Kids are sponges. We know that. We’ve known that for a long time. When I say we, I’m referring to the general population. We know that whatever we say is going to be repeated back to us, or someone else, at the most inopportune moment.
The embarrassing, or out right humiliating moments, can come in times such as kids repeating a cute term of endearment to the wrong person. Such as the lady in front of you in the check out. “Hi Chunky Butt!” Cute for a kid in big poofy cloth diapers, not so much for a grown woman who has no idea who you are.
I’m sure everyone, or at least most everyone, has experienced the world of swearing with their kids. Everyone has a different approach from not changing a word of how they normally speak, even if it’s a swear word coming out after every other word, to making sure the kids never hear those words, ever. There are techniques in between too, such as creating new fun words to replace the swear words. A family favorite was “crikey” in place of “crap.”
Our basic approach was that we weren’t planning on trying to get our kids to say swear words, but we weren’t going to change our language in front of them either. Neither my husband or I swear a lot, unless he’s coming back from a longer than normal military order and he’s been cooped up with a bunch of soldiers who swear regularly. For me, its stress. If I’m under just the right amount of pressure, my filter snaps and those words often flow freely. Not necessarily all the time, but they pop out more frequently than normal. I’m human, what can I say.
A few years ago, that stress hit me hard when my husband was deployed. I didn’t have a lot of help and I was actually the one hanging around with friends who swore a lot more than I normally did. I won’t go into the details of what brought on the stress, but let’s just say a major lifestyle change, paired with deployment and being a full time stay at home mom to two little ones age three and under was a lot more pressure than I bargained for.
My filter broke.
Sadly I was using language that I wasn’t all too proud of, but at the time, I didn’t care. I had more important things on my mind.
One day while getting the kids packed up to leave the house, which was always a rushed ordeal for some reason, I found Charlie rummaging around in her bedroom. As I passed by her door I asked her what she was doing. “Looking for my *bleep*ing ballerina skirt.”
“Um, what did you say again sweetie?”
Charlie looked up at me with a look of cautious confusion. She slowly repeated her words to me. Exactly. Word for word. Nope, I hadn’t misunderstood. My beautiful, innocent three year old properly threw down the F-bomb in casual conversation.
I wasn’t mad. How could I be. She didn’t really know what the word was. At some point in the past week or so she’d heard me say it. She was testing out new vocabulary, something she’s always been good at.
I called her into my office and had her sit on my lap for a little face to face small talk. I explained to her that there are some words she shouldn’t use. They are adult words. I’m always pretty honest with her, and going through deployment we spent a lot of time talking about emotions. I let her know that I was sad and upset because I missed Daddy and that I was saying some things I probably shouldn’t have. We talked about how we both would try harder not to use those words, but that she still might hear Mommy, Daddy or another adult use them.
After our conversation, she hugged me, grabbed her ballerina skirt, and I haven’t heard that word come out of her mouth again. At other points I’ve heard her say some of the other swear words as she tested their uses and we’ve had a similar, shorter conversation.
So, I guess our method is conversation. We explain a lot of things so our filter mainly consists of watching what we say if we don’t want to explain it. When our kids ask questions, we answer them to the best of our ability and to a level we think is appropriate for their understanding. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but, kids can ask some pretty dang hard questions sometimes.
How do you handle swearing with your kids? Tell me in the comments.