Happy Kids, Inc: I Swore.....So What?
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Swore.....So What?

By Meg Hodson

What exactly are we teaching our children when we tell them not to swear? This is a topic that seems to come up almost daily as I raise my kids, as well as a popular talking point among the blogging community I am in....and with parents in general.  Whether it's reviewing movies, deciding which t.v. shows to watch, interaction with other children, words they hear at school, or even what they read, swearing is a prevalent issue I deal with as a Mom.

I think a common moniker we add to swearing is that they are "bad words".  I disagree. While I may not want to inject slang, colorful words for "poop" or "jerk" into my everyday conversations, even the swear versions of these words aren't technically bad.  I am no expert on linguistics, so I can't say where along the line of our evolving language did someone say that "sh#*t" was a swear word and "poop" was not. While we as a culture shun upon using the former, it's not referring to anything inherently awful. 

I prefer the word impolite.  I also like the word proper.  I am a grammar nut (hey, I'm a writer, right?) Akin to wanting my children to avoid words like "ain't", it's in a similar vein that I teach them to avoid using swear words in the name of politeness, as well as good grammar.  

Of course, it's not just about good grammar.  Select words have a stigma attached to them. Like it or not, our society has attached a negative, crass meaning to certain words.  Are we simply going through the motions and doing what is expected of a good parent by telling our children to not use those words? While I am not about to open the flood gates and let them speak freely, I think we need to ease up, ever so slightly, on the stigma we attach to swearing.  You aren't a bad person if you swear.  Sometimes I let a swear word slide. So what? Am I less of a parent if I whisper an inappropriate word under my breath? Are kids marred for life because they heard a few choice words in a movie?

Try as we might, our children will be exposed to a lot of words (token swear ones or not) that will cause them to pause and ask us questions.  For me, the key is to be aware and be involved. We can't possibly control every negative word our kids will be exposed to; what we can control and monitor is our involvement when that does occur. The reality is many words that aren't swear words might even be harder to discuss with your kids:  prostitution, drugs, abortion, divorce, dieting, overweight, fat, skinny, drunk, addicted, cancer, pornography.  Doesn't sh#*t pale in comparison to some of these?

In my experience, children learn and behave better with organized guidelines, not strict rules. Some of you may disagree, that is fine. For me, it's a healthy balance of teaching and reality. As I finish this post, I can't help but think of one of my favorite scenes from Father of the Bride.  Steve Martin is struggling with the reality that his daughter is getting married.  He is humbled when her future father-in-law says a very important thing (watch at the 2:50 mark): "Sooner or later, you have to let your kids go and hope you brought them up right."

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