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‘Mama, why is XXX a bad word?’

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Mama Diaries

‘Mama, why is XXX a bad word?’

/ 02:00 AM May 17, 2017

For a while now, I’ve been hearing from two of my kids, aged 8 and 7, respectively, certain questions about bad words.

We try hard not to let them hear those words from us, but we can’t keep the kids chained up at home, and we certainly can’t stop anyone from saying those words.

And so, during quiet moments in the car, I end up being asked these questions.

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This proves that my daughter is no longer a baby. In a way, I’m thankful that she comes to me to ask what those words mean and why I don’t use them in the house. Some words are easy enough to explain, but others are a little harder to expound on in an age-appropriate manner.

I’m aware that my children have a file of “bad words” at the back of their heads. I’m reminded of that every time they police a friend or family member and call them out for inappropriate language. Sometimes I wonder what they plan to do with those words in the future.

For now, they are well aware that if they should ever use any of the words, they will be “grounded for life,” as my daughter says.

Harsh

But it’s not just actual cuss words I watch out for. Oftentimes, we take for granted what our children hear in cartoon programs—until we hear the words used to describe situations or people, and only then do we realize how unkind or harsh the words actually are.

It’s taken a while to teach them how to distinguish between a “bad word,” and one that’s not necessarily “bad” but is also discouraged for its offensive definition.

Teenagers who curse don’t spout those words from nowhere. As parents know, children, from the day they open their eyes, are constantly observing their environment, taking everything in like a sponge.

Some of the words are heard as early as their toddler and preschool years. But during these years, they are still oblivious to what the words they hear and parrot really mean.

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The kids may have an idea of what is right and appropriate, but they do not always know what the things they say mean. Sometimes, they might try out a new word because they heard it said with such emphasis that it might be another way of getting
a point across.

Assuming nobody makes a big deal out of what the kids say, and it’s just a “once-in-a-while” slip from their elders, they probably won’t remember.

However, hearing the same words on a daily basis is a different story.

To catch attention

Other times, children are aware that the word is offensive, but say it anyway just to catch attention.

In such cases, whether the adult laughs or gets mad, is beside the point. What matters is to catch the attention of the parent and accomplish the mission.

A calm response and age-appropriate punishment should be enough to drive the point— that cursing is not the best way to get a parent’s attention.

Pressure or confusion

Eventually, the pressure of their peers, hormones or confusion of the teenage years may push a word or two out, as well. Whether it’s a way of fitting in or showing off, it happens; and how a parent will handle this will determine if it will just be a phase or the start of a life filled with expletives.

Experts advise that if the cursing is done in anger, it is better to calmly discuss first the reason for the outburst and resolve it, saving the discussion on the curse words for another time, when both parties are calm.

Otherwise, more bad words might be said and the situation could worsen.

The context in which foul language is used is also important to consider. Is it meant to offend and insult a person, or induced accidentally by a painful or surprising incident? Neither should be tolerated, but I think the punishment for either should not be the same, as the intentions are not the same, as well.

But the biggest hurdle is probably the people that the kids are exposed to. It might seem hypocritical to a child, and especially a teenager, to hear their parents prohibit them from cursing, only to hear their parents themselves and other adults swearing left and right.

If it’s you, the parent, who is guilty, you need to change your choice of words if you expect your kids to keep their mouths clean.

If you accidentally say something in the heat of the moment, own up to it and apologize—the way you would expect your child to do.

If the one mouthing off expletives are adults they are exposed to, but over whom you have no control, perhaps you could try a “debriefing” before or after, so that they know what to expect or how to make sense of the situation.

Language is a tricky terrain, and there will be slips here and there over the years, but a firm and consistent attitude against cursing should help keep your children on the right path.

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TAGS: bad words, PARENTING
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