Kids and Cussing 101
I'm a cusser. Not the best thing for a mom to be, but hey, we all have our vices. I worked as pretty much the only female in a male dominated shop, company, and industry for 3 years; I've heard it all, participated in just about every dirty, nasty conversation there is, and, quite honestly, had to hold my own as the only female. So, I learned how to have a quick tongue (figuratively speaking), blast back insults at the men, and developed a thick skin when it came to raunchy conversation. And let me tell you, now that I've left that life behind, I've had a few people tell me they miss my ability to stand up and put people in their place.
Now that I'm back to being a stay at home mom, the cussing is a flaw more than an asset, as it was in my old life. My 8 year old knows what cuss words are, and knows not to repeat them. My 6 year old, however, will repeat just about anything for a reaction- at home, at school, on the phone with family... yeah, that was a fun one to explain. And, while it's sometimes hilarious when a kids cusses (you can't tell me it isn't, depending on how they use a word, the context, and if it was even used correctly), the hardest thing to do as a parent is to not burst out laughing when you are trying to get the 6 year old into the bath, saying 'How about you just go get into the bath?' and out of nowhere he says, 'Yeah, how about I just go brush my balls?' True story. I couldn't make that up if I wanted to. (That little saying apparently came from daycare, by the way, not me. His sister ratted him out on that one.)
So, all of this had led me to think about what exactly constitutes cussing in our house, and how to deal with it. We are traditionalists; the common 4 letter cuss words are cuss words in our house, and those are the bad ones. We, as adults, limit those as much as possible (I'm referring to the 's' word and the 'f' word.) The 'b' word, 'a' word, 'd' word, and 'h' word are less offensive, but we still try our best not to use them in the house, especially with the kids around. I grew a thick skin at the shop about the 'c' word (rhymes with 'hunt'), but, now that's back on the banned list, along with other words that are usually used to describe body parts- the 'd' word (rhymes with 'sick'), the 'p' word (another word for a cat), and the 't' word (rhymes with 'sits'). These, of course, are the mainstream words most people think about.
In our house, we have another list of cuss words that are not to be used. These include 'hate' (unless of course it's in a non-demeaning manner like 'I hate brussel sprouts'), 'can't', 'stupid', 'retarded', 'dumb', 'jerk', 'idiot', and many times 'no', again, depending on how it is used. My kids added 'boobs' to the list inadvertently, because whenever that word is used, we get big-eyed stares and mouths dropped open. So, no more talking about mommy's wish for a boob job with the kids in a one mile radius. Anyway, these words are what we call 'potty mouth' words, especially when used like 'I hate you', 'I'm stupid, I can't do this', 'You're a big jerk'... you get the picture. I don't like my kids talking that way, so, if they do use these words in a negative way, they get in trouble for it.
So, how to deal with cussing and kids? Here's my philosophy on it:
- 1. Set an Example. I'm not big on the 'do as I say, not as I do' philosophy, so, if you don't want your kids to cuss, then don't cuss. If it does slip every now and then, and the kids catch it, I do have a whole speech set out: "Mommy is sorry that she said that word around you. She shouldn't have, it's a bad word. Now, Mommy is an adult, though, and sometimes adults use words like that. They are not kid words, though, so I should never hear you say that. But, Mommy should definitely not have used that word around you, and I am sorry." I feel this speech shows my kids I respect them, admits I was wrong, but still shows the kids that I'm the adult in the situation. It seems to work for us, so far.
- 2. Clearly Define Your Family's Personal Set of Cuss Words. There's no need to go posting a list on the fridge or anything, but do what I did above; know what you will accept and won't accept from yourself and your kids. People with older children may allow cussing around them, may even allow the older kids to say a few words here and there. But, if it's a word that is acceptable in your house but may not be acceptable other places, make sure your kids know it's a home-use word only. And, define your list of non-cuss, cuss words, like 'stupid', 'idiot', etc. These help kids with their self esteem, help them to properly vent their emotions, without offending other people.
- 3. For the Love of All That is Good In this World, Try Not to Laugh. Way easier said than done when your 6 year old tells your 8 year old that the video game they are playing is 'bulls*it' and throws the controller. Yep, Daddy's the culprit on that life lesson right there. Laughing only encourages the behavior, especially if the kids are young. So, muster up every ounce of your adultness, reprimand your kid, then go hide in the closet and laugh your ass off.
- 4. Have a Game Plan for When it Happens. What happens if you are trying to cut down your cussing around the kids and it slips? Do you apologize like I do? Put money in a swear jar that goes toward a family outing? Having a game plan set ahead of time for your slippages help you fix them as soon as they occur. And, what happens when your kids slip? Time out? Do they have to put some allowance money in the swear jar? Mouth washed out with soap? It's gonna happen eventually (even if you don't utter a cuss word in your house- TV, school, friends- so many outside influences), so why not figure out how you are going to deal with it ahead of time?
- 5. Be Consistent. Just like with every other parenting (or pet training, for that matter) technique, consistency is the key. If you slip up, apologize, or put money in the swear jar, or whatever your game plan is, and do it every time. If your kids say something they shouldn't, make sure you handle it every time they do it. There's nothing worse than training yourself or your kids to steer clear of cussing, and have one slip up go unnoticed, because, on either end, it snowballs. If it's the kids pressing their luck, they'll notice that you didn't pay attention to the fact they just said the 'a' word. What else can they get away with? On your end, one slippage could lead to that word becoming an everyday vocabulary word. Not good.
- 6. Formulate a Coping Strategy. Are you going to completely erase cuss words from your vocabulary, or use substitutes? We have employed both of these in our household. 'Fudge Brownies', 'Darn it', 'Son of a Biscuit Eater' and 'Holy Crapoly Batman' are used, as well as just using letters; 'Eff that hurt', 'Ess, I forgot to put the bread in the oven', and 'My 'a' hurts'. See what works for you and your family.
- 7. Be a Parent. One of my largest pet peeves nowadays is those parents that blame everything on TV, movies, and music. "Oh, little Johnny would have never smoked crack, robbed that liquor store, stolen that gun, and tried to shoot that boy if it wasn't for rap music." Puh-lease. Music, movies and TV don't make kids do anything. Parenting does. I started watching horror movies at age 7. Did I grow up to be a serial killer? No. Why? Because my parents raised me right. Did I listen to rap music, watch R rated movies, and see violence on TV? Yep, sure did. Hell, I grew up in the Wile E. Coyote trying to blow up Road Runner, or Ren and Stimpy with their fart jokes, era. And do we all remember Beavis and Butthead? Good wholesome family entertainment there, right? Wrong. But, did any of that affect my morals, ethics, or the responsibilities that my parents instilled in me from a young age? Nope, sure didn't. So, be a part of your kids' lives. Yes, monitor their TV, movies and music (I wouldn't advise letting a 12 year old subscribe to a porn site), because that's part of being a good parent. But, mold them into who you want them to be as an adult, for when it's time for them to make their own decisions, and don't place blame elsewhere.
So, now you have the Tatted Mom way of dealing with cussing and kids. It's definitely a work in progress with me, something that takes a conscious effort on my part because of the way I lived my life for 3 years (tattoo artists have the worst mouths ever). I do remain calm, try like hell to keep the laughter at bay, and try my best to set an example for my kids. Every now and then I'm baffled, though. I mean, what are you supposed to do when your 6 year old tells your 8 year old, "I hate your freaking cuss word." What does that even mean, and where do I start with that? We'll tackle the 'hate' part, and the 'freaking' part, but what did he mean by 'cuss word'? He didn't even know, so how am I? Yes, I locked myself in the closet and laughed my ass off after that one. The only thing to do, really.....
~ Tatted Mom
The Inklings of Life
More from parenting