Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Son Said The F Word!

I was attending an evening meeting last week when I got a call on my cell phone.  From the caller ID, I saw that it was someone calling from home.  Worried that it was my babysitter calling with an emergency, I picked up the phone, hit answer, and whispered, “Yes?”

“Mommy, he said the F word,” reported by ten-year old son, confident that I would want to know this information.  He was referring to his seven-year old brother.

“Oh, I see…” I stumbled… trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my ten-year old was calling me so late, and trying to figure out how to respond.  “Uhhhh…  I’ll take care of it tomorrow morning, okay?”

“Okay, mommy,” he answered, satisfied that his brother would be appropriately disciplined for this violation of our house rules.

The next morning, I called my seven-year old over to have a discussion about what words were not appropriate to say and why.

“Did you say the F word last night?” I asked him sternly.

"Umm.... yes?" he said meekly.  Then realizing that he was in big trouble, he started to explain.  “I said ‘The F word’ and it meant ‘Funny’!   I told him that was what the ‘F’ was for!”  

I was confused.  So, I said again, ‘Did you say the F word?”

“Yes,” he repeated.  “I said… ‘The.. F... word...’ and it meant ‘Funny’!”  

Ahhh...  So here’s a lesson for those parents with very concrete children.  In the past, I cautioned my children about bad language when I overheard an adult using profanity nearby.  I told them quite seriously that we do not use “the F word” because it is bad to do so.  It would appear that they took the instruction quite literally.  They thought that the phrase “the F word’ was taboo.

Ooops…  and I can’t really fix this, can I?  How do I explain what I meant instead?   I suppose that my ten-year old will figure it out soon enough… but it may be awhile until the seven-year old hears it again (hopefully).

Addressing profanity is a task all parents have to face at some point.  It is important for parents to agree on what is and is not acceptable for their child.  Many times the first time a child utters a bad word, they are very young and haven’t a clue as to what it means.  So try to keep a straight face when you are delivering this important message.  By laughing, you may be reinforcing the behavior since your child wants to make you happy. 

For school-aged children, it’s often an attempt to be cool, or get a laugh.  While everyone has different points of view on what is reasonable and what is not, there are certain social situations where foul language is inappropriate, such as in school.  Teach your child early before they become accustomed to using these words.  Many times they do not know what the word means.  If you can explain why the word is hurtful or offensive, that can help them to understand why it is inappropriate.  Help your child come up with alternative words to use in these moments.
Many tweens and teens swear as a way of expressing themselves emotionally when they are angry or depressed.  Instead of getting too worked up over the words, try to get to the root of the reason for the profanity.  Your child may need your help and swearing is just an outward signal.  When things are calmer and you are both no longer in the heat of the moment, you can then address your family's rules on swearing and provide alternatives.

Setting a role model is the best way to teach.  If you are prone to letting swear words slip out when emotions take the best of you, try to come up with other words to use when venting.  Be sure not to have a double standard in the home where the adults swear, but the children cannot.  This sends mixed messages to your child and can make it more confusing for them.

So, according to my sons, have a really F day!  (and I mean "fantastic"!)

Thanks for reading!


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