In every society, there are certain words that are considered impolite, crude, or downright offensive. These words---swear words---have a variety of highly nuanced functions. Swearing can be used to convey negative emotion, to disparage something or someone, to add emphasis to another word, and even to signal familiarity or friendship with another person. Because swear words can be used in so many dramatically different ways, and because the same word used in different situations could be funny or highly offensive, children, who lack the mental capacity to understand such social subtleties, are often told that swear words are simply "bad" and that they should never say them.
But as every parent knows, kids are masters of mimicry---especially of their parents. If they see you do something or hear you say something, you can almost guarantee that they will start doing and saying similar things. If you truly don't want your kids to curse, you have to give up the habit too---or at least censor yourself while you're around them.
This parenting conundrum led one Reddit user in the popular subreddit r/daddit (a sub that deals with all things related to being a father) to ask "What's the big deal?" with regards to cursing, inviting other users to share their personal thoughts and practices.
Almost everyone who commented admitted to being less than perfect role models for their children. One person said, "Yeeeah. We've failed so spectacularly at this one, all we can do is laugh. I foresee many phone calls home in my daughter's future." Uh-oh!
Another user shared the way she and her husband deal with swearing:
"Our family guideline is to follow the rules for where you are. Husband and I are pretty foul mouthed and relaxed so at home the kids can kinda say whatever. No being disrespectful to us or each other, but if someone stubs a toe, drops a glass, or whatever and needs to drop a fuck bomb, it is what it is (also, super funny. Yeah, I said it). That said, the kids know their friends' houses, school, grandparents' house (one set of grandparents really disapproves, the others don't care) have different rules, and they're expected to behave accordingly. So far, 4 kids (9, 7, 5, 2) and 1 on the way, and we've never had a real problem. Figure we'll get the call eventually, but for now, I just get lectured by the 9 year old when I accidentally cussed at field day..."
Many users were quick to point out that the words themselves are not inherently bad. Instead of teaching their children never to swear, they choose to emphasize respectful behavior:
"I think swearing and general behavioral type issues are best handled by teaching respect in all situations.
Like, are swear words really inherently bad? Do I really care if my child says the word 'fuck,' or would I just care because I was not allowed to say that when I was younger? I think the answer is that I don't care what words my child uses as much I care about the respect he has for others when he uses them. Obviously, it's much harder to be respectful of other's opinions and beliefs when you're constantly swearing, so in that sense, swearing may be bad; but that doesn't mean swearing itself is bad, it means he/she has to understand how the things they do affect others, and others' perception of themselves.
Another example---they would need to know that just because I don't care that they swear doesn't mean they can go into a job interview and swear.
So that's how I plan on tackling that issue. I think I won't let him swear when he's young because he's not capable of responsibly using the language when he's younger, and as he gets older and proves to me he's responsible with how he presents himself, then he can do whatever he wants with his language at home. And for the record, I swear quite a bit because I don't think words themselves have any inherent evil in them, but I also know when not to swear, and I knew those things growing up, so I didn't make a fool of myself."
Another user shared how his son has started to correct him and his friends:
"It took a while for one of us to slip, but I was the first one to curse in front of our son. We talked about some words being bad words, although at first it was just 'because reasons.' He is six now, and we have had talks about feelings and how some words can mean different things at different times or to different people. We are lucky, and he seems to have picked it all up pretty well.
He also calls out my friends and I during our game nights with 'that's a bad word dude.' He gets it and it has honestly helped everyone else clean up their language. It helps that he says it adorably instead of sarcastically."
Sometimes, the ways kids use swear words are just too funny to get mad about:
"My 1.5 year old says, 'Oh shit.' Only once has she ever used the term appropriately, when she was going down a slide and went a little faster than she expected. Otherwise, she seems to use it as a term of general interest. She sees something she wants to look at or play with, she picks it up and says, "Oh shit." It's adorable, but I'm just waiting for the daycare to say something to us about it."
However, some people don't see the humor in kids cursing.
"I'll be the resident prude. Neither my wife nor I curse, ever. So we will expect the same from our kids. We don't do this out of any religious motivation, but instead a belief that because it is offensive to others. There is always a less offensive way to express yourself.
It generally reflects poorly on a person who curses in public or their workplace, etc. We choose not to curse and will expect the same out of our children."
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!