Monday, November 14, 2016

The words that are off-limits

When my son was in preschool, he came home with the announcement that one of his friends got in trouble at school for saying a bad word. As nonchalantly as I could, I asked what the bad word was. As quietly as possible, he said, "hate."

I am very proud of the next part of this story, where I reminded him that hate was the opposite of love (he was four and big on opposites at the time), and that it wasn't a bad word and he could say it whenever he liked. I had a follow up conversation with the teacher around giving that word extra power by not letting children say it.

This scene repeated itself when the school banned the word "stupid," and although I can imagine it is annoying to have a bunch of 5-year-olds running around calling everything and everyone stupid (or its variation of "studpid-head"), I wanted my child to understand that it was fine to say it.

Of course, I say all that because none of those examples are swear words. And, I am not sure how I will feel the day my son comes home spouting an actual swear word at me. I make a concerted effort not to swear at all - either in front of him or even at work. But, I know that some words make it past his ears. We were, for example, watching the 1982 version of Annie and a few "damn" references came floating his way. They probably went right over his head, but it was interesting to hear them in that movie at all.

I know that swearing serves a purpose: It is a way for people to underscore serious emotions; it is a way to vent. It also doesn't bother me when I hear it at work. I was surprised to learn that women seem to swear more than men do, (or that anyone was actually tracking swearing by gender at all), but I wonder if that relatively small sample size was having a bad week.

We'll see how all my thoughts about words just being words plays out when my son drops a real bomb in front of me.

What was your reaction the first time your child swore in front of you? Tell me in the comments.

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