Swearing kids, a shitty thing to care too much about
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
My daughters both sometimes use swear words. It’s 99 per cent likely they do so because I admit that this is something I do from time to time. That they’d learn it from me is not weird. Many adults swear, and we most of the time to do consequence-free.
What may seem weird to some parents, grandparents, and everyone else, is that to us swearing isn’t a big deal.
Now, maybe it isn’t ideal that they know the word “fuck.” Maybe it isn’t the most convenient, but as parents, these aren’t words we worry about even if we’re supposed to.
We have been conditioned as parents to prioritize a hatred of swear words above all other words. They get bleeped out of television shows. We are given content warnings when they may appear on YouTube videos. We are given tools to protect our kids against all the most powerful swear words.
So I guess the only way to explain it is that we are just kind of choosing not to use those. Instead, we focus on asking them to not use words to belittle others instead of scolding them for using the F word.
While they may say “shit” when they stub their toe, they don’t use words like “lame” or “crazy” or “gay” to negatively describe things or people.
We want our kids to know words have power, and using words that marginalize others is worse than saying shit. Using words to make someone else feel bad about themselves is worse than saying fuck.
This goes beyond just telling them not to be bullies. This addresses the way many people still casually use “gay” to describe something they think is stupid or to use the R word to describe something they think is a bad decision. These words are used at the expense of others.
There are many people who have told me swearing shows a lack of respect. But really, I can’t get past the idea that these words don’t actually mean much. I grew up in a house where we didn’t swear. Not in front of each other at least. I get that. Swearing sounds yucky. It isn’t eloquent.
But fuck and shit are words that sound gross. They are words that make you cringe or feel anger. Those words don’t damage when they are said on their own. It is only when we add a noun to them that they become dangerous.
“You fucking (noun that can hurt)!”
Things like mislabeling one’s gender or using sesist, transphobic, ablesit language as a way to put down your buddies are dangerous. Always.
What’s the best case?
The way I see it, if we committed the same energy to correcting swear words as we did to correcting use of words like lame, we’d be in a good place.
Would it be great to have all of the above? To have kids who understood the hurt behind these words who also never swore?
But parents need to prioritize what they teach their kids. We can’t have it all. A swearing kid among a group of strangers just makes us red in the face. A kid who uses “lame” or “gay” hurts others.
And it’s not like they’re running around giving swearing lessons to friends. Although that does sound like a great business opportunity.
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