How far to go before I let my child swear!

Roshni’s post prompts me to ponder..

Now before I start jotting down my thoughts further I need to mention that I have very low tolerance on anyone using swear words. No I have no issues about people mouthing them behind my back. Even if I do I cant do much about them because quite obviously I cannot control the words that I cant hear,right? But if someone uses them in front of me I either put my displeasure vehemently across or simply walk away from there.

Why, I even had R take back the ‘F’ word that he had uttered once barely few days into our marriage. A few eunuchs had come over to our house to ask for some gifts as a custom and R felt so agitated at their authoritative tones that he just let that word slip out in exasperation! And it was the first time I had heard someone use that word in front of me. He realized his slip of tongue and understood that I was not one to tolerate such words. I made it clear he was free to use his vocabulary in whichever manner he wanted in my absence, but he had to be extremely careful about not using swear words in my presence.

Since then, till today he has never used the F word or such strong swear words in my presence.

And ever since Namnam came into our lives we both have been extra careful and conscious that we dont utter any wrong words in front of her.

This is where Roshni’s post makes me think. Now letting her older child use swear words with friends and in front of his parents, albeit with strict warning of not using them elsewhere seems to have worked well fr her family. So much so that when the circumstance arose, her older son has even been wise enough to make his younger brother understand about the dangers of using swear words.

What I want to know is how well this strategy will work for my child. The strategy of telling her that it is ok to use swear words with friends but not with others I mean. I wonder if it will work even considering my strong reservation about using such words at home or outside. The strongest swear words that Namnam has come to hear are ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’ and ‘what the hell’.

In fact I have been guilty of calling her ‘stupid’ once. She made a big howling issue of it making me take that word back and apologize to her. Frankly I felt awfully miserable myself at having lost my cool that day.

Now I know for a fact that she is growing up, growing up real fast and with each passing day and year, she is going to be introduced to more strong words, sometimes by her friends, sometimes by the shows that she watches, or at times by the books she reads. And not all times is it necessary that I will be there to police her, stop her from picking them up. In which case I wonder what is the way to go.

I agree words like,’ what the hell’ or what the heck are not so strong as to be made such a big deal out of. But what if your child picks up a more dangerous ‘F’ word or Ass.H or such words? Would you still say its ok to use them? I get really perturbed when I hear small children mouthing such dynamites so liberally these days. Really I do. Sometimes I wonder if the kids even understand the meaning of those words before mouthing them. Why words, I get taken aback by some of their actions even. I have seen kids as small as 7 or 8 year old showing finger as a mark of dissent! I mean do they even know what that means? πŸ™„

And this is where I feel concerned as a parent. How do I address it if my child, someday picks it up and starts using them? Do I admonish her sternly and forbid her from using those words, in which case she might get more rebellious and drawn towards using them even more? Or, do I tell her the literal meaning of those words and then let her decide whether she wants to swear or no?

How far do I go really?

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22 thoughts on “How far to go before I let my child swear!

  1. Di, I believe telling them the literal meaning (of course with some twists and turns) to the best possible extent one can help a lot. We have done that with Anu. This was Mr. Right’s idea though. I was not game for it. But now, I have realized that it works much better than anything else.

    You’re a super mom and I’m sure Namnam is growing up in the right direction. Cheers! πŸ™‚

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    1. You’re right Rekha, it’s better to be frank and open with your children and encourage them to be the same with you than be uptight and rigid about issues

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  2. Ah! I dont use swear words at all until I am really really frustated..but the spouse uses a lot of it..though both of us are VERY careful not to use them in front of R..

    I loved Roshni’s strategy..BUT I dont know if that would ever work for R though :)But honestly, I dont care if someone uses a swear word as long as its not said in front of a little child or someone really old…and honestly Deeps,I hear kids say all kinds of swear words in Bombay now a days..so I am not sure if any strategy works at all!

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    1. Oh you have to see and hear the kids- locals and expats alike- growing up here mouthing all those ‘colorful’ words so liberally here. Scares me sometimes when I wonder at the exposure that Namnam is bound to get. But then that’s where timely advice and open communication as vernom says, will come in handy πŸ™‚

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  3. Communicating as a friend is the key here, forbidding will not work as influences of the external word esp. TV, internet, friends etc are significant. She may share your perspective about your reservations or may differ on some aspects too. If you make her realize the impact such words can have on people and how deep it can affect them, well that’s a start. In times where swears are used as style statements to add spice to conversations and emphasize a point, you’ll have to teach her where to draw the line.

    @vernom1

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    1. Absolutely! Communicating is certainly the key here. And I am hoping that she will come up to me with whatever things or words she learns from outside so I can guide and advice her better.

      Thank you for your advice Vernom πŸ™‚

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  4. Deeps, You had me nodding away, because this is exactly how I feel too about ‘colourful’ language.

    It’s a difficult call, isn’t it? It also worries me, how much of sanction should I give? I mean, we can’t control everything, but I do think that it is important that they understand why it’s not appropriate. Which doesn’t mean explaining the meanings of the words, of course, but rather explaining that it is the kind of language that people use when they run out of good words, perhaps? So make it a less ‘cool’ thing, rather than an ‘in’ thing? I don’t know. I would try and explain why its not good language. And hope that she understands why some things are not the right things to do..

    I think I had written a post on children using bad language, and probably not even realizing that it is inappropriate. I think, as parents, that is the bare minimum we need to do. They need to know its not right, and I think that the tone and the manner in which we communicate is what will make the difference. They might still experiment, but hopefully, understand why we don’t use that language. Also, that reminds me. The other day, in the bus , back from school, a bunch of late teens got in. They were having some conversation and one of them(in the back of the bus), used the F word. Another friend of his, who was sitting in the front, turns back and says, ‘Mate, you need to watch your language, there are children in the bus’. And the other boy, apologized. I think that is what I am about. They need to understand that some sort of behaviour is not right. God, I’ve written a post here, haven’t I?

    Off to read, Roshni’s post. I seem to have missed it.

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    1. Precisely Smits! Explaining to our kids what is right and what is not is the least we can do as parents. I wonder too when i hear little kids swear if they even understand the meaning of the words they say. I was talking to this friend of mine earlier in the day when she called after reading my post, and we even wondered the very need to use swear words in the first place. I mean why ever is there a need, if you get what i am saying?

      Yes we need to xplain why it is inappropriate to use such words. I may probably even explain to Namnam the meaning if ever she comes up to me with a swear word and also give her the message that not all things considered ‘cool’ to say may be the right things to say πŸ™‚

      The incident in the school bus you spoke about is such a heartening one. Not only the kid who pointed out but also the kids who realized the inappropriateness of swear words need to be appreciated. This is what is important to be seen in our kids today- the awareness of what is right and what is not πŸ™‚

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  5. It’s a difficult thing to explain to children isn’t it? I think it has to do with the very concept of ‘good language’ and ‘bad language’ being abstract. You can’t show them this is good and this is bad. But I think it’s better to be straight with them and tell them the meaning of those words. My husband and especially my FIL used the F word and many other colourful words when I had just got married. It was normal for them I suppose but my ears turned red! The sternest word my father ever used was ‘stupid’ or ‘donkey’ perhaps. I too told them both clearly that I won’t tolerate such language. My husband has stopped using bad words completely and I believe my FIL behaves at least in front of me πŸ™‚ But yes, the kids will hear these words, we can’t protect them all the time. We need to tell them what they mean and why saying them is wrong.

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    1. Absolutely! It has to do with how well you explain what is appropriate and what is not to your kids. Of course we cannot protect them, keep an eye on them all the time, what we can do is help them differentiate between right and wrong.

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  6. My elder daughter used the word sh*t a couple of years back, and I immediately called her out on it. I told her it’s a bad word which is best avoided. She was puzzled and said all her friends use this word fairly frequently whenever they’re upset about something. I explained that her friends’ language wasn’t my business but hers was. She then asked what it meant, I told her and she went EWW, why do people want to use such a word. Since then I’ve never had to correct her again, thank goodness!

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    1. Wow, SH, love the way how you explained it to your elder one, and how well she understood also. This is the point I have tried to make in my post πŸ™‚

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  7. Very good points, Deeps, and something which at least I pondered about! I guess the Husband’s reasoning was that whether you ‘allow’ them to or not, if they wish, they will use swear words with their friends and in situations where you are not there to control. Plus, the forbidden fruit tactic!
    Big A now knows more colorful language, but he does not use it in front of us either. I think he knows it will be too much for me to bear to hear him say the F word! And, he has till date not used any swear word in front of other elders or small kids!

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    1. I thought about this a little more regarding your case, and what struck me is what you said about yourself. If you really are a person who hates swearing (and my husband and I are not like that; we have done enough swearing to last us a lifetime!) than why should you compromise? Don’t get swayed by our stand; do what you feel is right and comfortable. It seems like you would much rather prefer to have stricter rules than us, and I think that’s okay, as long as you explain yourself to your child, just like you did to your husband-to-be!

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      1. Yes Roshni, I would prefer to put a strong message across to my daughter about the dangers of swearing and how damaging it can be. But I also dont want to be too strict and rigid about handling this with her. Like you said, as long as I am able to rationale things with her, make her understand why certain things are inappropriate to say and do, I think it should be fine

        Thanks for your advice, Roshni πŸ™‚

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  8. My policy was simple. ‘I don’t use them. I don’t expect you to use them either.’
    It has worked for me. Not once have I heard them use swear words. But when they reached teenage I knew they could be using such words with friends. But they never ever did in front of adults or us parents, even at their angriest. Now of course, they are adults in their own rights and it is up to them. But somehow I know that they will never use them in front of us parents.

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  9. I grew up with the rule that one never curses in front of the parents. NEVER.
    Mum knows that I do curse in the company of friends, but never in front of her or any other family member.
    Thing about kids is that they will learn about these words anyway from the outside world. As long as you keep a vigil that family is not the ones they learn from, and know from time to time which type of words they should not use.. Things work out

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    1. I grew up with the same kind of strict rule. And probably that explains my aversion to swear words too. I fully agree that kids can learn about these words from outside. I cannot have control over what words my daughter comes across and how she chooses to treat them. But yes, like you rightly said that the key is to keep vigil and advice her from time to time.

      Thank you Hrishikesh πŸ™‚

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  10. You know Deeps. I use swear words but moderate ones. Hard core ones are really difficult for me to digest though I don’t mind them in movies or other adult content. My husband uses them quite often. And with both my sons, we both avoid. But, no matter what we do, the exposure from media, songs, news, newspapers, and their own peers is a big influence. My elder one is 11 now. I know he knows a lot of cuss words. He plays football and cricket with older boys, They openly use them. And the good part is he tells us. I have told him that it is distasteful to use them in front of parents and elders. And he is sticking by that rule. But I have the wisdom to know that he will use them when all boys use them. I cannot and will not control him that way. My only problem is that my younger son is picking up a few from them. And I am trying to actively coach him never to mouth those at home. As they go into their teens, they will feel more influenced by their peers than by their parents. And our views may begin to seem outdated or even controlling to them. I am trying to strike a balance with practicality.

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    1. Absolutely agree with you on having no control over what your child hears or picks up from outside. And this is where I am confused about how much to let her get influenced by them. I know in due course she will get exposed to cuss words by her friends and peers and may even be tempted to use them. The tricky part for me as a parent will be to know when to alert her of that and make her understand the dangers of the such words. Like you, I need to strike a balance with practicality πŸ™‚

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  11. Oof, another difficult challenge of parenting!

    I am not too comfortable with someone using swear words unnecessarily in my presence. I get very agitated. If it is someone I know very closely, I even ask them not to use such words if they are not required. I don’t use them personally. I really don’t know what I would do if my child uses swear words… Oh, well, sometimes I think I am going to be too mild a parent! πŸ™‚

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