Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Bad Words"


My childhood was full of "bad words." To my mother's dismay my older brother and I had pretty filthy mouths (this wasn't something we learned from her, but I can't say the same about our dad). Not many kids grow up spewing bad words, but at some point kids will repeat something inappropriate they heard. These inappropriate words can come from a classmate, their favorite sponge bob episode, or even a parent who was cut off on the freeway! Recently my two year was very proudly chanting "fuckity, fuck, fuck." Now, she was probably talking about some frog or fairy, but we're not 100% sure on that one.

Kids are bound to use profanity and though they may not fully know what their words convey, they often say these words because they're looking to understand them better or maybe for the shock value. My take on "bad words" is that they're not actually "bad" but often just inappropriate and unnecessary. We've taught our son that words are just words and we don't necessarily want to label them as "bad." Now this isn't to say that my kid stubs his toe and gets to yell "FUCK!" as long as it's followed up with, "mom that was totally appropriate." We've asked him to reserve them for when he's older and to observe how we try not to use profanity because it isn't always polite. 

Honestly, I don't want my kids running around sounding like sailors but I also don't want to be a hypocrite cursing behind their backs. Something about THAT just doesn't sit well with me. So to really stress how unnecessary profanity can be, this year, I've decided to cut back on my own use of profanity. This is a stretch for me, but I'm up for the challenge. My hope is that I will choose to use profanity as sparingly and appropriately as possible (because sometimes an F-BOMB just works). Then when it's all said and done and I'm raising a house full of young adults I hope they'll do the same. 

What's your take on profanity and how do you handle this issue with the kids in your life?


  1. I have to disagree. My take is that words have weight and bad words are not appropriate for children to say at all. We teach or kids that there are bad words and people say them, but they are mean and unnecessary. There is a big dictionary filled with appropriate words that can convey whatever it is they feel.

  2. Even though my kids are 8 and 4, they already know a slew of bad words. (I blame their father.) I don't remember learning bad words until about 5th grade. And I remember it very clearly--it was on the school bus. When my oldest was about 18 months, I heard him utter his first bad word. He was taunting the neighbor's dog who, at that time, was not really comfortable around children. So I asked him to stop. He turned to me and said, "but mom, I was just f*cking with him." I had to ask him about 3 times to repeat himself before it sunk in. And then I had to leave the room because I was laughing so hard. I must admit that I did feel a sense of pride that he was using the term correctly, though. (He was pretty advanced with language at that age.) Since then, I haven't heard him say a single one. Though he is very quick to point them out when he hears them on a song or he hears my husband say something. So my kids know that they shouldn't say bad words and, at least around me, they don't. For now, I'm okay with that. BUt I think I tend to agree with Irene. Words are rarely ever fundamentally "bad" in a vaccuum. It all depends on context and intent. And, of course, my kids will need to be aware of how their words will be interpreted by others and how it might reflect poorly on them. So I think my strategy will be to teach them that, like anything else, they need to act appropriately at all times and consider their audience. I would be naive to think i could raise kids who never use "bad" words. --JVS

    1. JVS- I remember the dog incident! I remember hearing my first bad word too. Probably around the same time as you but mine was while playing hopscotch with Marybell. I know that as adults if my kids choose to talk like sailors then that's their decision but as children in my house it won't be okay for them to use bad words.

    2. Love this story JVS! Thanks for sharing. I also completely agree that like with everything I want my kids to consider their audience and how words AND actions make people feel.


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