by Kalí Rourke
Back to school – what wonderful memories!
Our older daughter was riding the school bus on a regular basis in her elementary school years and one afternoon she came home, cocked her curly blonde head to the side, and asked winsomely, “Mommy, what are all of the bad words?”
My first thought was, “Yeah, right…like I am going to give you a punch list of profanity? I don’t think so!”
I asked her why she needed to know. She said, “Well, the boys on the bus are saying a lot of words I think are bad, but I don’t know for sure, and I don’t know what makes a bad word.”
She had an excellent point. We had not actually explained profanity or swearing to our children yet.
I explained that “No, I would not give her a list of bad words.”
She might not ever hear some of them and I might miss some she would. Instead, her Dad and I promised that if she heard a word she thought was bad, she could come to us and ask us if it was bad without getting in trouble for saying it. We would tell her if it was and why. Profanity changes over time and from culture to culture, and sometimes you just have to trust your gut or the way the person is saying it to tell you if it is inappropriate. This was very important with sexual orientation, racial, or gender slurs and she would hear many of those as she got older. I explained how hurtful they can be and that she should never use them, even if she was really mad at someone.
If your child does not come to you asking about bad words but just starts using them, address the behavior as soon as you hear it. Feel free to borrow that great line, “Profanity is what you say when you can't think of something intelligent.”
Profanity sets up an image of your child that they may not enjoy having, even if they like the temporary shock value with their friends. It can get them in trouble at school, too. If there is someone they truly need to put in their place, there is always a better way to do it. As they grow, and particularly when they are in business situations, it is an advantage not to be in the habit of using profanity. It can slip out at the most inopportune times!
Another fond memory on this topic: Our younger daughter was having great difficulty with a boy on the bus who kept swearing and bugging her. One day she looked down her nose at him and said in a voice that rang through the entire bus,” You are just a Homo Sapien.” He was appalled and looked around at the kids who were giggling at him and yelled, “I am not, and I’m telling my mom you called me a Homo Sapien!” #vocabularywin
Kalí Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kalí’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome. A longer version of this post originally appeared in Kalí's Musings.