What would you do if your normally G rated child suddenly let loose with the mother of all curse words? Yup. You guessed it. My sweet, darling princess just dropped the f-bomb on us. I hear when most kids first try out cursing they start with an occasional hell or shit. Not my princess. Nope. Too mundane and beneath her. She goes straight for the mother of all curse words.
As parents, we try not to let any expletives slip in front of the kids. Mostly because it's easier to ask them not to say them if they aren't hearing them all the time. So, although I am not perfect, in general, if my kids are hearing foul language, it's more likely that they heard it from another kid on the playground or from walking into the room during an inappropriate movie. Shrug. It happens. When I was a child of approximately 5, I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the very R rated “Terminator” and survived. Generally, I do try to protect their innocence if possible, but even network television has gotten pretty risque in this day and age. No matter how hard you try, kids are going to hear and see things that you'd rather they didn't. I try not to beat myself up about it.
So, what was my reaction when my 9 year old dashed in and told me that my 6 year old had dropped her little bomb? Well, of course, I was initially a little surprised. I mean... Where did she hear that word of all the words? I'm pretty confident it wasn't from my husband or I either one. On the other hand, we live in a military town, and most of the people I know here are not particularly careful with their language. It was bound to be added to her vocabulary eventually. So, after asking her to tell me what she said, then where she heard it, and not getting an answer, I decided to take the intellectual approach.
You know what kids love more than anything else? Doing the thing that is forbidden. True story. So, it follows that if I go off the deep end about foul language, which, let's face it, is kind of a right of passage at some point in the journey from child to adult, what do you think is going to seem all the more appealing? Instead, I asked my daughter why she thought I didn't want her to say those types of words. Her response was probably typical. She answered, “Because it's a bad word?” I had to smile as she'd walked neatly into my trap. “No,” I said, “There's no such thing a good words and bad words. Words are just words. The problem is that while there's no such thing as bad words, there are hurtful words, there are unkind words, and there are rude words.” I had her attention now, so I continued, “The word you said is considered really rude by most people. If you want people to think you're rude, than that word is one that is pretty sure to make them think that. The other issue is that words like that? Those words are words that people say when they are frustrated or trying to be mean , usually because they can't think of something more intelligent to say. When you use those words, what you're telling everyone around you is that you aren't smart enough to think of something clever to say instead. Do you want to present yourself as someone who isn't smart enough to say anything besides rude or unkind words?” Of course, her response was negative. No one wants to be perceived as less than intelligent. I went on to explain that I wasn't angry, but she has a choice about how she wants to present herself. I, of course, would prefer that she obey our house rules and use kind words. For now, she would, too. I'm sure this is the first of many discussions about language.
So, now I ask again, how would you have handled this situation? Do you censor your language in front of your kids? Do you think assigning the name “bad words” gives the behavior power? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.