Profanity in Front of Kids – Is it Effin OK?

Are your kids getting influenced by what you say in front of them? Profanity is a much bigger issue. Learn how to deal with it

Recently, I happened to receive a WhatsApp forward which was a video of a young girl, certainly not above the age of 5-6. It seemed like she was being told by an elder not to touch a toy that belonged to another kid. The argument goes on and in the end she just turns around, looks straight at the camera and like a veteran, bluntly blurts out a “F#%K – YOU – B!%@H !”.

To any person this may come across as a funny, laughable thing to watch and just put away. And honestly I too would’ve done that on any given day. But something about this video stirred up my thoughts and kept me thinking to myself… What if that was my child? How would I feel about a video of my child swearing like that, doing the rounds on social media?

The other day I was left aghast when I heard my little fellow utter a “OH S#!T!” when his tower of Lego’s came crashing down. What surprised me all the more was the usage of that expression for a 2.5 yr old. It was Bang On!. When otherwise my painstaking tutorials on ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider, or ‘Say hello to your grandma’, totally go in for a toss.

So the disciplinarian mom in me started scrambling the internet to make sense of what just happened to the oratory skills of my sweet little pudding. After a bit of my research on ‘Project Profanity’, I recollected the whole episode and realized that he had just plainly imitated his mummy’s dialogue from the scenes of ‘Why would you spread butter on the floor I just mopped’ or ‘Is that my toothbrush in the toilet bowl?’. And mind you, he said it with the same intonation that I do.

Digging further into this new found child rearing problem, I came to realize that swearing or cuss words were widely used in 2 different scenarios.

  1. Expression of anger, frustration or annoyance.
  2. Inorder to insult or humiliate another individual.

If you compare both the mentioned cases of children using profanity, my son used it for reason no.1 and the girl from the video for the latter. But is one reason worse than the other? My take on it would be a NO. Be it a situation or a soul, cursing is what is – Demeaning!

I wanted to understand the sources of this kind of language from where children can pick it up. Is it from peers in school or a coaching class? Or from bigger kids at the park? Could it be from some series that they watched onTV? Did someone speak to them with those kinds of words? Or are people in the house using them?

Children, especially toddlers are always learning keenly through observation. Most of us live in this delusion that our babies are gonna grow up to be like innocent little lambs. But let me break the bubble for you. As much as parents would like a ‘Do as I say’, you’re more likely to get a ‘Do as I do’. If you find it impossible to control the urge of saying the four letter word out loud when you’re munchkin comes crashing into your foot on a trike, then you gotta brace yourself for the day when that little one makes a big debut as ‘Little Mr/Miss.Potty Mouth’. And don’t be surprised at all if the trailer is out when you pay a visit to that eccentrically religious aunt of yours. 

On the other hand, if you do attain success at training yourself to tame your tongue, you can never be assured that your child will be ‘Profanity Proof’. They will go out of the house at some point and interact with other children. They will be exposed to adult talks time and again. Any plan of action to tackle it then?

While I am no scholar at parenting and just like most of you, I have turned to google for advice on many things myself. It is only when the problem looks us in the eye that we look for ways to make amends. I have tried and tested out a couple of suggestions listed by some counsellors and psychologists to deal with issues around profanity and some of them are showing results.

Ignore the attention seeker – This one is doing the job for me very well.  Sometimes younger children tend to repeat an action or word because they received a reaction from somebody when they had used it earlier. So if you know that your child is doing it to get your attention, the best way would be to ignore and choose not to react at all. He will ultimately get it that this trick is not working for him any more.

Nice or not so nice words – Young tots may not understand the choice of their words. But what they may very well understand is whether it’s good or bad. Start by using safe words to exclaim like Oops!, Uh oh!, Ouch! or Oh dear!… And if he does exclaim a swear word, you may just tell him, ‘that’s not a nice word to say’. I must admit that I now very often get a “mama, not nice word” coupled with a wagging finger.

Rules are for everyone – If you have decided on the kind of language that you want to hear around in your home, make sure to show integrity and practice what you preach. It’s impossible to bring about a change overnight. But a conscious effort will get you there in time. It’s all about practice, practice and more practice. Oh and someday I’ll surely write about how long it took me; ‘work in progress’ at the moment.

Everybody loves Praises – Nobody likes correction. Not even a newborn. Don’t believe me? Try pulling out that knuckle from her mouth. But trust me, praise does a much better job than correction. Not only does it build their self esteem and helps them understand what behavior is acceptable to you and what is not, but also teaches them to appreciate others. Can you believe I get a thumbs up even for a well roasted papad now?

Put your foot down – Touchwood, I haven’t had to do this yet. But keeping it handy just in case. All said and done, using bad words directed to humiliate another individual will not be tolerated at any cost. Ignoring or laughing at such instances will only worsen it. Instead, sit the kid down and tell him upfront that this is totally unacceptable. Repeat offences will need to be dealt with more severely, calling for a timeout or with penalties if need be. Like no screen time for the day or no ice-cream outing over the weekend.

A stitch in time does save nine. This holds true even with children. At Least it did for me. I’d suggest you get to work immediately at the first instance of utterance, unless you’re so big a sport to let go of that ‘Shut Up’ hurled at you at your friends dinner party and not be so bothered about it. 

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