What do you do when your kid uses bad language?

Published On  August 4, 2016 By

A few days ago, my daughter, 8, came home and asked me what the word “fuck” meant. Here we go, I thought. I remember being 10 years old when I first learnt that word. And then it was too shrouded in all kinds of moral values for me to understand that it was just a word that expressed frustration, disappointment, anger, what have you. But when the word comes out of the innocent mouth of my eight-year old, I am uncomfortable.

I’ll admit, I am a curser myself. I like to think I never curse in front of the kids, but when I think about it, I don’t know why exactly. They’re going to pick up these words when they grow a little older anyway. I thought about it longer and realised that it comes down to my sense of pride in how “good” my kids are when I tell them not to use bad language. Let me break that down. Kid uses bad language. Other kids notice it and take it back home. Other kids tell their parents that such and such kid used and they learnt it from her. Other parents tell their kids, “Don’t play with her. I don’t like the language she uses.” The original user of the word feels left out and her parents are affected. Eventually, it is “What will other people think of my parenting if my child uses bad language” that is the problem.

There’s really no justification for a young child using profanity. But science also tells you that cursing and swearing when you are frustrated is actually healthy for you (look here if you don’t believe me http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/reasons-cursing-is-good-for-the-soul/879294/). So if science says expressing frustration in bad language is good for adults, then why can’t it be good for kids? Where exactly is the problem? Why do we expect our kids to not be frustrated or angry, and if they are, why do we expect them to express it in polite, socially acceptable norms? BECAUSE IT REFLECTS BADLY ON YOUR PARENTING. And that really is the answer to everything. It is so that YOU don’t feel you’re a failure that you teach your kids to be socially acceptable. Because you are vain.

So am I advocating using bad language around kids or allowing kids to use bad language? Not exactly. Consider this. Ever notice how every time you tell your kid not to do something, that is exactly what they do? That’s exactly how this bad language thing is going to play out, by the way. Prohibit your kid from using profanity and you can be sure he or she will, in order to test boundaries, or be cool, or sound unaffected. How often I have seen kids who use profanity all the time. Stupid, dog, idiot are common among little kids. As they get older, the words get worse. I don’t need to list them out here. Those of you who have older kids know what it’s like. But if you offer them the choice that they can use it but you will be disappointed, or others will feel hurt, then you have handed the ball over to them. You’re telling them, “You decide what you want to do with this.” What also helps is giving them an alternative to using the words to express their feelings. My kids used to hear me say “crap”. They didn’t know what it meant and thought I was saying “crab”. That word is still in use. My honest understanding of kids is that the less hue and cry you make about something, the less it’s going to stick. If you’re going to fall in a faint and go break 21 coconuts to Ganesha every time your kid comes home with a swear word, you can be sure the kid is going to come home a lot more often. Your coconut bills are going to be very high.

Bottomline? I honestly think it’s okay to let your kids make the choice to curse. It will make you uncomfortable and you need to communicate that to your child. Offer them better alternatives is all I have to say. Did I just hear you say, “Oh Crab!”?