house project or when the dryer breaks. Ironically, I only use it when I’m in a good mood.” —Rosalie Davis (Want more? Check out these 11 parents quotes that will have you dying with laughter.)

24. “My family loves to bowl and whenever I throw a gutter ball everyone waits for me to yell ‘the F-word.’ However, my ‘f-word’ is ‘fooey!’ Or is it ‘phooey?’ but that doesn’t start with F. Whatever, my curse word, my spelling!” —Shirley Jamiel

25. “Instead of ‘what the f***, I say, ‘What the monkey?’ It works even better because it’s so random it usually diffuses the situation.” —Tor Bailey

26. “I’m a big curser but when I don’t drop a real f-bomb, I go with ‘frack.‘ It works and there’s the potential for some interesting environmental conversations.” —Sarah Barak (Know a funny parent? Here are 17 of the best compliments you can give a parent.)

27. “My mother’s favorite swear word when I was growing up was ‘Christopher Columbus!‘ I didn’t realize how funny that was until I became a parent myself and said it.” —Janet Elise

28. “I say ‘darn‘ a lot. So when we moved to a new city and I got lost trying to figure out the GPS directions, I’d yell ‘darn!’ every few seconds. It got so much that my oldest just assumed that yelling ‘darn’ was just a part of driving, like turning on the blinker.” —Rosalie Davis

29. “I normally swear like a sailor. But there are some moments when even four-letter words aren’t enough to express my feelings. In those cases, ironically, I yell ‘ALL THE SWEARS!’. Which doesn’t technically have any curse words in it at all!” —Marste McDonald

30. “A colleague and I were brainstorming ideas for curse words you could say in front of her young kids at home. ‘Shootskis was a favorite. So was ‘fahrfegnugen.’ The best part was though is everyone started saying them in the office too!” —Lara Wiz

31. “‘Sugar Honey Ice Tea!is my favorite because it’s cute for kids but adults can quickly figure out it’s an acronym!” —Anne Poirier

32. “At three feet tall, my youngest is the perfect height to nail my very patient husband right in his tender parts. He yells ‘sunny beaches!’ or ‘fudgenuts!‘. Depending on how hard the hit was, there might be some real ones mixed in too!” —Marianne Farquhar

33. “My husband and I have four daughters so ‘oh my hell…o kitty‘ has come out of our mouths more than once!” —Nicole Westenskow

34. “‘Mother trucker!‘ is my favorite kid-safe curse word to use around my two young daughters.” —Jennie Berglund

35. “My grandmother used to say ‘god d*mnit’ quite frequently, until the grandkids came along. I grew up hearing her yell ‘God… bless America!‘ I always wondered why she sounded so angry about America.” —Adrianne McMahon

36. “I almost don’t want to admit I actually say this but here goes. ‘Oh my freakin’ heck!‘” —Kacy Moller

37. “If I want to curse and don’t want my kids to hear it, I just swear in German. ‘Schiesse‘ is my favorite. It means sh*t but sounds so much nicer!” —Jill Fairchild

And if you find you can’t stop cursing, don’t sweat it. Turns out swearing is one of the weird habits that means your smarter than everyone else.

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Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.