I think it would be safe to assume that the vast majority of parents want to give their children the healthiest environment possible to grow up in. I’m not just referring to wide open spaces to run and play, flora and fauna, cultural attractions, or public playgrounds—I’m referring to an emotionally healthy environment.
Last year I wrote a piece surrounding how we can maintain the purity of a child’s soul—this is somewhat an extension of that. Today I want to talk about the dreaded topic of addressing profanity with your young ones.
Depending on who you are in my life, you might know that I can make a truck driver blush with my colorful language. Mind you, if you only know me from a professional/business surrounding, you’d be shocked to hear my admission of having a potty-mouth. That’s because I have a highly coded internal potty-mouth system to filter any expletives that might attempt to escape. I’ve always been able to shut if off around children, strangers, and professional environments. Not too many people can do that though.
During my septoplasty recovery, my husband and I binge-watched Dexter, and we were both taken aback by the character Deb (played by Jennifer Carpenter). Deb had a mouth on her that made us both squirm at times and it made me realize that maybe my colorful language might bother my husband or close friends. So, I made a silent vow to clean up my vocabulary in the presence of everyone. No, I ain’t no Mary Poppins, but I’m working on it.
Now that my granddaughter is nearing her second birthday, her grasp of language has been increasing at a rapid pace over the past few months. As with any child, her poor pronunciation melts our hearts. Here are some examples:
- Slippers = sippies
- Grandma = gramman
- Grampa = bubba
- Diaper = bubba
- Bubble Guppies = bubba
- Bottle = bubba
- Farting = fawtee
- Dog = woof woof
There are so many adorable words that I could list, but there were two that she seemed to pronounce a little too enthusiastically: fork and Frank.
Can you guess how she pronounced them? Use your imagination.
My granddaughter took great pride in repeating the name “Frank” after she heard me refer to a man by his first name. We actually videotaped it to play for my daughter because she started saying it with far too much oomph.
As cute as the eff word sounds coming out of a child’s mouth, it’s not a good idea to encourage it. So any time she says her distorted version of fork, we say something like, “Yes, that’s a fork.” We also do our best not to talk about anyone named Frank in front of her until she can get a better grasp on language.
I make sure that my husband curbs his profanity when she is around, and he’s actually getting much better at it. My daughter is the worst offender of colorful language use, so she has to work extra hard when innocent ears are around.
When my daughter was about four, she picked up the habit of saying, “Oh my God,” because the majority of society says it. She was beginning to understand who God was (and would tell me about the conversations that she’d have with Him), so I felt it was time to curb her of her innocent parroting.
“Sweetheart, do you know what happens every time you say, ‘Oh my God’?”
“Each time you say that, God stops what he’s doing and listens to you because you called him. It’s like if I was in the kitchen, and you shouted, ‘Oh my mommy.’ I’d stop what I was doing, and call back to you. You might say something like, ‘Nothing mommy. I just stubbed my toe.’ Then I’d go back to my work, and a little later you’d shout, ‘Oh my mommy!’ Again, I would stop what I was doing to see what you wanted from me. Then you might say, ‘Nothing mommy. I just dropped my toy.’ I might start to get a little frustrated if you kept calling me when you didn’t actually need me. That’s the same with God. Each time you call him that way, he stops what he’s doing to give you his full attention. Now, you must understand that there are many people on this earth, so God’s pretty busy. How about if, instead of saying ‘Oh my God,’ you say ‘Oh my gosh’ or ‘Oh my goodness’ instead. That way, God will know that you really want to speak to him when you say his name.”
My little four-year-old got it. She never said it again, and would actually ask me to lecture other offenders (AKA: the other adults in her life) when she overheard them needlessly interrupting God’s busy schedule.
I was always able to appeal to my daughter’s logic when she was growing up, but I find that many parents punish children for… well… being children.
Even if you keep the language in your house G-Rated, it’s not to say that the guy stocking produce at the market will. Or the radio DJ. Or a show on TV. Or little Billy on the playground. Or, or, or.
You can’t mask them from PG, 14A or R-Rated language forever. They are going to hear it, and they are going to use it. They are little sponges.
So how do you deal with it?
Most parents’ knee-jerk reactions to situations like this are to punish the child and tell them never to use that language again, “because I said so!” I hate that phrase. That’s a coward’s phrase.
Don’t be a coward, take the time to communicate with your child about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for a person their age to say or do.
One great way to communicate this to children is to use adult versus child activity comparisons. Are they old enough to:
- Drive a car
- Get a job
- Drink alcohol
- Use the oven
- Mow the lawn
Use some of those examples to explain to them that, although they hear “adult” words, they are not suitable for someone their age to use.
Does that make sense?
If you are personally a member of the Potty-Mouth Club, maybe you can endeavor to clean up your talk around your kids too. Just because Merriam-Webster lists most of the profane words in their dictionary, doesn’t mean you have to use them. There are thousands of other words to choose from. Why not make it a goal to shrink your current sullied vocabulary and expand it with some new G-Rated gems that might also make you seem super-edjummikaytid!