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Do I Swear In Front of My Kids? @#$&@ Yeah

By Katherine Stone |

cursing, swearing

Are teens who swear really more aggressive?

I heard quite a few swear words growing up, in particular the f-word as it happens to be my father’s favorite. (Hi dad! How the eff are you?) I didn’t think anything of it, because that was the environment to which I was accustomed. I thought cursing was normal.

@&$$!!! Where are my @&$#@*! keys?

I must admit that the f-word has grown to become a personal favorite of mine as well. I use it for emphasis, to put a finer point on things. To let off steam. To cope. Should I be ashamed of this, as the granddaughter of a genteel Southern belle who wouldn’t be caught dead without full makeup and a proper pedicure at the grocery store? Probably, but I’m not.

The first curse word I was allowed to say was crap. I think I was about ten or eleven years old. I was actually very excited about being able to say crap. I felt like my parents thought I was mature enough to handle it. It was like they had given me a new car or something; I had this tiny bit of freedom that I was able to manage as I saw fit. I loved it, and for the most part I used it well. It didn’t kill me, or encourage me to adopt a life of crime. It wasn’t a gateway drug to grand theft auto. So when I saw news reports last week on newly published research finding that teens who swear are more likely to engage in physical aggression, I was a bit skeptical. I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time seeing a direct link between letting loose a profanity-laced phrase or two and being violent. If that was true, pretty much everyone I know would be dangerous. I think there’s probably a big difference between kids who live in a safe, loving, well-managed home who swear, and kids who are left to their own, unsupervised devices who swear. I’m guessing the environment is the problem, not the swearing.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t swear in front of my kids now that I’m a parent. Never at them, mind you. I would never use a swear word in relation to my children. I might use it in relation to their continually missing @!$!!#@ shoes, but not at them or about them. I’m pretty sure when they grow up they’ll be as foul-mouthed as I am, though I’d like to think they’ll understand (as I believe I do) when it’s okay to use such language and when it isn’t.

I know this is a touchy subject. It’s not particularly polite to swear. It’s just that there are so many things in this world to be concerned about. I don’t want them to bully. I don’t want them to drink or use drugs or smoke. I don’t want them to lie and keep secrets from me. I want them to know how important every year of school is and that they must take it seriously and study and work hard so that they will have more opportunities in the future. I want them to know how to love and how to be kind and generous. When it comes to all the things that could go staggeringly wrong in their lives, being foul-mouthed when they are adults falls to the very bottom of my list of worries.

My stance on swearing is that there are much bigger fish to fry. I do it in front of them, and I imagine when they grow up they’ll do it as well. There are a lot of serious issues to be concerned about as a parent, and for me, this is not one of them.

Photo credit: MorgueFile/xenia

More on cursing: I Let My 4-Year-Old Swear — Why It’s Not a Bad Thing

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About Katherine Stone


Katherine Stone

Katherine Stone is the founder of the most widely-read blog in the world on postpartum depression, Postpartum Progress. She writes about parenting and maternal child health on Babble Voices and Babble Cares, as well as at Huffington Post Parents. Katherine is a mom of two and lives in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter at @postpartumprog. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katherine's latest posts →

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27 thoughts on “Do I Swear In Front of My Kids? @#$&@ Yeah

  1. autoclave says:

    My problem is I don’t want my two year old swearing AT ME in the grocery store like some friend’s kid did. It would be so embarrassing to hear @#$% you mom in front of others. I think of it the same way I think of spanking, how can I expect them not to do x if I do x (x can be spanking/hitting, swearing, eating junk food, etc). I may not be perfect, but I want to do my best setting a good example.

  2. bob says:

    In light of the enthusiastic abandon with which my toddler is presently “shoot!”-ing everything, I’m considerably gratified that we’ve managed to thus far stymie more spirituous interjections.

  3. Tamara says:

    My problem with this is adults who don’t care and don’t see a problem with swearing and/or their children swearing, and then they teach it to MY child. I don’t think it will lead to a life of crime either, but it is definitely about respect and morals. The author of this article addressed that they were not concerned about their children growing up and using such words, but failed to address how they felt if they randomly dropped the F-bomb now.

    If you must use such crude, unimaginative words, at least have the decency to teach your children to be polite around others who do not want to hear it. You may think it’s cute or funny, or not a big deal. I may or may not be in the minority, but I think it’s garbage.

  4. Cheryl Thompson says:

    How the “F” are you? How did that feel?
    I think cursing in front of your kids is morally reprehensible. What next? Sex in front of your kids? Why not, it’s part of normal human physiology.
    Grow up and get a life. If you have to use “F” to put emphasis on anything, I think you need a better education.
    This one will come back to bite you someday.

  5. Kristi says:

    I’m totally disagree. I DO think it’s a big deal. Yes, there are much bigger issues in the world but to me, this is teaching basic manners. There are certain words that are rude and many people do not want to hear or have their children hear, just as there are certain words, ie please and thank you, that should be taught.

  6. Shandeigh says:

    What they ^^^^ said.

  7. Taz says:

    yay that Tamara, Cheryl and Kristi agree with me! i thought i was going to be alone on this one! i mean, it’s none of my business what people do in their homes with their kids, but my kid will be in school with those kids someday and i am just not comfortable with crude language becoming okay just because most moms my age feel like swearing is a harmless way to hold on to their edgy youthfulness. for me it’s just a better idea to take a night off every once in awhile and go out and say and do whatever inappropriate stuff i want to AWAY from my kid, but when i’m in front of her i act like a role model. i mean, i wouldn’t pop reservoir dogs into the dvd player for my kid just the same as i wouldn’t swear around them!

  8. Snarky Mama says:

    I curse in front of my kids too. My kids, however, are not allowed to curse until they can drive. Kinda like they can’t drink beer until they are old enough to buy it. Sometimes, I even drink beer and curse in front of my kids at the same time.

  9. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Eh. I find a wide variety of words appropriate and useful for different occasions. I think the key to using colorful language in front of the kids is to wait until they’ve mastered the whole “know your audience” life lesson. Then it’s pretty easy to teach them not use that language where it’s inappropriate (in front of grandma, at school, in public, or in front of your six year old brother who has not yet mastered said life skill.)

  10. Erika says:

    I see nothing wrong w/ swearing in front of your kids, like it or not sometimes the situation calls for a vulgar word. This isn’t the same as teaching them to swear, or condone them swearing. It also doesn’t mean she isn’t teaching her kids to be polite or have manners. If you make a big deal out of a word, then your child will want to use it more.

  11. rebekah says:

    I do i just tell them its not ok, and that I shouldn’t do it either, so i will work on it.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I also swear in front of my daughter, much like my parents did in front of me. Much like people have said before me, its about knowing when its okay to “let it slip” even at my age, I have yet to swear in front of any older generation. That part is a matter of respect, which you should also be teaching your child. As for worrying about if your kid is going to teach it to another kid, have some confidence in your parenting skills that your child will know the boundaries and not come home swearing like a sailor. I can totally agree with the grocery store incident, as I would be mortified. But I can honestly say that if my husband or I say a word we do not want her repeating, we make sure she understands that mommys and daddys use that word, and that it would be inappropriate for her to follow suit. Have some faith in your child in remembering that no matter their age, they will make their own decisions each and everyday. If they want to sleep, they will and if they want to stay awake, they’ll try their darndest. Instill the morals you’d like them to honor, and expect them to do so. I’m a firm believer that the more strict you are, the harder your child will rebel. Seen it, Done it. There is absolutely much bigger issues to worry about when it comes to parenting(never mind the entire world) then whether or not your child hears you drop an f-bomb.

  13. Michele A. says:

    I curse in front of my kids and have never had an instance where my oldest has repeated. To compare swearing in front of your kids to having sex in front of them is so way off base that it sounds like YOU need a better education. Idiot.

  14. Megan says:

    Although I try not to cuss in front of my son, it’s hard as s*#t sometimes! There are lots of things in life parents get to do that kids don’t. If you teach your children right from wrong they can here you say whatever the “eff” you want and know its for adults only.

  15. Donna says:

    I curse in front of my 9 year old son for several reasons… I want him to know what the words mean and not learn them from another 9 year old. The main reason is we have always had a difficult relationship with his Dad who was a very troubled man. I know that there were times, for me, that a good rant of blue streak made me feel better, there were just no proper words to describe how I felt. About 1-1/2 years ago my son’s Dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and passed away about 6 months ago. The period of time during his illness was so incredibly difficult for both my son and myself. He was having difficulty finding the words to express his anger, frustration and fear. I recognized how he felt and thought about what would make me feel better. So we took a hike in the woods and I told him to go ahead and scream, yell and say any words that will make you feel better. This boy cursed up a storm that would make Richard Pryor proud and he felt better. So now we have a deal, he knows it’s totally inappropriate to curse in certain places and he asks permission before he curses. But when he cannot find the words to describe or release a crappy situation, he knows how to make himself feel better. I am thrilled to report that he is doing remarkably well after his father’s passing, He is very open about his feelings and does not hold in his feelings. He has been in therapy for over 2 years for help with dealing with his Dad’s behavior, illness and death, and graduated over the Summer, he no longer needed the extra help. I fully believe the freedom to assign certain feelings to certain words in a safe and loving environment helped him immensely.

  16. Allison says:

    I have to say I agree with Cheryl. And if my kid wants to know what a word means, he’ll ask me. Always does. And if I think he may not know a meaning- or may have “learned” it wrong- I will randomly ask him if he knows what it means. But, I wasn’t raised with my parents cussing and we don’t cuss at all in my home. I strongly feel that if you need to curse to express yourself, you may need to invest in a thesaurus- or counselling. Nothin’ but love.

  17. anon says:

    I grew up in a swearing household. I adored my parents, and wouldn’t change it for the world. Just be a good person, for Chrissake.

  18. Irena says:

    I don’t swear in front of my kid because I don’t want her to swear. I also don’t drive in front of her, drink soda, or any of the other millions of things she doesn’t get to do yet. What if she assumed that because Mommy drives, she can too? I mean seriously???? I think some of these ladies need to calm the f*@$ down. I really enjoyed your post.

  19. jenn says:

    I too grew up in a swearing household and I curse in front of my daughter. I will teach her when such language is appropriate and when it is not and like a previous poster said I have yet to “slip” in front of an elder (except during a yankees playoff game, but it was quickly excused). We may even have a “curse jar” to enstill a value to cursing and $, but we will cross that bridge when necessary.

  20. Voice of Reason says:

    Donna, I just want to say that I think you are an awesome mother.

  21. Richan says:

    I curse in front of my son and don’t think it’s a big deal. I am a firm believer that there are no such things as bad words, it’s a ridiculous concept that is ever changing. The word underarm used to be a “bad” word. What possible reason could anyone have for deciding that a word itself is bad? Why is shit a bad word but not poop? Why can I say fudge but not fuck even though fudge is clearly just a replacement word for fuck, I know it, you know it but as long as you don’t say fuck its fine? What’s the difference, really? It makes no sense to me. All words are worthy,someone decided that they didn’t want to hear that particular word and the idea spread and now there are suddenly 6 or 7 random words we can’t say. It’s not even a religious thing, no where in any religious book does it say “Thou shalt not say fuck, shit, bastard, ass etc…”

  22. Katherine Stone says:

    I didn’t say this in the post, but for clarity: I curse in front of my kids, but my kids are not allowed to curse, except for the eldest who is allowed to say “crap” but only at home. I generally don’t curse in front of other people’s children because I don’t know how their parents would feel about it, and my children definitely don’t. So I’m not trying to spread my philosophy elsewhere, but I’m perfectly comfortable with it.

    And thanks to everyone who has commented! I love all of your points (except the one about having sex in front of my kids, which … I mean … c’mon!)

  23. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ says:

    Curse words are words that push buttons. I use them. I do occasionally say them in front of my kids.

    We discuss the power of different words. We openly talk about when it is appropriate and inappropriate to say these words just as we speak about appropriate times for different behaviors. We talk about how some people find them offensive and that if used in front of those people, they will hear nothing else that you say except that one word. It is up to the person speaking those words to decide whether it is worth that happening.

    We speak about caring for others and being considerate when we teach words like, “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” It is within the same sphere of compassion for others that we include *all* words.

    Most importantly, as with all words, we discuss the power they have to cause harm. I do not consider the word “stupid” to be on the list of curse words, but directed at someone, it has the power to cause harm.

    Instead of putting a ban on certain words because I am afraid speaking them or because I might find them offensive, I use them as another tool to help my children find self-empowerment and make intelligent choices as adults.

  24. The New Cinders says:

    Wow! What a mixed bag of responses – and some real aggression from people who disagree with you! Some would argue that aggression, in swear words or not, is wrong..?

    I personally have sworn waayyy too much in front of my kids…mostly because I was a teenage mum and I was still growing up and too immature to make that choice. It just kind of happened.

    But my kids are now teenagers. Yes – they both swear, when they are hacked off with something and very cleverly in humour too. A lot of the time I wish they wouldn’t. But they are both A* students well in the top 5% of academic achievers in the country. They take part in many activities and are respected members of the community. They are funny, strong, capable people who are confident around adults and peers alike. They are not intimidated by stroppy people.

    Do I wish I did it differently? Sometimes. Has it been so bad? Absolutely not!

    The link between swearing and aggression comes because a lot of people who swear use it aggressively and they are aggressive anyway. They fight and confront and take pride in being hard. That is not true of everyone who swears. I am a very gentle and compromising person – I don’t teach aggression and neither of my kids demonstrate it.

    The two are not intrinsically linked – and parenting is a mixed bag of proud moments and mess ups – so swearing or not I find it hard to believe your kids (particularly Cheryl) are any more perfect that mine or Katstone’s who wrote this post!

    I admire her honesty!

  25. Kristina says:

    I have what has been referred to by my father (who is a bit uptight) as “trucker mouth.” I curse A LOT, including in front of my 12 year old daughter. I don’t see an issue with it. My kiddo actually has one of the cleanest mouths in her class, she never curses at home and even uses made-up or “replacement” words with her friends. (She says “Pickles” instead of Sh**). I honestly think that the fact that I curse so F***ing much has kind of de-sensitized her or something. Like she doesn’t see the point because it just isn’t a big deal. Every once and awhile she’ll say crap and then immediately slap her hand over her mouth and apologize. Go figure.

  26. CARidilla says:

    I was raised by a “holy roller” mother who thought “darn” was a bad word. Since she’s gone now I have picked up my step family’s spicy language. I don’t think crap, darn, heck, etc should be considered curse words because it makes kids want to say them, besides they will say the actual words eventually. As an adult I know what is proper and what is not; I feel we need to teach the kids 12 yrs and older.

  27. Jocelyne says:

    There was lots of swearing in my house growing up, and I turned out mostly fine. I’ve got a girlfriend who’s trying to teach her son not to swear, but it’s not going so well. (Must’ve gotten it from his dad!) She just sent me the sweetest video of him:

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