Swearing and how to deal with that sh*t
I remember it like it was yesterday.
My sweet little 8-year-old chickpea was bustling about in the pantry helping me put away the groceries: there was a rustle, there was a thunk, and then there was a “Dammit!”
Aside from suppressing a giggle because it sounded so ridiculous, I also felt sad. It was like a piece of innocence was lost with that brief, frustrated utterance. Sigh . . .
If you haven’t been there yet as a parent, chances are it’s coming. Whether out of frustration, to show off for others or as a mimicked oft-heard phrase that comes off as some sort of non sequitur, curse words eventually rear their ugly heads at one point or another in our kids’ lives. And we, as parents, need to be ready for it.
I was not.
Fortunately, she was around the corner from me and didn’t catch a look of mild shock followed by, presumably, a furrowed brow while I tried to figure out my next step.
I chose to ignore it. As I’ve learned over the years, pretending you didn’t hear things it usually a pretty good way to go – be it swearing, whining, asking for candy, complaining about chores and other under-the-breath mutterings . . . We’re all happier when Mom fakes not hearing things.
Turns out, the experts agree that ignoring or not reacting is a good approach when it comes to swearsies. (Hey, score one for me!) Following are some other general guidelines of things you should and shouldn’t do if and/or when your kid starts spewing profanities or at least begins testing the cuss-word waters.
What NOT to do when your kid swears
Overreact. Want to reinforce a behavior? Making a scene is the first step. Whether you burst out laughing, get red in the face with embarrassment or bellow in outrage, if you tweak on the word, chances are your kids will tweak on your response. I mean, what a fun way to get attention and get under your skin! Play it cool. Ain’t no thing . . .
Confront right away. Obviously, there is something wrong and your kid is upset. Does this sound like a good time to have a discussion about the power of language? Deal with the issue causing the words and then deal with the actual words later. Let’s let calmer heads prevail before we get into a whole dialogue, shall we?
What you should do to curb the cursing
Start watching your own language more closely. Nobody likes an f-ing hypocrite. If you don’t want your kids swearing, check your own use of expletives.
Put things into context. Depending on the age of the child, either ignore for young’uns or explain for those that will get it. If you say why they shouldn’t use certain words in a simple, calm manner, they’ll probably drop it. Explain that using a word out of anger or pain is different than using it against someone. Neither should be encouraged, but one is definitely worse than the other.
Offer alternatives to swearing. It can actually be fun to come up with new words or inside family jokes to express frustration or convey excitement, and no one else will be offended. Don’t believe me? Try it. It’s a toe-cracking, penguin-flipping good time, you fart-box!
Ah, what the hell heck . . .
The fact of the matter is, a lot of people swear, and kids are some of the best at it. Don’t beat yourself up if yours is one of them.
As long as you do your best to let your child know that many people find certain words unacceptable and there’s a time and place for everything, chances are he or she will grow up to be a good person and get a decent job.
If not, screw it. You did what you could for the bastards.