I was recently criticized for having a sign in my house with "adult language" out where my kids, and anyone else's could see it and read it. I was told I needed to take it down, if for no other reason than to censor it for someone else's kids, since I clearly don't have the decency to censor it for my own kids. I'm paraphrasing, so you'll have to humor me. That was the gist of the conversation.
I did not take the sign down. I love this sign. I think it's adorable and hilarious and I will keep it up probably until I die. It's true that my kids don't read right now (but, man, wouldn't it be impressive if my 3 or 1 year old could?) so they don't notice the sign or know what it says, but that doesn't change anything for me. It will still be hanging there when they both learn to read, and it may end up being a conversation/teaching moment one day.
My boys are growing up in a house where mommy and daddy swear. Not all the time, and we don't use the "super bad words" in front of them (aka f*ck), but I have been known to drop a "shit" or "dammit" when something goes wrong, or someone gets hurt. As a result, Connor has learned their contextual meanings and dropped a "dammit" a couple of times. He used it appropriately in the sentence, but I explained that that is a grown up word, and he should say "darn it" or "dang it" instead. I've also made more of an effort to your those phrases instead myself, at least when the boys are around.
My parents never swore when we were kids. "Shut up" and "butt" were considered bad words in our house. Now that we're adults, my dad will swear around us, so I imagine it's safe to assume he did back in the day, he was just better about hiding it. The first time I heard a swear word was in middle school. I didn't know what the word meant, but I knew it was bad and they were bad for saying it. It literally took me months before I realized that they were just words, synonyms for things like "crap," "ow," "jerk," and "mean girl" and it would take me a few more months before I got the balls to say one of these forbidden words out loud. Oh, man, once I did? It was f*cking liberating as shit. I truly believe that opened the floodgates to my self-proclaimed rebellion and personal revolution.
We will raise our boys to understand that and to know when it's appropriate to swear, and when it's not. When you're under the age of 10, it's pretty safe to say that no swear word is appropriate for your use.
I would rather my boys grow up hearing swear words, learning their meanings and appropriate uses than for them to grow up in a bubble for a decade or so and have that bubble burst the first time some little jerk calls them an "asshat" on the playground during recess. I want them to know that, while it might sound upsetting, and "asshat" is actually a pretty ridiculous insult. What does it even really mean? Do you wear a butt on your head like a hat? Does it mean you're so ignorant that you have your head shoved up your own ass to the point that you are wearing it like a hat? Is it just mean to be funny and not actually insulting? I don't want them to hear it and be in shock and unable to respond. I'd rather them just think "Huh, well if that's the best insult you can come up with, I'm done. Suck it, douchebag" and move on with their lives. *Please notice I said I want them to think that, not say it. I'm not raising assholes here.*
Swearing isn't the problem. How you use language and how you address it when your child does the same, that's what matters. We are guiding figures, not totalitarian dictators.
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Writer and Contributor for the Motherhood Community