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"Where's My F****** Baba?" When Toddlers Curse

Learning to swear from an expert in curse words.

“Oh, SH*T MOMMY. SH*T.”

It’s my daughter’s favorite new exclamation. Of course I hide my grins and have yet to make a big deal about the word, but the more she does it the more I’m at a loss. My husband, Serge, tried to do the finger-shaking “That’s a bad word” routine, but I stopped him, figuring that making a big deal out of the word would only add to its appeal.

But Violet’s cursing doesn’t end there. I recently let loose with a “Daaaamn, kid” while changing an extra-gross Henry diaper, and Violet now relishes the phrase. Soon after, I opened the fridge and the door shelf broke, spilling condiments all over the floor. “Daaamn, kid,” Violet whistled.

At least she’s swearing in the right context. That’s something.

The cursing doesn’t really bother me so much. I’m definitely not one of those wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap kind of moms. Turns out, lots of moms swear in front of their kids. And hey. Pretty soon Violet will be sixteen and cursing whether or not I want her to. But, for now, I don’t want her to say it in the wrong place in front of the wrong people.

As Lisa Belkin writes over on The Huffington Post, her friend Julie Merberg has the same problem.

Just a few days ago, Julie tells me, Mac was thumbing through a toy catalog picking out prospective presents when he called her over to take a look: “Holy sh*t Mommy! You have to come see this.” She adds, ruefully: “Mother of the year, I am…”

Belkin contacted Betsy Brown Braun to offer some advice to the parents of little ones that curse. Betsy’s a child development and behavior specialist and the author of You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-proofing your Four-to-Twelve-Year-Old Child. Her advice? Exactly what I feared. It is I who needs to watch my mouth and the rest will fall into place.

Betsy warns that Julie has to start with her own mouth. Maybe a “swear jar” for Mom, in which she has to place 50 cents every time she curses — making her children the enforcers? Because if Mom doesn’t stop, Mac will never stop. Kids repeat what they hear, Betsy says, and then they keep repeating it when they see everyone giggling. So no more giggles, even if this is, on one level, pretty funny. As for punishment, taking away something hours later isn’t going to make any difference, Betsy suggests. Instead give a stern and matter-of-fact reminder, then move on.

Dammit.

What about you? Got a cursing problem that’s as tough as cigarettes to quit? How are you dealing with that and your child’s penchant for mimicking you?

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