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Curse Words: What’s the Big #@$ing Deal?

I should probably begin here by making a minor confession…

I love to swear.

I’ve always had a love for language in general, and I find that a well-placed curse word can accomplish something intangible that you just can’t properly express with a PG-13 vocabulary.

However, I certainly don’t find the same amusement in curse words when I hear my kids using them!

Well, actually, I should probably come clean on this point as well…

Between you and me, I think it can be downright hilarious, and I know I can’t be alone.

C’mon. Admit it. Secretly, after the embarrassment has subsided and you were outside of the public eye, didn’t you just absolutely howl with laughter after your toddler dropped their first F-bomb?

More to the point, don’t you find it hysterical when someone else’s toddler drops an F-bomb? That way you get all of the giggles without any of the awkwardness!

After all, they’re not trying to offend anybody. They’re just kids trying to incorporate something they’ve overheard into their speech. The innocence of it is really what makes it so unbelievably funny. Fact is, I find it a whole lot more offensive when I hear a grown-up cursing behind me at Starbucks.

And isn’t it just that much funnier when they actually use it right?

I remember walking through the mall with my friend and her 3-year-old daughter a few years ago. Trying to be just like her Mommy, the girl was sporting a cute little purse with some change inside. When she opened it up to pay for a treat, all of her change spilled out onto the floor.

Loudly and distinctly, she blurted out the only appropriate phrase to use in the situation.

“Oh shit!”

It was so much more amusing for the fact that, well, what else does anybody really say in that scenario? However old she might have been, she nailed it.

Back when my oldest was just learning to talk, he was riding in the back while my husband and I were stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. After three changes of the light and no cars moving, my husband let go of a somewhat muffled, “What the f*** is going on up there?”

Ten minutes later, as we sat in another stagnant pool of traffic, my son leaned forward in his car seat and innocently inquired, “What the f*** is going on up there, Daddy?

Something tells me that the five minutes of hysterical, side-splitting laughter that ensued didn’t do much to convince him that he shouldn’t be using the F-word.

But the truth is, I just don’t think that swearing is a big deal. A short, simple explanation about “adult words” after you toddler fires off their first dirty word should be enough to let them know not to do it again, but making a scene and demanding to know where they heard it makes it seem so significant, which is just going to spur their curiosity.

Now, I’m not saying that you should be condoning this kind of talk out of your child. Far from it. But let’s be realistic; they’re going to do it eventually, and if you’re telling that it’s never okay and has no place in conversation, well, aren’t you being a little dishonest?

I say you’re better off telling them the truth. Those kinds of words are for grown-ups, and even grown-ups should only use them only when it’s appropriate. Using them in public, or using them too often, makes you sound dense, and other people around you won’t like it. (Yeah, you, guy behind me at Starbucks. I’m talking to you.)

A couple of important exceptions to this scenario I think I should point out… If your child swears at you, or refers to someone else with a nasty word, then I’m all in favor of firmly lowering the boom. But this is more about the intent of the words, rather than the words themselves.

The same goes doubly for ethnic slurs or similar ugly words specifically aimed at any particular group. Those aren’t grown-up words. They’re hateful, angry words that are meant to hurt people, and nobody should use them, ever.

A quick plug, if I may… if your child has started cursing at you, or using hateful language in general, you’ll find some great advice in my book, Kids: The Manual, that will help you identify the underlying cause of their lingual insubordination, and get them back to swearing in a nice, light-hearted manner.

What’s your take on the issue? Do you think it’s time we stopped with the Emily Post nonsense, or does adopting a laid-back attitude towards swearing lead to a lifetime of foul-mouth-ery?

And if you’ve got an amusing story about your child’s first foray into the four-letter arena, tell me about it below.

Because, like I say, I find that $#!t downright hilarious.

Kids: The Manual

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