• Mon, Mar 10 - 5:05 pm ET

Don’t Swear Around Your Kids Unless You Want To Be Publicly Judged And Feel LIke A Horrible Parent

swearingMy child has a potty mouth. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s something I am having a hard time figuring out how to deal with, actually. I always thought I was careful about what I said around my son, as did his father. We were totally wrong.

The first time my child swore, I thought it was cute. He used it in the right context, no one else was around – his father and I got a good laugh at it. Our dining room table collapsed and right on cue, he said, Oh shit! Oh, shit is kind of my go-to exclamation of choice. I honestly never realized I said it around him, but obviously I did because he clearly didn’t get it from Pocoyo or any of the characters on Yo Gabba Gabba. I vowed to stop saying it in the house and after I did, I really realized how often it almost rolls off my tongue. Not good.

His father has an affinity for the F-word. He obviously doesn’t use it when he’s addressing me or the kids – it most often comes out in his downtime at night, when he’s playing online video games. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the whole “gamer” lifestyle, but you basically go online and play these games with other people. I’m assuming it’s mostly a bunch of men because if he has the “chat” feature enabled on his favorite game Call of Duty, it’s like a testosterone fest of insults. He almost always has his headphones on and he settles down to play the game long after our son goes down to bed. Our son does have an affinity for staying up, but his father plays his games in a room that I always assumed wasn’t in earshot. Don’t assume anything, I’ve learned. I took my child to the doctor a few weeks ago and while we were in the waiting room, he dropped one of his toys and yelled,

FUCK me! 

Horrified. I was horrified, but also recognized the expression as being a favorite of his father’s while he’s gaming. Ugh.

Miraculously, “shit” never resurfaced. We didn’t respond when it happened because we didn’t want to give it too much attention and I made a real effort to stop saying it around the house. It seems to have worked. The “fuck” thing seems to have been an anomaly as I haven’t heard it since. But now – he’s got a new favorite:

JESUS CHRIST!

Jesus Christ is coming up all the time. When I tell him it’s time for a nap, Jesus Christ! When he gets frustrated by one of his games, Jesus Christ! Now, I guess this is the part where I have to admit that Jesus Christ is kind of my go-to because I never really considered it swearing; we’re not religious – and it’s just something I say. But I also realize now that not everyone feels the way we do and this may be a problem when he gets to daycare. Oh, man. Why couldn’t I just have said “Oh, man” more? Now I’m trying to explain to a three-year-old in a household that doesn’t practice organized religion that Jesus is an a-ok guy but some consider saying his name to be bad. It’s as confusing as it sounds.

My son was a late talker and and I made the mistake of assuming that just because he couldn’t form fully coherent sentences yet, he wasn’t absorbing everything we said. I was wrong. One day, a few months before his third birthday he just started talking and talking and I realized even though he couldn’t express everything clearly yet, he was still soaking up everything we said like a sponge.

The moral of the story is – if you don’t want your kids to repeat it, don’t say it. I’ll be more careful with child number two.

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  • Paul White

    Oh man. I’m dreading this. I’ve lceaned up my language a *lot* since Sam was born but I’m still kind of coarse at times.

    • Crusty Socks

      What the fuck Paul??? Get yo shit together man!

  • chickadee

    I had to clean up after Baby #1 arrived, but I also learned that the typical advice — “oh, just ignore it. He/she wants attention” — is not really useful if you aren’t living in a cave, because your child WILL NOT STOP, particularly in public.

    Mine was “goddammit,” which my husband hated, but which always slipped out when I was driving. Baby #1 picked that up pretty quickly, so we had to move to time-outs, and if-you-say-that-in-public-we’re-going-home, and other nonviolent disciplinary measures. They worked, but I did have to deal with a saucebox comment that maybe I needed to be in time-out too….

    • Natasha B

      GD is my big one too :/ and it’s not cute when the 4yo says it in front of my catholic parents…..

    • chickadee

      When I was 21, home for Thanksgiving, my brother snapped a wet dishtowel at me and hit me in the backside — that hurt like a motherfucker (there is really no other way to describe it). *I* said ‘goddammit’ and *I* got in trouble for swearing. I got a bruise on my butt, a scolding, and my brother got nothing.

  • elle

    There are so many times I’m glad I’m bilingual and that is one of them. I still remember the first time my son swore (toaster popped, scared him and he said “oh shit”) was hilarious and horrifying all at once….now when I’m ranting and my son is around I break out my Turkish and my husband breaks out his Russian. It works for us. But I used to have the worst mouth and I’ve cleaned it up a lot.

  • Crusty Socks

    All of you fucking cussing parents can go to hell you assholes!

    • chickadee

      Do you want to sit in the Naughty Chair, young man?

    • Crusty Socks

      Already there!

    • chickadee

      I should have anticipated that. Actually, I suspect that all of your furniture is Naughty.

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      But not crusty!

    • chickadee

      Or robotically armed. Now it’s just hateful.

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      I learned from Mommyish that we all need to be hateful of something

      Other than me, what do you hate CAD?

    • chickadee

      I hate Mondays.

    • chickadee

      I also hate watching people eat baked beans. And I hate the smell of sauteeing mushrooms.

    • Alicia Kiner

      I hate the smell of cooked broccoli.

    • chickadee

      You are Sybil-like, aren’t you?

    • SmrtGrl86

      Half of most kids’ vocabulary comes out sounding like swear words anyway! My nephew runs around ordering people to “shit!” AKA “sit!” and asks for “sauce cock” for breakfast, also known as “sausage & pancakes”. I’m gonna be really bad at this part of parenting, I know it. I love to swear and cussing toddlers are straight up funny. A bad combination for sure.

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      “sausage & pancakes” sound dirty too!

    • Williwaw

      Why did you change your name, Crusty? You must hate tax season as much as I do.

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      Who doesn’t???

      >:(

  • Rachel Sea

    The first word of the cousin I parented was, “Fuck.” We all reigned in our potty mouths real quick. Repetition breeds usage, if you pick new exclamations, so will they.

  • https://twitter.com/FaintlyXMacabre Theresa Edwards

    I think I’m fortunate that my child didn’t swear as a toddler, but I’ve not really cleaned up my language a whole lot. There are some words that I won’t use because they are slurs, so all that leaves is good old cuss words. I’ve always told my daughter that those are “strong words” and only to be used at home. I suppose, though, that it’s only a matter of time before I get the phone call that says she taught a bunch of kids the proper use of fucknuggets.

    • Williwaw

      Good point – I would be publically contrite and privately amused if my kid taught his playmates the f-word. I would be horrified through and through if he taught them a racial slur (though that seems very unlikely since we don’t use them and would not let him watch a show that includes them until he’s old enough to understand discretion, and what racism is). But toddlers cussing are pretty funny.

  • K.

    Well, it’s either yelling or breaking things. I don’t yogi and the energy has to go somewhere.

    Besides, FUCK! is better than *smack*

  • kay

    a family i nannyed for had two of their kids go through a “dammit!” phase. and it was ADORABLE.
    “what do you need buddy?” “break-dammit-fast!” “what do you want?” “oatmeal dammit!” “can you say please first??” “dammit please!”

    of course, they did this when I was no longer their nanny and they’re not my kids, so it might help with the cute, but come on, break-dammit!

  • DuckDodgersFromThe24.5Century

    Fuck Da Police! = ) er i mean… goo goo ga ga?

  • Sitting-pretty

    http://youtu.be/uSEXgQ58AoM

    I actually enjoy swearing & don’t know what I’m gonna do to change it – no other word can really be used in so many ways!

    • Kay_Sue

      This is my problem. I did not swear until my late-ish teen years–17 or so. I was a late bloomer in that are, and fuck me, but I love it. I know I should commit to being better…but…I don’t really want to.

    • LiteBrite

      Oh, I love the word “fuck.” It can be used in so many ways. It’s also a great adjective. When you say something “fucking sucks”, people know you mean business because you put an adjective in front of it.

  • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

    Anyone else having disqus issues?

    • Valerie

      Yes. Shit is disappearing for me.

  • Frannie

    I have a little problem with swearing in traffic. The other day this guy was going 25 in the 40 and I was like “Hurry up you a—hole!” from the back seat, DD chimes “Why won’t these a—holes hurry up?” Oops.

    • keelhaulrose

      We have a highway near our house that feeds a retirement, err, active adult community. They’re always doing 30 in the 50. After spending a week with my sister, who is like you, my three year old chimed in after I said “gas pedal is on the right, buddy”, with “move, bitch, get out the way!” After I managed to get the car home despite laughing hysterically I called my sister, who admitted that was her go-to phrase for slow drivers. I almost let my daughter keep that one.

    • Frannie

      LOL!!! A child after my own heart. My dad used to call people ‘f-ing a-holes’ in traffic too, so I guess it’s now spanning 3 generations. Oh well.

    • Alanna Jorgensen

      I have this same issue. My little one is constantly saying, “Mommy, be nice!” from the back in a stern tone.

  • keelhaulrose

    My oldest first swore (fuck-damnit) at 16 months. She pulled a few out here and there, but we’ve gotten to the point where all we have to say is “big people word!”and it stops her.
    Of course, now she’s learning to read. She was liking at my Facebook the other day and could immediately read “vodka”. She’s my kid.

  • Alicia Kiner

    french toast can be used in place of a swear word and if he says it people won’t want to ban you to mommy hell. I was driving one day and I don’t remember exactly what happened but both kids were in the car and we almost got hit by someone and I screamed “futher mucker in hell” both kids repeated me word for word. And continued to repeat the first couple for a few weeks. They were about 3 and 4 I think, because my son wasn’t in school yet, thankfully.

    • Williwaw

      I know someone who used to shout “God bless it!” in the same tone most people say “Goddammit!”.

  • NotTakenNotAvailable

    My two cents and, coincidentally, the same number of somewhat-related anecdotes as a nonparent: My mother was a militant atheist. At one point when I was still young enough to be in a carseat (this being the eighties so, therefore, before it was decided that kids needed to be in carseats until their second year of graduate school, making me three at the most), I expressed my displeasure with my seating arrangements with a hearty, “Goddammit!” My mother immediately stopped the car, turned around in her seat, and very sternly told me, “Don’t say ‘God,’ dear.”

    Evidently that injunction worked…I rarely invoke God’s name. Around the same time, however, my mother left one of her favorite, and, naturally, family-unfriendly, movies playing. It must’ve really made an impact on my impressionable young mind, because I spent the better part of the day skipping around the house, sing-songing, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

    Now I say “fuck” and “shit” and “dammit” and even “fuck me up the ass with a giant flaming chainsaw” all the time, so I don’t know what lesson you can take away from that, except possibly that some kids don’t turn out right no matter what the fucking hell you try and do with the little shitheads. Also that maybe putting God and Jesus Christ in your child’s life will prevent him from being able to make a truckers and sailors clutch their pearls in horror…who knows.

    • brebay

      Yeah, because Christians never say filthy things. I’d rather hear a kid say “fuck” when they stub their toe than “You do know that if you don’t believe in Jesus you’re going to hell and so are your two sinning, sodomite dads.” while completely calm.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      Oh fuck yes. To me, four-letter words are far less harmful to developing ears than the contemptuous slurs I’ve heard from the (self-)righteous. But who knows…maybe that’s more of that commie-pinko, immoral, atheist upbringing talking.

  • Kelly

    I don’t feel like a horrible parent when some stranger judges me though. I don’t give a shit about the thoughts and feelings of some random person out in public. So, I guess I’m good to go with my potty mouth.

  • Kay_Sue

    “My son was a late talker and and I made the mistake of assuming that just because he couldn’t form fully coherent sentences yet, he wasn’t absorbing everything we said.”

    When my youngest started speech therapy and early intervention, we were shocked to learn that his actual receptive vocabulary was incredibly high (not like, Einstein or gifted…just much higher than we’d assumed since he wasn’t verbal)…he could understand a lot. Definite Oh Shit moment.

    If you do swear in front of your kids, and you don’t mind the judgement of others…for the love of all the deities, do not agree to pay your child a quarter for every slip up in front of him (or her). You may do this with absolutely good intentions…but you will wind up broke as fuck.

    I mean…fudge. Broke as fudge.

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      Don’t forget to collect taxes and fees from your children.

      Damn gov’mt!!!

  • vuxeva347

    The trick is to get your parents not to swear for your future children’s sake…????

  • Alanna Jorgensen

    My parents rarely swore, and now I swear like a sailor so I don’t think this is an area in which we as parents really have much control either way. I’m never really going to stop swearing so “grown up word” is our method of telling the kids not to swear. That seems to work for now, but I remember a time before the lesson took when our daughter tried to hit her older brother and missed. She said “Son of a bitch!” and it was really hard to admonish her and not laugh at the same time because that’s my pet phrase.

    • Lackadaisical

      Agreed. My parents always swore like troopers, and I rarely swear but my brother swears more than they do. We had the same upbringing with the same exposure to swearing at a young age but we both decided to use our vast knowledge of expletives differently. We also never got our parents in trouble with school as young children as the mimicking swear words phase is something kids grow out of quickly.

      Because my husband and I don’t swear and our kids go to a school where half the kids are from the council house estate and are expert swearers I had the interesting experience of having to take my eldest (10) aside and teach him swear words. I wasn’t telling him he could go and use all of these words but the rest of his class use them and when I asked him to list the words he heard on the playground I noticed that my kid knew plenty but was often saying them wrong or using them wrong. While I don’t want my son to swear I could see that if he uses a swear word badly in a context that shows he doesn’t know what it means then at the school he goes to he will be bullied. I also had to explain the meaning of bigoted insults he heard in the context of “this word is really bad and here is why it upsets some of your class, now you understand if you use it then you totally know what you are doing and I will be furious and you will be acting like a nasty person. Never, ever do that”

    • Paul White

      Oh, Sam may swear later in life; I just don’t want his first real word at day care to but dick-muffin or anything like htat

  • Williwaw

    Oh balls, I guess I should clean up my language because even though my two year-old doesn’t talk much yet, he’s probably already familiar with all variants on the f-word.

  • Ddaisy

    My parents never never swore unless they were reeeally angry and the kids were in tears, and it was all kinds of horrible (my family was sort of dysfunctional). Other than that, our house was a whole lot of “oopsie daisy” and “gee whiz” and “gosh darn it.”
    As an adult, these habits are still ingrained in me, and everyone tells me I talk like a grandma. Which I’m totally cool with, because I still associate swearing with my dad flying into a rage, and by golly, I’m not going to be like that!

    • brebay

      You do know those are all just cheats: “gee whiz” = “jesus” ,”golly” = “god” ,”Jiminy Christmas” = “Jesus Christ”, “Oh my word” = “Oh my lord,” “gosh darn it” = “god damn it”. They’re not real words, they just got made up because they sound close enough to swears that you could back your swearing ass out of a swear before you got it paddled. Which to me seems like kind of a shady way of getting out of sinning on a technicality, which I’m pretty sure would not be cool with the big guy (if one existed.) When Christians use those kind of words, and then think they’re better than the one who says the real deal, it’s sort of like…the kind of lawyers who advertise on TV. Technically legal but completely missing the point. The reason for not cussing was to demonstrate a measure of temperance and self-control. If you shout out something, anything, impulsively, there’s really no distinction, except at least the person pulling the full god damn it isn’t pretending they’re “not really cussing.”

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I fucking learned this shit from my Dad.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    You could Canadian him up and start saying, “Jesus Murphy!” Less blasphemous for the Floridians, and confusing as well. Win!

    • Katherine Handcock

      Darn it, now I’ve got the voice of a Newfie friend of mine in my head chorusing “Lord t’underin’ Jesus!” and “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bye!”

  • Tisa Berry

    One of my friends put lemon juice, Baking soda, or pickle juice, in her child’s mouth when they cussed. Her kids turned on her and made her do the same if she cussed. It was pretty hilarious

  • dy

    Listen, I’m classy as fuck. But I do swear around my 2 1/2 year olds. I heard one say what sounded like “oh damn it” right after I said it to the dvd player. I ignored it and haven’t heard it since. My relatives have all been informed that if one of the boys says a swear word, they are to ignore it and not make a big deal out of it. No laughing or scolding. People give me shit constantly about “you better start watching what you say around them, they’ll repeat it.” I hope my kids tell my nosey neighbor that “mom says you’re a self-righteous cuntcake whose husband left because you’re worthless drunk who needs to mind her own fucking business.”

    • brebay

      “Listen, I’m classy as fuck”… totally going on a t-shirt.

  • Savannah

    Every one in my family has a pretty bad potty mouth. My step dad is an angry Portuguese man and my mum is English so curse words don’t hold a lot of weight. But I’m the worst for it, I’ll admit. Now my little brothers are earning some choice words (stoopid ass butt and douche nozzle are some of my favorites). One of them even had the greatest joke (told from a car seat at age 4ish). “What did 0 say to 8? Nice belt. What did 0 say to 9? Faggot ass.” He doesn’t understand why jokes are funny, but his random slight change worked there. :) And we aren’t homophobes, promise. He got it from the ESL step dad that never really got the connotation. And after a long conversation about what it meant (and another on the N-word after my younger teen sister got into rap music) they both stopped saying it.

  • Amanda Lowe

    my oldest daughters first word was “shit” used in context. is it wrong that i was a little bit proud?

  • Liz

    Maybe it’s wrong, but I love hearing little kids swear. It just sounds so much cuter when kids do it. I’m also one of those people that isn’t offended my swearing in general, so it would only be something concerning in the context that I would make sure my future children didn’t swear simply for the sake of school and everything.

    My little cousin had a great one where he wasn’t quite two yet and we’re all chilling in my aunt’s house and out of nowhere he just throws up on the carpet. Then he looks back up at us, does one of those adorable baby giggles and goes “oh shit.” There’s also a four year old that I babysit who gleefully shouted to her mother when their puppy was having an accident “look mommy, he’s pissing.” She was so proud of herself for saying it.

    One of my younger sisters had a speech impediment and it took them a long time realise that she was trying to say “fuck” whenever she said “futs.” They didn’t realise it until it was in the context of “I dropped my futsin’ toy.”

    • brebay

      I do too, as long as they’re someone else’s. I don’t care so much if my kids throw one in occasionally, as long as it’s not directed at another person, and they can censor themselves when at school or someplace else, which we all do anyway.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Sounds like several people here could use this shirt.

    “I’m a lady with the vocabulary of a well-educated sailor.”

  • WriterLady

    My father is an avid Cleveland Browns fan. When my younger brother and I were growing up in the early 80s, Bernie Kosar was the infamous, legendary quarterback of the team. I vividly recall my father watching the games, which usually resulted in any number of expletives, along with one nearly broken foot due to kicking the TV out of frustration. In all other areas of his life, my dad was–and still is–a reasonable man (not prone to outbursts), but the Browns–and Kosar, in particular–caused him serious distress. He tried to curtail his cussing during the games (which was the only time he really unleashed a good number of swear words with any regularity), but one of his more common Browns-related outbursts was aimed at Kosar during his after-game interviews or whatever. It went something like, “Shut up, moron, goddamit!” “Moron” was sometimes substituted with “you piece of crap” or “you idiot,” depending on the kind of game Kosar had and how far along in the season the team happened to be.

    One day, my mom, brother, and I were at a Piece Goods store (now-defunct, I believe, but similar to Michael’s or perhaps Hobby Lobby). As my mother was perusing the aisles looking for cross-stitching materials, my brother (who mas maybe 3) was acting up and my mom told him to quiet down and stop grabbing at the threading. His response: A bellowing, “Shut up dummy, goddamit!”, which echoed throughout the store, to the horror of both my mother and the few elderly, devout Christian women who frequented the store and/or worked there. With her head hung in shame, my mother high-tailed it out of there with my brother and I in tow. My brother claims to remember this, which may because he was utterly shocked at my mom’s reaction and the perceived importance of what he had said. I’m sure at his age that he was oblivious to the phrase’s actual meaning, but I have no doubt that he picked up on my father’s tone and recognized his yelling at the TV as a way to vent frustration and discontentment. We laugh about it now, but it’s reminder to myself that my language needs further cleaning up.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I’ve had to have the “God damn it” conversation with my son – kind of important, since his dad is a minister! Not all devout people are offended by it, but many are. Our tactic has been to explain that there are some words — and “God damn” is one of them — that can hurt other people’s feelings. Since we’ve used the same explanation for “stupid” and “moron” (thanks, Toy Story), he pretty well gets that.

  • Rowan

    I’ll never forget a friend’s daughter, aged two-and-a-half, staring out of the window at the snow and muttering “fuck’s sake!”

    I recently had the “what does ‘shit’ mean, mummy?” conversation with my son. It’s actually quite tricky explaining WHY it means the same as ‘poo’ but it’s ruder for no definable reason.

  • Kendra

    Oh man…I was in the category of “eh, she can’t really talk yet so it’s fine”. I will be re-thinking this and cleaning up my vocab. PRONTO. Thanks for the warning!

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    We try to go more with ‘we don’t use words that hurt people’. We’ve both cut back on our swearing, and we do talk about grown-up words, but mostly I try to make sure we don’t use hurtful words (idiot, stupid, or racist/homophobic/etc stuff). It’s actually been harder to not say stuff like “stupid” or “crazy” than not to swear.

  • LiteBrite

    My mom loves to tell the story of when I was about 2. For some reason I would only pronounce the “t” sound as an “f.” (Yeah, I don’t know why either. I was a weird kid.) So here it is, 1971, we’re in the grocery store, and I see a truck. So I yell, “Mommy, look at the big truck!” Only, that’s not what I said. Instead I yelled, “Mommy, look at the big FUCK!” Cue every elderly head turning to look at the single mom, in her bell bottoms, and Boho shirt, and love beads, with the little brat who knows the “F” word.

    I don’t think she’s ever quite forgiven me for that one.

  • MegzWray

    Last night my daughter (3 1/2) was reading a book while snuggled in bed between Hubs and me. She was very into how Horton was gonna hatch that Egg when there was a split moment we heard “fucking bird!”. She has a “dutchy” lisp, so MAYBE that’s not what she was trying to say, but definitely what it sounded like. We just silently looked at each other over her head like, Oh! You heard that too!

    We tend to ignore the cuss words, hoping they go away. We only correct when using stupid/dumb and other things like that. Or, rather, SHE corrects us when we use those.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    my partner and i have a bad habit of making up our own curses.
    i spill soup down my freshly ironed short- AHHH TITNIPPLES!!!

    He breaks a glass- STUPID HAIRY BULL BOLLOCKS!

    the kids do tend to hear this and they laugh- but there is one thing we make clear- we are grown adults, and we are allowed to swear. they are children and are not allowed. they know it is socially accepted (to an extent) that adults curse sometimes, but for a child it is unacceptable.

    the 13 year old is allowed get away with “crap” and the odd “shite”, he knows this and doesn’t push it. we do believe if you try restrict him at this age it’ll make it worse.

  • kris

    My son was playing a game, and something happened in it, he died or something, and he said, Gosh Dammit!!! And I was all, Aiden!! We don’t talk like that. And he looked at me all shocked and said, but mom, I didn’t say God. (What’s funniest about this to me is we are a pagan household. God is not a swear word here, so he picked that up somewhere else.) He was also about 6 at the time.

  • SA

    We have gotten MUCH better with our cursing, but I must stop the JC usage. Kid kicked shoe off foot halfway across the neighbors lawn at my sitters house one morning. And as I screamed JESUS CHRIST I saw the other church-going mom calmly getting her child out of the car and realized my Baptist sitter’s door was open…suddenly I felt like the anti-christ.

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