Ok, I’m going to level with you. I swear. A lot. And I do it in front of my kids.
And guess what? I’m not sorry for it.
Swearing is an age old form of expression, something that people have been doing since the dawn of time – it’s a means of self expression. There is a time and a place for swearing, but it happens and I defy anyone to tell me they have never cussed once in their lives. Swearing makes no difference to your parenting ability.
If you think about it, what do we know about children? We know that if you tell them not to do something they will test their boundaries, they will see what will happen if they ‘defy’ your instructions. It’s natural, and it’s something that all children should do. So, if we think about it logically, making swearing something forbidden – something that we always tell each other off for, or something that we try really hard not to do, then we make it that one thing that children really want to do. I can honesty say that I treat swearing as an everyday thing, it’s no big deal, but I impress upon the kids that it isn’t something that they should use. To give you an example, Reuben asked me the other day if he could say ‘shit’, so instead of being cross with him of telling him oooh no that is a forbidden word, I simply said ‘No Roo, you know that is a grown up word, and it doesn’t sound very nice when you say it. If you want to say something when you are cross or angry to help you get your frustrations out, what about ‘oh fiddlesticks’ or ‘oh poopyhead’.
To further my point a bit more, Roo turned to his Grandparents a few weekends ago and said, ‘Grandma, did you know my mummy says fucking?!’ To which Grandma reacted with surprise and shock. He then followed it up with, ‘You don’t say that do you Grandma?’ Now at this point, my mother-in-law being clever, turned to Reuben and said ‘yes, I do sometimes, but not very often. It’s something most grown ups do.’ At the point, Reuben realised it wasn’t going to be something that got a big reaction, so it wasn’t important to him. He didn’t feel that he had a boundary there to test, so he just doesn’t feel the need to say it.
I’m not suggesting that my child doesn’t say things, just like all children, but what I am saying is that the absence of a reaction to swearing is the same as the absence of shock or discomfort when asked about sex or death – it demystifies it and it becomes something that is just not acceptable for the child to do but not something that they want to do. Does that make sense? Children don’t automatically want to do EVERYTHING adults do or say. My boys don’t have an overwhelming desire to wash the laundry or do the dishes, but they sure get to see me doing it often enough. They might see if I will let them have a go, but they soon realise it’s not that much fun!
At the end of the day, swearing is a part of who I am. Teaching children that swearing is so wrong and horrendous is counterproductive no matter what your parenting style. Teaching them that it has a time and place is a far better route, in my humble opinion.
What are your thoughts on the issue? Do you swear? I’d love to know.
I swear all the time and I can’t help it to be honest.
Hubby always tells me to watch my language in front of the children. Yet when he doesn’t realise when he does it it’s okay and he’s coming up with some sort of excuse.
Everytime we swear our 5 year old daughter shouts “language!” We have told her the same that swear words are adult words , she tells us that they sound horrible and tells us off ?
Love this post Harriet!!! I am too a big ‘swearer’ and am constantly swearing around my kids. Despite numerous people telling me not too. I can’t help it, although my son does as well drop the odd F bomb here and there – he KNOWS not to say it at school, around other people etc.. I dunno, sometimes I think I’m a terrible parent for it!! Xxx