“That’s a BOWL OF SUGAR!” my son exclaimed when I told him he had to go to bed early as a consequence of his actions.
“Move your assess people!” my four-year-old chimed in, taking this opportunity to cuss. Since big brother was using those words, she thought she could too. ‘Assess’ also happens to be the only curse word she knows, so far. (UPDATE: She now also says, “What the hell?!”)
How on earth did I get one kid to use curse-word substitutes, and the other to cuss like a sailor? The third kid can’t talk yet, so there’s still hope.
One might assume it’s the parents. For the most part, my husband and I try not to cuss at all. An occasional “shit” or “damn” will escape his lips. I try to only curse when I know my kids are out of earshot. Knowing that about us, it does make perfect sense we’d have a sailor and a saint.
My husband and I also have wildly different views on how, and when, to use colorful language. He is in the ‘don’t use those words at all’ camp. Just don’t use them, then you won’t have to worry about creating that habit. You won’t have to worry about slipping up at school and getting in trouble. Sound advice, nothing wrong with that viewpoint.
I really don’t have much of a problem with curse words being used, but I told my son a different story.
Imagine this: A mother and her young son, approximately early elementary school age, are sitting on an uncomfortable green plastic bench. While the seating isn’t ideal, the view is. They are overlooking a pretty, little pond. The water slightly ripples as the breeze dances across. The sun is peeking in and out behind clouds, providing occasional relief from the heat.
A family of ducks and a gaggle of geese are inching closer. The young boy tosses carefully torn pieces of old bread out to them. Once he has their interest piqued, he begins to throw the treat a little less far. The game continues, the birds coming closer and closer. Soon, they are so close, the young boy could reach out and touch them. He doesn’t dare, though. He doesn’t want to scare them away.
The bread is all used up, but the wild fowl remain. The boy asks if they have anything else to give. The mother searches through her purse for any remnants of a snack. She spies a small package of crackers. She presents the new bird food to her son. He begins dangling his feet as he waits for his mother to open the package.
Fast as a flash of lightning, the peaceful scene is interrupted. One of the geese stretches out its long neck and wings. It dips its head and begins to hiss, charging. The young boy jumps up onto the bench and yells,
“WHAT THE FUCK?!”
His mother, too stunned to move, stares at her innocent young man. He suddenly looks much older. The young boy jumps down and chases off the birds. He returns to his seat and raises a cracker to his mouth.
“Excuse me? What the what?” the mother asks, eyebrows raised.
“I said ‘what the duck?!’. Why, what did you think I said?” he asked, looking innocent, but the flush in his cheeks, and at the top of his ears, is telling.
“Mmmmm hmmmmm,” she gives him a skeptical eye.
The two finish enjoying their afternoon by the pond, eating crackers, and laughing at silly stories. Then they head home, never to speak of that moment again.
Just kidding. I could NOT let a slip-up like that get brushed under the rug. I told my son the following:
“It’s okay to cuss. If you cuss at school, you will likely get in trouble. If you cuss at home, we’ll probably giggle about it. BUT I would prefer if you picked a different word. If you feel there is absolutely no other word to use that accurately conveys how you’re feeling, then feel free to use that curse word.”
We also have assigned each cuss word a gamer level. So ‘ass’ and ‘shit’ are level one words. ‘Fuck’ is at level ten. Hopefully, you get the idea.
Was that the right thing to have said to him? I don’t know. It’s what I believe though. Words are powerful, so we need to choose them carefully. And the minute something becomes off-limits, it’s tempting. Why ban words they’ll hear and likely use, whether you want them to or not? Why not teach them how to use them as appropriately as possible?
What about you? What has your stance been on cussing in your home, in public, at school? How have you taught your kids about curse words? Or are they still too young to comprehend? In which case, what are you thinking of doing for them in the future to help shape their language?