Kids and Cussing
Summary: If you don’t like the way your child cusses then stop cussing yourself.
They are certain conversations you’ll just never have with another adult.
Daughter: “Do cats like milk?”
Father: “Yes they do, but you shouldn’t give them too much or they might get diarrhea.
Daughter: “I want them to get diarrhea. I like poop a lot.”
This was a little conversation I had with my daughter last week as we were getting into the car after eating lunch at a Thai food restaurant. I have no idea what inspired her to ask the question in the first place. Kids just say some crazy shit from time to time.
You and your partner will be your child’s first role models in life. From the time she’s born she’ll study you intensely. She’s sizing you up, looking for clues as to what is expected of her, pushing boundaries to see how you react and basically testing everything on a daily basis.
So it’s no surprise that she’ll pick up your language patterns fairly quickly. Including your more colorful phrases.
One day, I was sitting on the floor with my daughter playing with blocks. She was about three years old at the time. About two feet behind me was the living room window. She was on the floor facing me. All of a sudden she stops what she’s doing, drops her blocks, and while looking intently towards the window over my shoulder says “Fuckin’ A, what the hell is that?” She then gets up, walks past me towards the window and once again says “Fuckin’ A, what the hell is that?” This time with even greater emphasis as if I had not heard her the first time.
I look over my shoulder and there is a little fly on the window.
Now I had mixed feelings about this. One, it was clear that I needed to clean up my potty mouth. Unless my daughter had a secret life hanging out with ruffians at the loading docks, I can pretty much guarantee that she picked up the phrase from me. Secondly, I was also a bit proud. Not because she used such foul language, but that she used it so correctly. Her delivery was perfect. She even crinkled up her nose and cocked her head forward at just the right moment. It was clear that she understood that “fuckin’ A” can be an expression of surprise that sets up a question. She also understood that “what the hell is that?” is the actual question. For a child that usually mangles her sentences and tenses, it was a breath of fresh air to hear such a precise and focused thought.
Nonetheless, unless I wanted my daughter to start talking like a thug, it was time to watch my language a bit better. My partner cleaned up her language a bit as well. As the months went by she cursed less and less. It also helped that we didn’t have a “bad language” policy in our home. Forbidding certain words, making a big deal about them, or worse, punishing their use is the surest way to drive a child towards profanity. After all, don’t we all want to indulge in the forbidden and rebel a little bit?
So if your child is cussing like a sailor it’s time to clean up your own act. Then it’s time to get proactive.
The next time your precious gift from God says “fuck” or “shit” because she dropped a cookie on the ground, focus not on the words but on the meaning behind the words. For instance you could say “it sounds like you are very disappointed and frustrated that you dropped your cookie, would you like to talk about it?” She’ll probably follow up with something like “it’s broken and dirty and that makes me mad. I want a new one.”
What you’re doing with this technique is validating her feelings and then asking her to explore the source of those feelings. Over time your child will become more articulate and in control of her feelings and emotions. This naturally leads to less cussing. After all, excessive cussing is just lazy and sloppy thinking. And no one wants to feel that way if they have an option.
That’s it for now.
File Under: Kids Say Some Crazy Shit – Kids and Cussing and What You Can Do About It – Controlling a Child’s Cussing – Profanity and Children – Funny Things Kids Say – Kids and Cursing – Child is Cursing