Parenting in the Pandemic: Curses

I’ve never issued a content warning for any of my posts before, but I suppose there’s always a first time! No, I am not writing about magic and curses here. Yes, there will be foul language.

I’m fairly foul-mouthed, and so is my brother. We can get pretty creative with our curses too, and they pepper our speech through every mood: joy and anger, jest and sorrow.

So the problem is: How do we keep my son from picking up such foul language?

Our friend Chris, himself foul-mouthed as well, once shared his policy regarding children and cursing. His daughters heard him say ‘fuck!’ Perhaps they asked him what it meant. Perhaps they laughed and teased. Either way, they repeated the word. So he let them have fun with it. “Fuck! Fuck. Fuck? Fuck!” they sang all day. (I’m probably getting the details wrong.) After they had a field day with the word, they kind of forgot about it.

I remember reading that children do things because they want to see what will happen, and they repeat behavior because of the reaction it elicits. They hit you because you go “Ow!” They drop things because you go, “Ugh, not again!” They poke the cat because it jumps. I remember my mom observing that toddlers who fall over don’t actually cry much when they fall to the ground. It’s when the parents pick them up in a panic that they start crying. “Oh no! What happened? Are you okay?” Children pick up on the stress and worry, and that’s when they start crying.

We figured, should Lucas pick up my, er, colorful language, we would just ignore it and not make a fuss. No laugh, no surprise, no reprimand. It’s worked pretty well so far.

The, how shall I say it, challenge, is other people. In conversation, they drop a swear word, and too late realize that Lucas is within earshot. In a panic, they cover their mouths and go, “Oh no, sorry!” Then they fall all over themselves trying to keep their speech clean. We tell them, don’t worry, don’t make a fuss, I’m pretty foul-mouthed too.

One time, at dinner, my mother was reacting angrily to something, and she said, “Dammit!”

“Dammit!” came a little voice beside her.

My mom, in a panic, said, “No! Don’t say that!”

Of course he said it again.

After that, she learned to keep a poker face if he happened to repeat any of the swear words my brother and I uttered on a regular basis. A few times he repeated something my brother or I said, and we had to quietly remind her, “Say nothing! Don’t react!” One time, it started raining, and my brother and I both said, “Oh shit!” as we ran out the front door to move the laundry. Lucas repeated after us, “Oh shit!” with a giggle. Nobody said anything, and he never said it again. (I think.)

In contrast, my husband doesn’t curse at all, so I suppose it all works out!

Perhaps we’ll rethink this policy when Lucas is a little older. Perhaps I’ll mellow down. (HAHA) Or maybe he’ll be as foul-mouthed as me and my brother, so this will all have been for nothing! Hah. Let’s see!

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