Ironically (as recently I’ve seen a flurry of mom-directed newspaper blogs/articles about this very topic) my toddler has started to swear.
I suppose it was inevitable, given that if I so much as casually rest a foot on the next step up on an escalator while riding it, E does that too. As I swear like a sailor, her language was bound to become more colorful as she picked up on it.
And here is where I’m going to lose mom points left and right….I don’t actually care or think it’s a big deal.
The issue of children using “adult” language strikes to the heart of some of my biggest parenting philosophies…
1-The more you forbid it, the more attractive it is. For anyone who is holding out hope that preshush won’t know the “bad” words…most kids know them all by kindergarten and use them “secretly” (“secretly” FAIL, at least on the playground) and by sixth grade at times have a better vocabulary (or at least more up to do date) than I do.
2-The notion that children are pure and we should keep them that way (Denial as a parenting tactic). As an atheist, this notion of “purity” smacks of Christianity to me, and all the time I logged on my knees asking for forgiveness for coveting a JEM doll. I think that many issues are ignored, or not addressed until far too late because of this notion of purity…the irony of my teaching a sex ed class to a bunch of 7th graders with a pregnant teen in the room was not lost on me, for example. I don’t think there’s much value in telling a child to pretend they don’t know a word they know (whether because I said it, it was on a movie, they heard a taxi driver scream it, or at a few years older; because a friend told them), or in teaching them that it’s a “bad” word (we’ll get to that in a second). Denial as a parenting tactic has never really worked well, in my experiences as a teacher observing parent/child interactions.
3. The notion of “Bad” words. Words only have the power we choose to give them. To a child, the idea that “shit” is a VERY VERY VERY VERY bad word only gives it power and makes it more attractive. Now, there are words that are not okay in our home- racial/ethnic/religious/homophobic slurs. But those words are off limits because they damage a person’s sense of self and lessen a person’s self worth. I don’t think screaming “FUCK” when you drop something heavy your foot damages anyone or anything. Maybe it’s an arbitrary line, but there it is.
The two things that do give me pause are that it would be inappropriate in school and that some other parents may not want E around their kid because of it. The former isn’t really something I care about at this juncture as she’s not yet 2, and I won’t send her to school here anyway. The socialization thing does give me pause, but I’m not sure how much.
I think with regards to language, our goal will be to teach her that they are situationally appropriate words. At home, sure. Alone with us, no big. Around other kids, just as we need to teach her to respect views that are different from hers (we are raising her atheist, but want to instill respect for people who choose to believe differently than we do), we will have to work on the idea that other people don’t think it’s okay for her to use certain words until she’s older.
To some extent, I think after that, it’s let the chips fall where they may.
But my kid saying fuck (echoing Ravi)? I have way bigger fish to fry than “fuck.”