I’ll say it: I let my kids swear at home. Hearing their child say a swear word would be horrifying for some parents, but it’s just not a big deal to me. I love words, and I am not offended by the odd curse word, even out of one of my kids.
One afternoon, during what was supposed to be a wholesome, delightful outing with my darling cherubs, my oldest child saw a sign on a Dunkin’ Donuts shop window that said, “So. Pumpkin. Good.”
He chuckled and said, “Ha. Instead of so f*ckin’ good, it says so pumpkin good.”
Trying to hide my utter amusement, I asked him why in the world he would say that word out loud to his mother, and his answer was, “I don’t know! My brain said, ‘Don’t say it. Don’t say it,’ but my mouth was like, ‘Go for it.’”
I knew exactly what he meant. My mouth has ignored my brain routinely for all 37 years of my life so far. This apple didn’t fall far from my tree.
I’m sure some people think he should have gotten in trouble; I just reminded him not to make a habit of saying too many grownup words for a few more years, and to make sure when he does say them, he’s only at home or in the car with me. We both laughed at how absurd it was for my usually obedient, innocent boy to drop a well-placed F-bomb. He left the conversation without any shame, which was important to me.
Honestly, it was an astute observation. He got the intended joke, and I appreciate that. I’m okay with him getting a good chuckle out of a silly marketing campaign (as long as he lets himself grow up a bit before dropping this particular bomb again.)
This was my first encounter with that word from one of my kids’ mouths, but I’ve heard the odd “damn it” or s-word out of my kids before. If an occasional light swear word falls out of one of my kids’ mouths in the safety and privacy of our own home or car, honestly? I’m cool with it.
My kids hear swear words pretty much daily. They hear their parents curse sometimes, and other adults around them use curse words, too. TV and movies are full of swear words, and so are the songs we hear on the radio, the podcasts I enjoy and the audio books I play while I clean or do my makeup.
In our house, swear words are just words. We don’t make them a big, forbidden deal. I don’t want my kids to hear me say “damn it!” and get a sinking feeling that their mother is doing something wrong or bad or immoral. I don’t want to assign that kind of importance to something that is so trivial in the grand scheme of things.
We still have rules, and they know it. My kids know that swear words are mostly considered grownup words by society at large, and that they should usually try to think of other words to use that are a little less jarring and not quite as strong. I’ve explained that once you create a habit of using swears in conversation, they’re likely to slip out in an inappropriate place — like school — and I won’t be able to shield them from the consequences.
My husband and I don’t ever use swear words to name call, and our kids know that’s an absolute no-go. We don’t even use regular words to insult or name-call in this house. The ultimate goal is for all of our words to one another to be kind, true and productive, and cursing isn’t really part of that.
I’ve spent a lot of parenting energy helping my kids navigate the complicated world of social interactions. We are constantly discussing the difference between things that are private and things that are okay to discuss. For example, my boys know that they can announce their bodily functions in their own room and laugh their heads off, but they shouldn’t do the same thing in the library at school. Kids understand how to make decisions based on the situation, so I choose to give mine a little credit when it comes to choosing the right words.
I feel like there’s a good shot that my approach will take the power and mystery out of swearing and foster an environment of moderation. Either that, or it will land me in the principal’s office when one of my kids forgets their manners and uses their spicy French at school. I guess time will tell.
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