Should you let your children swear?

A person's hand with the middle finger raised silhouetted against the sky and ocean

There has been a link to a book called Go the F*ck To Sleep circulating among my mummy friends recently. Sample verse:

The cats nestle close to their kittens now.

The lambs have laid down with the sheep.

You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear

Please go the f*ck to sleep.

Then a couple of days ago, there was an article over at Offbeat Mama about whether it’s okay to swear in front of your children… and also whether it’s okay for your children to swear in front of you.

There were, as with most parenting debates, people with strong views at each end of the spectrum, as well a few folk who seemed to have really over-thought the whole thing. One woman didn’t allow any swearing from her kids until the age of twelve, but then allowed her children to add one new curse word to their vocabulary each year between the ages 12 and 18 – starting with crap, moving onto hell and so on… I presume that on the joyous day when they each turned 18, her wee darlings received a card saying ‘Happy Birthday C*nt!’

However, the fairly sensible majority view seemed to be that it was okay for parents to let slip the occasional mild swear in front of a toddler, and okay for an older child to let slip the occasional curse in front of you…  but that it had to be made clear it was only okay at home, and not in front of grandparents or teachers.

This is something we’ve been dealing with at home recently, because DorkySon is at an age where he picks up absolutely everything we say. And while DorkyDad isn’t too bad, I have a complete potty mouth that I’m trying very hard to rein in.

We’re also well aware that he is subject to influences beyond us, especially now that he has started nursery. I don’t remember my own parents swearing in front of me as a young child. However, I still picked up some choice words from other acquaintances, and on the first day of primary school, I was that charming kid who told my teacher to ‘f*ck off’. It wouldn’t have gone down well in any primary school, but in the highly Presbyterian, Sabbath-observing Western Isles, it meant my card was marked as a troublemaker from day one.

For now, we are just thrilled that our son loves language and words as much as he does. He devours books, likes listening to poetry and songs, and is happy to pass hours playing word games. His favourite thing to do is lie on the bed while DorkyDad or I recite the alphabet, and he comes up with a word for each letter. His toddler alphabet is still a work in progress – he still points to his eyes at ‘I’, and it took us a while to work out that the strange retching noise he makes when we hit ‘V’ is because it’s the first letter of vomit… But he is starting to make the connection between letters, sounds, words, and their meanings, and it’s fascinating to observe.

If I asked him for a word beginning with ‘C’ and he said ‘crap’, I can’t say I’d be overjoyed, but nor would it be worth losing sleep over, because in the right place and at the right time, I believe those words have an important role to play.  I just need to make sure he knows that his first day of school does not fit that bill.


Photo by Jack B on Unsplash

3 responses

  1. Pingback: DorkyMum’s Blog Carnival | dorkymum

  2. I’ll never forget muttering under my breath after a guy pulled out of a side road and almost smashed into my car. Quick as a flash my angelic-looking two-year-old son said: “Who’s a fucking arsehole mummy?”
    He may wear glasses, but Brodie has perfect hearing, obviously!
    Didn’t make a big deal of it, and never repeated my error. He’s now 5 and I’ve never heard him say those words since.
    Phew! Dodged a bullet there (I hope) 😉

  3. Pingback: Now I Know My A, B, Curses… | Love All Blogs

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