5 Reasons Maybe You SHOULD Give a Hoot About Swearing in Front of Your Kids

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5 Reasons Maybe You Shold Give a Hoot About Swearing in Front of Your kids - columbia sc moms blog

I just read a really great article at Scary Mommy by Kate Levkoff of Nursing and Cursing. The article is about the 5 reasons the author doesn’t mind cursing in front of her kids.

It’s funny and relatable, and Kate makes five excellent points about why she and her husband long ago chucked any efforts at not cursing in front of her kids. While I found myself agreeing with four out of five of her points, I also started coming up with my own counterpoints – 5 reasons maybe you SHOULD give a hoot about swearing in front of your kids.

This happened to be a really timely article, because just last week my 8-year-old son said to me, “Mommy, I like going to *Jack’s house. His parents never, ever use curse words.”

Woah.

I have been known to have a potty mouth myself. I try really hard to reign it in while my children are in earshot. I like cursing for emphasis, to really drive home the point; unlike my husband, who drops the worst of the worst words like it’s essential to his health. I have tried and tried to get him to refrain from cursing so much. Mostly because I don’t like it. Even though there are those moments that the only phrase that I believe fits a situation is what the ???? It’s all about strategic placement.

I strongly agree with Kate that as adults, we make adult decisions, and our children need to know what is acceptable and not acceptable for them. I drink wine in front of my kids, and they know it’s for adults only. And sometimes I swear in front of them.

I remember growing up, my dad and his friends would occasionally curse. They called it “army talk.” And it was for adults only. I also remember a horrific beating and mouth washing at the age of six for calling my neighbor a word that is also the name of a donkey. I didn’t curse again until I was in high school. I’ve always thought that response was way, way over the the edge, but it left a lasting impression.

So, I find myself in an interesting position. While I am inclined to agree with Kate that as an adult, if I want to curse it’s my responsibility for making sure my kids know it’s not appropriate for them, however, my strong conservative upbringing still makes me cringe a bit at the idea of just letting the full arsenal of naughty words fly.

As a #losethecape advocate, I strongly believe that each parental unit should make their own decisions based on what is right for their family. Kate’s family does it their way, I’ll do it mine. At least she gives warning that when your kids come over, they will  be exposed to colorful language.

But, I also think it’s important to look at every issue from at least two sides, bearing in mind that this is not something that necessarily has a right or wrong approach. So here are five reasons maybe you SHOULD give a hoot about swearing in front of your kids.

5 Reasons Maybe You SHOULD Give a Hoot About Swearing in Front of Your Kids - Columbia SC Moms Blog

1. We set the example of right and wrong

Obviously, if you like cursing, your view is that as a responsible adult there is no issue with using strong language. But the problem is, our kids mimic us. Whether we tell them it’s naughty or not. While we all have our own personal stance on whether or not cursing is acceptable, it’s still not a societal norm. If our kids hear an expression, they are going to repeat it.

You know what one of our neighbor’s kids said the other day? They were playing video games, and he told my son to “teabag” the guy he was fighting.

I almost jumped out of my skin.

They have no idea what that means (I hope!) but someone said it, and they are now repeating it. I didn’t even know what that meant until I was in my thirties! Lord help me if I get a note home from my son’s teacher that he’s been using that expression at school. We squashed that terminology ASAP.

And then there was the time that my 3-year-old came home from daycare and proudly stated, “Mommy, we do not say ‘what the hell!’ at school.” I know exactly where he learned that! I try hard not to teach them “Do as I say, not as I do.” Difficult, I know.

2. It’s off-putting

While many people curse regularly, there are still a lot of people that just don’t want to hear it or read it. Just like anything else in life, it’s our responsibility to make the decisions about what we want and don’t want our kids exposed to, while doing our best to regulate their environment. But we take away that option from other parents when our kids go out and repeat what they are hearing at home.

And they do.

Then you have 4-year-olds saying things like, “What the bleep is wrong with you?” at play dates. It’s funny, til it’s not.

3. It’s disrespectful

Katie says she uses cursing to really drive home a point with her children. When they are acting up, she knows if she tells them to “stop acting like a little sh*t” she believes that they then know she means business. However, that can be hurtful and disrespectful. It just is. Plain and simple. To call your child a “little sh*t” or tell them to “shut the bleep up” (or anything along those lines) is not only rude, it’s very hurtful.

I’ve seen the way my children look at their dad when he calls them curse words. Words hurt, especially words that have been branded as off limits or ugly. This point was really driven home when my child told me he likes to be at his friend’s house, where the mom and dad don’t use foul language.

Talk about being schooled by a child!

I am trying my best to teach kids compassion and respect and kindness. That’s hard to do when I’m calling them ugly names. True, sometimes it’s really difficult to get their attention. But, I’m pretty sure I can come up with something else.

4. It teaches self-restraint

Yes, we are adults, and they are kids. I don’t really take issue with swearing in front of your kids — occasionally. I do it, so it would be extremely hypocritical of me to say you should never, ever curse in front of your kids.

But, refraining actually provides a pretty good teaching point.

They know what the naughty words are. They know when you slip up.  This gives an opportunity to say “I’m not perfect either,” and show them that even though you want to swear, you choose not to do so.  Kind of like not screaming at them when we get angry (which is FAR more difficult for me than not cursing.)

5. You are the adult

That’s right. You get to make choices as a grown up, but, part of being a grown up and being a parent is teaching our little people about what is appropriate and what’s not.

Now granted, the word “appropriate” in this sense is completely subjective to the community norms and to the moral and value structures. In some places, (I’m thinking New Jersey!) swearing is a lot less of a taboo than it is, say, down in the South.

This is the only point that Kate makes that I did not agree with. She says because she is an adult, she can say whatever she wants without getting grounded.

Okay, so she might not be grounded, but I don’t believe that gives me the right to just say whatever I want. And that’s about all I have to say about that.

What about you? Where do you stand on the issue of swearing in front of your kids? Is it even an issue to you?

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Alexa Bigwarfe is a freelance writer and author. Alexa co-authored the book "Lose the Cape: Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive" (losethecape.com) published in Spring 2015. Her #losethecape philosophy as a mom is based on the idea that we are all doing the best that we can as moms, and should be encouraged in motherhood. She also edited and published a book for grieving mothers entitled "Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother" and has been published in several anthologies, including "The Mother of All Meltdowns," and "The HerStories Project," and "Mothering Through the Darkness." She launched her writing with the the blog No Holding Back, (http://katbiggie.com) as an outlet for her grief after the loss of one of her twin daughters to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). She can be followed on Facebook (http://facebook.com/NoHoldingBack1212) and Twitter (@katbiggie).

10 COMMENTS

  1. This is just so well written, Alexa. I totally agree with everything you shared here! While I try as best I can to refrain from swearing, I’ve gotten increasingly more ‘liberal’ with it as my kids have grown older. They hate it when I swear. Usually it’s out of anger, of course- so there’s that. Your points encourage me to try harder, because I believe we are setting a powerful example for our children. We are responsible for our actions and our words!

    THANK YOU for this excellent piece on this topic. LOVED it.

    • Sorry, I meant to reply directly to you! Here’s what I originally replied! Thanks Chris. Trust me, I know it’s tough. At least once a day I’d like to tell my kids to stop being such a-holes, but, having been badly scarred myself by my own mother’s thoughtless and hurtful words, I know what damage it can do.

  2. Thanks Chris. Trust me, I know it’s tough. At least once a day I’d like to tell my kids to stop being such a-holes, but, having been badly scarred myself by my own mother’s thoughtless and hurtful words, I know what damage it can do.

  3. I curse in front of my kids, and they have copied me. Sometimes it’s funny, when they do it in my presence and it’s so on-point..and occasionally it’s humiliating, when they do it in public, whether it’s on-point or not. I’m working on it.

    But, I’m confused about the advice to stop calling your kids nasty names, like a**h****. Who would do this? Cursing in front of my kids feels lazy enough, I can’t imagine cursing AT them. I’d have to agree, if it’s gotten that far, the parent-child relationship is hurt.

    • Hi Jess – I can see why that one would be confusing, because I forgot to refer back to the original post. We are updating the article now to add this to the beginning of #3: Katie says she uses cursing to really drive home a point with her children. When they are acting up, she knows if she tells them to “stop acting like a little shit” she believes that they then know she means business. However, that can be hurtful and disrespectful.

      So, #3 is a complete response to that. Like you, I think that is a lousy way to handle your children. 🙂

  4. I know I’m way behind on this post, but THANK YOU for this post! I’ve always been careful about what I say around my son but at 18 months old hes started saying ” oh s***”, Daddy and I quickly reigned in on the language he is hearing everyday. I know he doesn’t understand what he said , he’s just mimicking what he’s heard.

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