What's the best way to punish a 4 year old for saying curse words?

Children pick up words quickly, and sometimes it's the words you don't want them to say (like swear words!) that they keep repeating all the time. How do you get them to stop?

27  Answers

1 3

I've never punished my kiddos for saying a curse word. I simply tell them that it's an adult word and they aren't allowed to use it yet. Also, that it's ugly and we don't even need to use those words and that we're all going to try and not to.

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0 30

I am the same way they are adult words I bet most of us use them everyday. Biggest thing in my opinion is not to overreact cause then we give our child the golden ticket to piss you off with yet one more thing. If it's persistent I send my kids to their rooms and when they have thought about it they must come up with a plan to help themselves remember other words like sugar or darn are way more appropriate. Also helping them understand that it may not be a big deal at home but that they will get into trouble at school or work or even friends houses.

44 14

The first thing you have to learn is not to swear or use those words in front of your children. Otherwise you are just defeating yourself. Children learn by example. We all know the "fudge' or "sugar' concepts, use a silly word or the appropriate word (instead sh*t I hurt my foot. Ouch I hurt my foot or what an stupid thing to do). Children will talk like their parents and they reflect your behaviors, so you have to set the example. Punishing them and then you say it will only encourage then to say it when they know you don't want them too...and children know

Now for actual consequence, 3 is more than old enough for a time out. Tell your child that that is a bad (not nice/mean/unlady-gentleman like) word. One minute per year of life. The child apopgizes and then give them better ways of expressing their feelings. My son occasionally has used these words (he learned from his dad) and we go through the same routine and now he (4 1/2) knows how to catch himself. Now I have had a discussion with DH about not using language in front of him. However, it goes back to the parent needs to model the behavior they want to see.

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1 3

I totally agree!!!! Do not use the words that you do not want your child to use! They emulate you, your language and behavior which is what I keep trying to tell my husband and reminding myself as well. It is not always easy to be a parent but when you keep reminding yourself that you are setting the example and teaching your child not just how to be "good" but how to be a person that can make a positive difference in the world it makes it easier. Now my child tells adults that they are using bad words. I hope it makes them feel a little bit ashamed and stop to think for themselves that they could use their intelligence and choose better vocabulary and set a better example!!!!

1 46

I understand that all children are different, have different temperments and ideas! But my 4 year old, who talks nonstop, everyday all day, will choose to use a curse word once in awhile! My strategy is to just not make a big deal of it!! At that age, if you make a huge ordeal over it, they will keep doing it, over and over just to get a reaction out of you! Case in point, 4th of July, my son was lighting fireworks, (and yes, he is just 4, he obeyed all the safety rules and did not get hurt once! So do NOT jump my ass about that please!) He kept lighting stuff and running off saying "oh shit" cause he has heard that from us and surrounding friends. After the 3rd or 4th time, I just very kindly asked him if he could please quit saying that, cause it was a bad word, that no one wanted to hear and change it to "Oh shoot" He did, no arguments at all, it's all about how you approach the situation, in turn they will respond accordingly!!

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0 0

Hi, just out of interest. If your 4 year old didnt follow the safety instructions & gets hurt lighting a firework would you punish him first or take him to hospital first?

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265 16

My son's almost five and he tends to repeat some of the not-too-kosher things he hears adults (ie, me) say. I don't think it's appropriate to punish a child of that age for simply repeating what he hears, but something does need to be said. When he says an inappropriate word, I'll tell him not to say that because it isn't very polite and give him an alternative. Instead of ass, he can say booty or behind. Instead of shit or crap, he can say snap or shingles. He's gotten to the point where he'll come and whisper to me, asking if a certain word is rude, and I'll tell him. It also helps if they can see you making an effort to clean up your own language. So I use the words I've given him to use, so he can see some consistency. It's working pretty well so far.

2
1 3

Yea! My 5 &3 yr olds do the same! It was totally funny when they thought they couldn't say 'holy moly'!

20 15

I have the problem with my three year old going on 4 in October. Usually words that she has heard me say. I have no idea what an ideal way to "punish" a child for that is, but a few consequences may be handy. Samantha will say the word I have said then I scowl at her and tell her that it is a bad word. "That isn't a nice word and is mean to say. I am sorry I said it." "Why?" "Because it can hurt peoples feelings." insert something here that hurts the child's feelings to give an example and ask them if that hurt their feelings, then go on to explain how the bad word is the same way. After that tell them to never say that again with a stern voice and serious face. I will usually tap (literally just a tap) her mouth if she ignores me and continues. Another thing that works is taking something away from hr like a barbie or a tv show. I have even sent her to nap time early which helps because she wants to stay awake and play instead of sleep. One way to possibly avoid the repeat of the word is to say "Watermelon!" excitedly as it derails their train of thought for the moment. My mom just visited and slipped a couple of times as well as me and I would proclaim "Watermelon!" and Samantha would say, "Watermelon? No way." I have found this to work for her. It may be something else for other children. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for everyone. This is mine though and hope it helps.

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1 3

Perhaps I am misunderstanding your post, but it seems that you are punishing your daughter for saying the bad words that she is hearing from you more than you are stressing to her that you shouldn't be saying them in the first place. I like the idea of distracting her but I think if she just heard you say it and she is repeating what you yourself have said you should be stressing to her just how wrong you were in the first place to say it.

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12 0

We say it's a yucky or dirty word and use soap. not the first time or two of course but after a few times they need to know it's not ok. Of course dad has had to have some soap too. A little soap is pretty yuck but hopefully the dirty word is washed away. Also, pick up a copy of Elberts Bad Word by Audrey Wood. He learns to use "colorful" words. I read it to my students every year. Good luck.

1
45 6

My oldest (now 6) has occasionally used an inapproprate word (Could be "Stupid" or could be "D*amn") for the past few years. For the first offence--or the first offence in a while--I usually just warn/remind him that is not a nice word and I don't want to hear him saying it, and I try to figure out where he heard it. We are very lienent in his movie viewing and most of his favorite movies are those PG13 hero movies marketed to 6-year-olds. We know that there is bad language in those films and they are usually the source of his bad vocanulary. We have conversations about the way the characters talk and explain that it is not the way we talk, and if he is going to talk that that he will not be allowed to watch those movies. Only once did we have to take a movie away we he was 4 and not since.
Now if the problem is that the language is coming from a parent, the parent should also be punished for their bad behavoir. Maybe Mom needs a time out or Dad needs to loose TV privlages until bedtime--whatever the kid is punished with--and they should ALWAYS, ALWAYS appologize to their children when they do something that they have said is unacceptable in their home!

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1 3

woohooo...I TOTALLY agree. I like the idea of giving Mom and Dad time outs too. We already have if we are angry we are supposed to leave and go for a walk in place but I like the idea of a time out for anyone that swears in our house. Or if we are visiting and if it pops out then we get one too. Whey should other adults get away with it in our house if our child can't? What is that teaching him? And if they don't like to clean up their act and respect that we have children that we do NOT want to hear such language from then they don't have to come over to visit. We can enforce it in our own home but not other people's of course. However, we can enforce it for ourselves in their houses as well. We apologize and we also have to say it like we mean it and not just "I'm sorry". We also have to say what we are sorry for. This includes adults. Now my 4-year-old has picked up on it and says "I'm sorry for ....and I really mean it." :) I also like having the conversations about movies and language. I was surprised at how many kids movies really do have it in, including Disney ones :( It was always hard because we have to undo what the movie or his hero instills. So I like the idea of talking about it, why it is bad, and then if he wants to watch those movies he can't use that language. Thank you so much for all the great ideas :) I appreciate it a great deal :)

5 15

Explain that it's not okay to use it. If they continue, time out.

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6 21

I would not punish my 4 yr old for repeating what he hears from me/his father/family/strangers. I would "punish" myself/his father/family/strangers...and I mean that sincerely. My DH and I are very conscientious of what comes out of our mouth around our children, and make a very concerted effort NOT to curse, or even say things that we would prefer not come out of our kids' mouths (i.e. idiot, stupid, hate, etc.). We also make sure our family and friends know that cursing around our children is unacceptable, and if it continues we will not be around them. I understand people are people and words slip out, but adults need to be responsible for the example they set, and parents' responsible for their children's environment. If my child did say a curse word, we would definitely have a talk about it, find out where he heard it, what he thinks it means, and I would explain to him that it is a word he should not use. Should he choose to continue to use it, he would receive a time-out for it.

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4 29

I always like the idea of giving them an alternative to bad things that they might say or do. Also once they start learning that its bad and correct me or others from what they learn I'm behind them all the way. They will have confidence in what they believe in.

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1

My grandson is four, parents separated. I keep him and his 2 year old brother while his parents work. My daughter does not use profanity, my ex son in law does as well as his roommate. Now my four year old grandson has picked up the "f" word, damn and some other key words. He not only has picked them up, he knows exactly how to use them. I am livid. I hate to punish him for words he hears but it is out of control. The other day he told me I was bitchy. Since I can't change his fathers behavior what can I do?

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6 0

Unfortunately, children learn bad words from adults. In fact a lot of bad behavior stem from watching other children as well as adults. Punishing a child for using bad words is not the solution. Firstly, most children do not understand what these words really mean. Punishment will only confuse the child. Ask the child where did you hear that word from? But you must ask in a calm and pleasant manner. Otherwise the child will get scared and not tell you. And then calmly communicate to the child that the word or words make people feel bad and that he/she shouldn't use those words, etc.

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207 5

Simply: don't punish unless things are WAY out of control. Usually they don't really understand HOW it's a bad word. Think about it - in what way can YOU describe that it's a bad word. Now how can a 4 year old understand that? So, if it's just a passing word here and there, simply say something like "that's a grown up word. When you grow up, you can choose if you want to use that word but NOT until you are grown up". My daughter just popped off with the F word (she's 2) last week. She didn't mean it, but it's something she's heard. (her leg was stuck on the couch and she yelled 'oh F! I'm stuck!') I did my best not to burst out laughing because it was so unexpected. But I said, with the straightest face I could muster, told her that the F word is not a word she can say. She asked why. I told her simply "because it's a big person word, not for little ones"

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8 21

My husband and I are very careful about not cursing around our 4 year old, but we have a friend who we keep talking to, but he is shocking and we are about to talk to him again!! When my daughter was 3 she used a curse word at daycare - she was given time out for it, and then we were told when we picked her up. We calmly sat down with her and explained to her that some words are 'adult words' and she is not to use them and that when she is an adult she will be able to decide whether to use them, or not........cheeky little minx then said that she used it to one of the teachers because she is an adult - so we then explained that she is not allowed to use them to adults or children!! As far as I'm aware she has not used a curse word since then :)

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8 28

I really try not to swear around the kids. At age 4, you can probably bet my son will pick something up and i don't want to risk that. He hasn't really said many controversial words. A few months ago, i heard him say "oh for F**** sake" and i was litterally stunned. I said that once when he wasn't even in the room and he picked up on it. I just turned my back and ignored it while i freaked out a little on the inside LOL.

My brother had a swearing problem as a child (20 yrs ago) and no amount of time-outs, spanks and yelling would get him to stop swearing. A friend of the family told my mom just to ignore it and once he sees that we're not giving him the reaction he;s looking for, he'll forget about it and move on. She was right. Within a few months, he was no longer swearing.

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71 10

I know it sounds crazy, but from personal experience this works like a charm. I would give ONE warning if you say it again YOU WILL SIT and repeat that word quietly. The child will eventually say "Mom, can I stop? NOPE keep going since you seem to enjoy that word so much. You can always throw in some good old push ups or laps for every curse word said.

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Hi dear fellow moms
I have read all your comments
what is true is that we all agree finally that kids just copy what they see or hear
but we are not the only ones they attend, and bad words are part of life
my last child (I have 5) is now 22! so I am no more concerned but I remember welll this issue, a firever question...
I dont remember they used bad words when they were very small like less than 6, we were living in a village that time and I believe village people behave a bit better, at least regarding their language, at least that was my own experience, maybe I was in a nice village?
when we moved back to a city they were older, the smallest one was 6 and they started to use those words, that myself paid attention not to use at least in front of them
finally I raised my kids as independent human being from the minute they were born and I tried to make them responsible for everything. the language they use is defenetly their risponsibility, I am there to guide them. they know from very young what is good and what is bad and when they dont we just have to explain.
now when they became a bit older it was more difficult to handle cause they want to "speak" like their mates! like they want to wear brands etc... so I found a solution. I told them that I didnt want to hear any un-nice word. that it hurt my ears. that I didn't also want them to speak like that whenevr they were not with their mates
I remembered my mother had forbidden us too of course and we just didn't use them...
I think any person, even a child who is also a person shall have different levels of language. we know bad words and we know when and where we can use them or no, they have to learn the same very quickly in their lives.
Now my kids are grown ups and I surprise myself with my own language which has "opened" lol
even my kids sometimes they say "mom!" what did u say !! thats life
my trick was to make them hold their tongue all the day. they had to "control" their language and in the evening we had like a meeting all and they were allowed in front of all the family to scream even any bad word they wanted to take out of their heart!!! they were shcked! they said sure mom I can say that word!? I said yes, now you can! even the worse ones if they wanted. but it happened finally 4 or 5 times maximum, they told me ok we understood, we don't need to say those words but they had learned to control their tongue the minute they wanted to use them
we say in France, turn your tongue in your mouth ten times before you speak, then I added : before you curse!
sorry I had a long answer.

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146 0

Yeah, my daughter picked up a few of my, um, "choice" vocabulary words. When it happened, I didn't get mad, didn't get upset, certainly didn't punish. I explained. I told her that there are certain words that are for adults only, and that even then, they're not good to say. I apologized for saying it, and said that I'd try not to in the future, and that she shouldn't say them either. Then I dropped the subject. It happened once or twice after, with different swears, but I just explained again, and we went on our way. Because I didn't make a fuss about it, she doesn't find it tempting to test me with it, and everyone wins.

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65 9

Punishing for parroting? I don't know that seems extremely strange, would you punish your child for a toilet training accident? This stuff is going to happen, I watched very carefully what I said around my kids, well.... when my 18 month old asked me to help put on her shit for her. I realized it didn't really matter. Also that lovely word Truck. Even though I had made sure to control the language around us, the R sound completely thwarted us. She meant to say shirt. No, no punishment I think is deserved unless they are swearing at adults in full knowledge of what they are doing.

Explain the innappropriatness and walk away.

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0 21

What do you do when your 3 year old makes up bad words (ex. pony boy) and taunts his older brother? We have explained it isn't a bad word, that he isn't allowed to say bad words, ignored it, and given time outs. Any other suggestions?

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6 21

My 4 yr old does this all the time. In fact, he learned it from his father. One of his favorite words to call him is a "meat sauce". It's all in good fun. There's nothing bad about the words he chooses, and I figure it's what kids, esp. siblings, do (taunt each other). :)

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1 3

I guess I really am "old-fashion" in a lot of ways; however, I refuse to compromise my ethics, morals, and values just to fit in with today's world. I am still more liberal than a lot of society, yet I still cherish some basic moral codes of behavior. I noticed a lot of postings regarding swear/curse words being considered to be adult words. Since when has it become acceptable for ANYONE of ANY age to use such repulsive language and get away with it by using the excuse that it's "adult language"? You have got to be kidding me!!! I am utterly appalled on so many levels!!! Personally, I am offended when people curse around me and especially around any child. It shows a lack of intelligence and respect for themselves and others. Why not think before you speak, use your vocabulary, and broaden a child's intelligence? If a child can not use the word than an adult shouldn't either. Let's make this world a better place to live one child and word at a time. Make it a personal challenge to clean up your own language and see how many swear words you can replace and teach your child. They will thank you in the future their love of words and their vast vocabulary and "50 cent words". :-)

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0 13

I agree wholeheartedly!

0 247

I never had problems with my kids cussing until they were teenagers, and we don't have problems with my grandchildren either. The reason? The first time they say a new one I tell them that it is an adult word that is not nice to say and that children should not say it and that if they say it again, I will smack their mouth (I give them a gentle tap on it). IF there is a second time, I tell them that if it happens a third time I will wash their mouth out with soap (I put a small amount of soap on their tongue). If it happens the third time, I tell them the next time will be worse. There has never been a fourth time with either my kids or my grandchildren. I'd also like to say that even in their first year or two of talking, most children understand that it is an adult word and they forget the word quickly. By three, if they tend to be defiant, it is more likely to take the more stern measurers. And yes, I guarantee that they are going to hear the words somewhere, from someone. That is, unless they're kept in a bubble, so to speak.

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50 10

first, from the first time my children started poppin out the cuss words, i sat down with them both and explained that those were grownup words and not for children to use. This explanation (obviously had to explain each time a new cuss word came out of their mouth) worked remarkably well...even at the age of 3. On the very few occasions one of them use cuss words after that, we resorted to the tried and true method of a bar of ivory soap in the mouth (for the count of 5) and the explanation that dirty words get washed out (typically reserved for the deliberate use of the F word), put a decisive end to the problem. i will add that this punishment was only used for serious offences, not the "i'm a small child and forgot i'm not supposed to say that" cases. I do not consider cussing "bad" words, as i use them and am not a hipocrite, but since i have made it clear to my kids that they are, in fact, 'grownup' words, they (99% of the time) respect and remember this.

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0 4

Our problem is not the curse words per say. It is the words you say commonly around the house or in the store that they pick up and then when they say them in a different context with other children you get the evil eye from other mothers or their children inform you or their mom that that little boy said a naughty word. For instance, "stupid". When something doesn't make sense i have said well that's stupid. Now my child with the help of a poor choice on my part to let them watch Spongebob for a couple of episodes before i realized that it was inappropriate on so many levels, is now saying it on the playground saying that other kids are stupid. He is really excited to play with other children and that excitement has turned into name calling. We have always tried to inform that this could hurt someone's feelings. And even our use of cutesy names in our own house hold has backfired on us. Correcting and informing of the feelings consequences has done nothing to stop the inappropriate words. Time outs and talking away privileges has also not helped. I guess parents and extended family should just watch what they say and analyze its connotations before speaking even though this is very difficult and tedious step it will help these other problems until they are exposed at preschool or daycare.
Also on another branch of this similar topic, our culture has become so politically correct, just general observations can be taken the wrong way. People need to know what is acceptable in today's society. And others need to have a little bit of understanding that they are just children and they really don't intend to hurt feelings. I have followed a lot of these posts via email and i always hope that there is going to be some good ideas out there, but i am saddened to see that if someone posts something here many only have negative comments to follow up. This web site should be circling up the mothers of several generations and ideals into a supportive group and not a place of backbiting and negative critical responses.

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6 21

Sadly, no matter how good of an example we try to set for our kids, they are always going to hear/learn things from other places (TV, friends, other adults, etc.). I can relate to your use of the word stupid, only my slip up was "idiot". Fortunately, my son is very good about asking what this word/that word means, so it wasn't too terribly hard to explain to him that mommy should not use that word, it isn't nice, neither of us should say it. One thing that we are trying to use to reinforce those types of things is the Golden Rule. If something happens at daycare, or he calls someone a word we do not like, we ask him first if it's nice...how would he feel if someone called him that/did that to him...should we do/say that again...etc. Given his age (4), it's understandable, IMO, that we've had to have that conversation more than once for some things, but we try to be very consistent with it, and patient as well. Sometimes, I think the more we let our kids rattle us, the more enjoyment they get out of trying! At any rate, not sure I've offered you anything helpful here, but just wanted to comment that I can relate and wish you good luck in your 'stupid' battles. :)

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0 3

They only repeat them b/c people have strange reaction.We let thm know which are "bad" by reacting to those! Most of the time kids don't know what the word even means, but we give it away by saying its "bad". Sometimes a word is not bad, it just embarrases us- so we should stop ego-tripping and have a good laugh!Like with penis- its just another part of the body..."Eat shit" is not a happy though, after my on mentioned that many times, I offered he tried to taste poop himself, since he seems to have some fetish on the subject, and baby elephants even feed on it. He stopped. Why is "bum" banned at my daughter's school, I don't understand. It seems like a sweet word??Ass means donkey, simple.Bitch is a female canine. These simple explanations take away the mistery of the origin of the word, make them common. How bad are they actually?
Fuck is offencive coming from a child's mouth, since we see them as pure,angels. But I explained my daughter( who never heard it from me,but from my mechanic while struggling with the engine) that it meant the opposite of making love, so it was a negative, not a bad thing. As well as I stopped reacting when she'd say it. And asked others to do the same I haven't heard that word in my house for 2 years( since I explained it). I say best punishment for any kid is to outsmart it, be the smartA, becasue they are darn smart too, and only want challenge. And with little kids who say those words as accidental vocabulary addition, I just say it makes other people like them less. Who wants to kiss a potty mouth?

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45 6

I got to explain one to my 6 year old while we where working on rhyming. Sometimes he just starts putting different letters at the beginning of sounds to see if it makes a word. He was trying to rhyme something with "duck" and out it came. Then he laughed at my shocked expression. There was no punishment but I explained that it was a very bad word and that I never wanted to hear him say it again--but yes it did rhyme.

1 44

I use Tobasco sauce on both my 3 yr old and 4 yr old have only had to do it once for each of them and never heard the word again. While doing just say "That word is too hot for you" It worked for me I only had to use 1 drop and it doesn't hurt them and I think it is better than soap.

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0 0

lol my mother did the same but if we lied not for cursing cause we were not allowed to say bad words anyway. and I did the same to know the truth one time, I dont use tobasco so I was in trouble! then I remembered mustard de Dijon, it works well too !!! and yes we need to do it one time only and it doesnt hurt but they remember very well!

3 5

My young sons were swearing like two old men at sea.....unfortunately it is the language of the street...My teenagers, however definately hold back the tounge.....as they get upset when I have sworn in utter frustration....yes I know supermoms are never supposed to loose their cool....Anyway as embaressing as it is..when you little angel tells u F&*&*&*&$$ off......&*&&&#$##$ bleeeep bleep...I firmly get eye to eye and remind them that they are far too short to use adult words.....they have to wait until a certain height...taller than me...before they are allowed to say dirty stuff...otherwise..the threatening soap trick works( I would NEVER actually wash out their mouths!)...Just see that they are not just trying to get your attention, in a negative way.......

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