When Your Kids Overhear 4-Letter Words

How should Perry Hall parents protect their kids from hearing and using profanity?

Here’s what recently happened in our house.

I was walking across the room with an overstuffed laundry basket. I smacked into the corner of the table, “Yee-ouch!” I then proceeded to step on a pile Matchbox cars with my bare feet. I cursed. Then I hopped across the floor, grabbing my foot and rubbing my leg. 

I said it. I admit it. And I’m not proud of it.

Much to my chagrin, my 2-year-old, who rarely listens to me, heard it too. And then he started saying some version of it while dropping blocks on the floor. It was my job to make him to forget it. After all, we aren’t an episode of Modern Family.

My household isn’t big on profanity, as neither my husband nor I use those words too often. It’s even a running joke with my father, who will say to me, a grown woman: “Are you allowed to say that?” I’m also notorious for gently reminding people not to use foul language in my house, as the kids might hear it. I even cringe when we’re watching a PG rated  and a character curses.

But what's the best way to convince a 2-year-old that you don’t want them to say something. If you have a young child, you probably realize that just about everything you ask them not to do, they do . “Don’t you eat those green beans, they are Mommy’s green beans.” Turn around and the green beans are gone. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize reverse psychology isn’t going to work with cursing.

So I decided to ignore it.

Lucky for me, that seems to have worked. But certainly I will have bigger issues in the future, curbing this behavior as my boys get older and are more exposed to the media. In fact, reports show an increasing amount of profanity on network television shows in the recent years. Why are we suddenly more tolerant of bad language?

Kids are so impressionable, and I feel embarrassed that I cursed in front of my son. While cursing is one means of expressing emotion, it’s not the only way, and certainly not the best way.

KidsHealth.com has ideas for talking to children about the use of swear words and finding better ways to express their feelings. And ThePowerToChange.com has some excellent suggestions for helping teenagers clean up their language.

I have vowed to clean up my potty mouth and protect my kids from hearing bad language as much as I can. But how do you feel about people using swear words around your children? Do you tell your children which words are off-limits? Tell us in the comments.

Tim February 01, 2012 at 02:46 PM
ignoring it would work best, I'd think. Especially if the little one is below age 4, as they don't really comprehend what they are saying. Our son didn't break out an obscenity until maybe a couple months ago, when he broke out a "what the ----?" at the end of a grocery shopping trip. After I stopped laughing into my shirt at this relevation, we explained to him that it was a very naughty word, and he would be penalized if he said it again. However, to soften the 'persecution complex' he might have felt, we told him if he ever heard US using that word, to catch us and we'd give him a reward for our trangression. Seems to have worked so far, haven't heard but the rare 'damn it' since.
BRAD February 01, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Your laundry basket inccident sounds like a comedy show...lol


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