I can’t remember who said this – but I love this quote!
“Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind to express itself.”
If you’re a parent of older elementary, middle, or high-schooler- you understand the tension of watching your kids try to express themselves through the use of profanity. Many times it starts out with just pushing the envelope to see what’s acceptable – repeating what they heard on the bus or their favorite Disney show.
Parents have one simple phrase that is repeated over and over again, “no… we don’t say those words.” What? Are you kidding me – you’re pants on fire! (because you’re a liar!) The truth is, you’ve said and probably still say (in the right circumstances) worse things than your kid has ever said.
Eventually, every kid learns what they can and cannot say in front of mom & dad and they move to what is acceptable and preferred language in their group of friends. This is natural.
Is there a better way to ensure our kids don’t have a “potty mouth?” I think so.
First, let me say that I’m the reason my 3-year-old girl said her first “S” word. I’ll save the story for another post, but I’m a pastor… that wasn’t supposed to happen. She was just repeating what I said in a moment of high frustration, so I’m not coming from a place of purity or innocence when it comes to language. As the ANGER emotion (from Pixar’s INSIDE OUT) said at the end of the movie with joy – “I’ve got access to the entire curse library!” That’s me.
So take this for what it’s worth – this is what we’ve decided to do in our house to battle the tension we feel when our kids start spouting words we would prefer they didn’t say.
1. It’s a CHOICE.
We want our kids to know that even when those words are in your head, it’s still a choice to say them. So when we correct our kids, we TRY not to say “NO! We don’t use those words…” – instead we TRY to say “Let’s choose another word!” I’ve often said it as a challenge to my kids. “Come on, you’re more creative than that! Find another word that works better… cussing is LAZY!”. We want our kids to understand that no matter what they say… it’s always a CHOICE they’ve made.
2. We’ve identified Categories with Consequences. (Slang, Cussing, Cursing)
Slang is a preferred method of expression for most Christians – dang habit, shoot, heck, crap, OMGosh! I’ve always held tightly to the belief that every culture and age has used SLANG words to get around cussing. I’m not going to “wash their mouths out with soap” over these words. I will often just say – “hey, choose another word to express yourself.”
Cussing is defined as vulgar terminology. My kids don’t understand that “shit” is technically describing excrement. As with other words that describe something but we’ve adapted them into a profane way of expressing ourselves. This often also includes a level of trying to say CURSE words, but taking some of the edge off – like friggin, gosh darnit, hell, WTF, WTH, mother father… you know what they mean. For our kids, this would result in some form of discipline and another conversation about what these words are not helpful and we want them to choose different words to express their emotions.
Cursing is technically language that does exactly that. It curses someone and used God’s name in vain. Our kids hear these used on the bus, at school, and with friends down the street. They can spell them, say them, and yet have no idea what they actually mean. That’s MY JOB. I want them to understand what they are actually saying if they choose to actually say those words to someone. This, of course, falls in the category of “unacceptable” and immediate discipline because I don’t really care WHY they said it – they will experience the consequence of saying those words. I don’t believe in “sparing the rod”, I want my kids to understand the consequences of choosing to utter those words.
My kids will choose the language they use for the rest of their lives. I only have so long with them in my house to help them make the WISEST choices they can in terms of their language. So I don’t want to give them the false notion that “We Don’t Use Those Words” – I’ve chosen not to lie to my kids! I want them to understand when then can, and choose to obey our rules even when they don’t fully understand and are feeling peer pressure to do otherwise.
It’s all a choice! Helping your kids see the choices they make will bring power to the tension that can often come when raising children to not choose profanity as they default expression. It’s not easy… but it’s worth it!