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I Let My 4-year-Old Swear: Why Kids’ Cursing Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Why kids cursing isnt necessarily a bad thing.

By Aaron Traister |

My son is about to start pre-k next week. I’m just wondering what will happen if Noah walks into The Garden of the Holy Spirit and starts cursing.

You see, I’ve given Noah a tremendous amount of freedom of speech during my tenure as his stay-at-home dad. I firmly believe that part of the reason he can hold up his end of the conversation with kids who are twice his age and has the ability and confidence to introduce himself to new children, talk to adults, and use words like “diversify” is because I haven’t modified my own language around him. I was not a baby-talk kind of dad and I didn’t sugar or censor any other aspect of how I spoke to him. In return I have an articulate and precocious 4-year-old.

While the positive effects are undeniable, there are some negative aspects to my grand verbal program.

While Noah may be able to bust out words like “rapid” and “vexing,” he is also armed with an alarming array of four-letter words and salty language. He doesn’t curse constantly, but, like me, when he spills his bowl of cereal on the living-room floor or stubs his toe, he has a tendency to say, “Shit!” among other more colorful zingers. I have absolutely no problem with this; it is not a frequent occurrence nor is it viewed as a delicious forbidden treat by Noah, as it may be by other kids. Because to him the words are no different than any others, he doesn’t delight or marvel in using them; they are simply utilitarian language for when things go wrong.

In truth, I actually prefer the occasional “shit” and “damn” to all the infantilized alternatives. I will take a responsible, stubbed-toe curse word to a “poopie-butt” or “doodie” or “pee-pee” or whatever other cutesy scatological nonsense that makes other 4-year-old boys crack up.

But I seem to be alone in this view, even in my own household. The barrage of cutesy bathroom humor passes without notice at the park and during most play times, warranting only the occasional “calm down” or “leave at the park” from my wife and other parents.

However when Noah lost his footing on the jungle gym and shouted, “Oh shit!” as he began to fall, the other parents looked at me like I had just asked him if he wanted to do some bong rips at snack-time. But had he said, “Oh poopie” before putting his tooth through his lip on the climbing bars, I bet the looks would have been different.

After that incident, my wife, Karel, decided to tell him there are words he cannot say or that, as a family, we do not say, and she started a list.

On a practical level, I know where she’s coming from. I know people disapprove, and I don’t want him to have a harder time making new friends because he curses. I also understand that my wife doesn’t want to think about her giggling joyful little boy dropping a dish and muttering curse words under his breath. That’s something adults do. She wants to think of him as the blobby ray of innocent sunshine that has been lighting up our life for the past 4 years.

So being the bending-branch that I am, I gave her method a test run for about a month (even though I had strong reservations).

Immediately Noah began experimenting with saying “shit” and then looking for a reaction from me and my wife. Before the word had just been another word in his stockpile, the rejection of it made him realize it had some kind of power.

Then while reading a chapter of Harry Potter, one in which Ron mentions how much he hates Malfoy, Noah turned to me and said, “We don’t say hate daddy:”

His mother, my amazing wife, in an attempt to maintain the sweetness and innocence of her little blobby ray, had told him that “We don’t say hate.”

Hate was where I drew the line. How the hell am I supposed to teach him about the Mets and the Giants if “we don’t say hate”?

How are we supposed to read any book on the planet that doesn’t involve the words “pat them gently” if we’re not using words like hate?

It’s the trouble with censorship: not only does it give words a greater power than they already posses, but it snowballs out of control and suddenly the “we don’t say list” has grown to include: hate, suck, smelly, and mutant. How am I supposed to describe Tom Coughlin?

In my eyes, my son is not a blobby ray anymore, he’s not even a toddler; he’s a boy (admittedly, still for a few precious more moments a little boy) and he’s going to hate (hopefully not much more than New York sports franchises), he’s going to curse, he’s going to get into fights, he’s going to say things that piss people off, and he’s going to find himself in situations where he’s put himself on the outside. But that’s all just part of growing up.

So while my wife continues her futile list of words we don’t say, I have reverted to the my full 1st-Amendment policies – and we’re back to him no longer thinking “shit” is anything special. Karel is feigning ignorance about my reversion (although she is silently reaping the rewards). I’m sure the first time Noah skins his knee at the Garden of the Holy Spirit and Karel finds herself on the wrong end of a grumpy nun I will hear about it: a lot. But that’s fine; I’ll take it for the team because this is one of the rare moments when I know I’m right.

And, yes, while I’m sure that having two different sets of standards is confusing for a 4-year-old, isn’t the way we communicate and learn each other’s boundaries totally confusing anyway? When it comes to language in our house, we may be sending mixed messages, but that in itself may be the best preparation for what lies ahead of him in the real world.

I figure as long as he says more about love than he does hate, as long as the curse words are directed at toes and cereal bowls and the Mets instead of at real people, as long as he tries to be thoughtful and considerate more often than he is selfish, as long as he says “please” and “thank you” more often than he says “mine,” well then we probably shouldn’t get too stressed. And so far, that’s the way he is – a kind, considerate kid. Maybe that means I’ve done a damn fine job.

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About Aaron Traister

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Aaron Traister

Aaron Traister lives and works in Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He writes a monthly column for Redbook and his work has appeared on Salon.com. You can only find him on Facebook because he's not interesting enough to have a Twitter account.

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116 thoughts on “I Let My 4-year-Old Swear: Why Kids’ Cursing Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

  1. Dismayed of Tunbridge Wells says:

    “Im sure the first time Noah skins his knee at the Garden of the Holy Spirit and Karel finds her self on the wrong end of a grumpy nun I will hear about it a lot.” – fantastic… you decide the child can swear and your wife has to deal with the public fallout while presumably you are in work smugly congratulating yourself on your fantastic child rearing technique. Bravo…

    He will quickly pick up that this is a forbidden word in school from the reaction of aforementioned nuns and other kids. What do you do then when he uses it to provoke a reaction in situations where he knows that will work but knows that he won’t get any discipline from you over it?

  2. Korinthia Klein says:

    We don’t swear often at home, so my kids don’t generally do it either, but my six year old will say “damn!” from time to time. Often when she does I remind her that I personally don’t care, but that she shouldn’t say it in front of other little kids. There are rules for using all language. We don’t talk about certain topics in front of certain people because it’s rude or upsetting to them. We don’t forbid any words, we just teach our kids when they are appropriate.

  3. myanna says:

    My rule is that saying words from “the list” is like burping and farting. Nearly everybody does it sometimes, and nearly everyone is offended by it. If you do it accidentally, you immediately apologize, and if someone else does it accidentally or on purpose, you ignore it. Teaching your kid to not say “shit” in front of a nun, and to apologize if he slips up, is just teaching him to respect other people’s feelings, not stifling his expression or “giving words power”.

  4. Rachel Kreyling Kinsler says:

    I thought I was so bad for not minding that my little kiddo swears. Now Here is someone who exactly articulates my philosophy on fowl language. I noticed that as soon as we started saying “We don’t say words like that…” to things, she immediately starts testing by repeating ‘dumbass’ etc. I like how he ends with the idea of balance – for all of us, more of what we say in life should be positive but don’t get your panties in a twist if shit happens

  5. SE says:

    I like the idea of “fowl” language, Rachel. Aaron, maybe you could teach your little guy to scream, “Chicken! Duck!!” when he is upset. I sure would prefer to hear that at the playground . . .

  6. stacie says:

    I think it seems a little low-class for anyone, child or adult, to use curse words on a regular basis. There’s something low-brow about a four year old saying “shit”. I’d rather my child use appropriate language that doesn’t offend anyone. I’m certain when my kids are teenagers, they will let one slip on occassion but I’d rather my children use some restraint when it comes to curse words. I guess it depends on how you were raised. I was raised to speak like a lady with manners.

  7. Siobhan says:

    Oh, please. You think you are Capt. Awesome because you didn’t use baby talk and your four year old has a great vocabulary. Congrats. I didn’t use baby talk either and my four year old also has an impressive vocabulary. I just don’t consider swear words all that impressive, for four year olds or adults. We don’t use “infantilized alternatives” either. If we spill our cereal around here a clear (and clean) “I spilled my cereal” followed by a request for clean up help is really quite sufficient.

  8. Respect says:

    I think it is about teaching respect – and I dont believe it is respectful to swear at preschool, school, church, etc. And besides, like it or not, swearing makes one sound ignorant – not highly educated and grown up. Hence, I have taught my daughter there is a right way to communicate (includes not whining and not swearing).

  9. xobolaji says:

    dear sir, forgive my language, but this is bullsh*t! there are reasons we have rules and regulations for children, and there are reasons why we have rules and regulations for adults. we also have age-appropriate guidelines for children because guess what, it is a “given” that children can grasp and comprehend certain things at different times. i think it’s reckless and irresponsible that you justify swearing around your child. it is neither cute nor precocious, in fact it’s misguided and arrogant.

    my husband and i did not ever speak baby-talk to our girls aged 5 and 2. as a result we too have children who are articulate and bright. the 5 year old reads at an age 8 level, and she also spells and writes quite well. most people think that my 2 year old is 4 because her speech is also advanced for her age.

    i am not saying that we are saints. far from it. we have let the occasional “shit” slip but we quickly apologize for our language telling our 5 year old that language itself is vast and there are far more appropriate and interesting words to use.

    so i dunno. i think this dad needs to reevaluate and rethink what his motives are here. not only adults, but other children will think that your child is rude and crude and socially inept. you may think that you are setting your child apart in a good way, but it is exactly the opposite. you’re setting him up for a series of social problems in his young academic life, and that’s not cool. get over yourself. and do the child and the world a favour but acting like an responsible parent. not an ageing hipster. good grief!

  10. Diera says:

    The fact is, you ARE “alone in this view”, or nearly. Having good manners is all about not doing what makes the majority of people uncomfortable, and a four year old cursing will make people uncomfortable. Until a person is old enough to understand why one shouldn’t say “Shit, I scraped my goddamn knee!” in front of a nun, that person isn’t old enough to swear. Sure, you can choose to defy that rule, but by your own admission, it’s going to be your child and your wife who are going to take the heat for that. I don’t think you’ve ruined your child forever by not giving him the information that polite people don’t shout swear words in public – as you say, they’re just words – but you’ve made his life a little harder by not teaching him basic manners. My son, who is eight, goes to public school and has learned all of the ‘bad’ words from his friends, but while he may (or may not, I don’t know) swear when he’s hanging out with them, he’s old enough to understand not to use those words with teachers or authority figures. That’s fine with me.

  11. JuniperBCN says:

    I’m probably in the minority, but I’m willing to bet that a five year old can begin to work with idea that some things fly in certain places and not in others. Instead of restricting, I’d start explaining and modeling what works where and give basic information about why and the consequences. My 4 year old gets it and he’s living 3 languages (=3x the curse words). My money’s on the intelligent kid!

  12. Keenest37 says:

    Everything has a time and a place. Yes I think peppering every sentence with curse words can be rude and crude. This is usually done by people who heard their parents speak this way. I throw out an occasional curse word now and then. My daughter is 9 now and I’ve never made a big deal out of “bad words”so they are not a big deal to her. I’ve pointed out how constant cursing doesn’t sound very nice but since I’ve never made it taboo she doesn’t get a naughty thrill out of using them. In fact I think the only time she does is when quoting someone else. I was not raised in a trashy family but I don’t think an occasional shit hell or damn is such a big deal. I actually watch tv shows sometimes and wonder why they need to use the f word as much as they do. Do you know this many people who freely use the word every time sex comes up. And no, I don’t let my daughter watch these shows.

  13. Darcy Hogan says:

    To each his own. Words are just words. Only we can give them power. I agree with Juniper. Certain words are okay in certain places. The fact is, yes, those words do make many people uncomfortable or even angry (many of the posts below illustrate this). But with your child being so articulate and intelligent – I’ll be he can understand pretty quickly about what is appropriate where. Church, not so much. Home, sure.

    I try not to swear around my daughter because I don’t want to deal with this same issue. The words don’t bother me, but they do “bother” the vast majority of Americans (which is funny, because the vast majority of Americans DO swear … but I digress). My choice is to censor myself only of the “harsher” swear words around my daughter, and … rather than make up cutsie versions … instead stick with the more “mild” words (crap, etc). That’s just the way I’m doing it, but I think it’s up to the parent to decide. And I don’t think anyone should be insulting this guy because he has a view that’s different than yours.

  14. Lisaloo says:

    To me, it’s all about manners. We are not raising children that need to get along in their home environment, we are raising people that need to operate out THERE – in the big, complicated, over-populated world. Understanding that there are words that are not polite and that offend people is an important part of socialization. I’m curious what your take is on racial slurs – they’re just words, too, but words have power. Teaching our children about the power of words is crucial. I understand where you are coming from, but I think you are being slightly naive and delusional. BTW, my young boys also have very advanced vocabularies, wonderful social skills, and they do it in 2 languages (I’m English, my DH is French, children are bilingual). Recently it came to my attention that my 6 year old was using not nice French words in my presence – DH calmly explained to him that it was not a nice expression and certainly not one used with one’s mother, and later he gave me a little education. I seriously think you need to think a little deeper about this one.

  15. Julie Wills says:

    I agree with Darcy on his comment at the end. Stop insulting the dude just because he raises his kid differently. I don’t censor myself around my child, but I have given him a concept of why I can and he can’t. I’ve explained to him quite clearly that cursing is like driving, drinking, and all the other adult things in the world. They’re intended for use by people old enough to understand them. When he gets upset at me because I tell him he can’t cuss, I remind him, “Well, list the places and people you SHOULDN’T cuss in or around, and I might reconsider.” Without fail, he can never remember more than school. Once I remind him of things like the grandparents, great-grandparents, strangers, other kids, etc, he gets the point and says, “Okay, okay, you’re right, I’m not ready for it!” You might try sitting down and having a conversation with your kid to see if he knows when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. Just because he has a large vocabulary for his age, doesn’t mean he can keep in his head where to use what. My son will be 9 this month, and he can’t remember it. Yours might or might not, it depends on the kid I think. Either way, this is simply my method, not yours. You do whatever you feel it is you need to do with your own kid, and the naysayers can well, frankly, FUCK OFF. LOL!

  16. Jenni D says:

    We swear too. I’ve tried to clan up my mouth, but hanging out with friends while the kids play underfoot, bad things slip out. If my 3 year old repeats some of the bad stuff I’ve sad or hears me I tell him sorry bub, that’s not a nice word. It’s hasn’t been a big deal, he hasn’t experimented with the forbidden by saying it over and over. Occasionally yes he or his 2 year sister has said something colorful.

    I don’t think it’s a big deal. My kid is also very smart and has a big vocabulary. I think he’s smart enough to know when not to saw “bad” words in front of, but yeah if you fall down and bust your knee you might say “shit.” Big deal.

  17. Jenni D says:

    I typed one handed while cuddling my sick toddler, sorry for the typos :D

  18. KF says:

    Thank you! Thank you for this article. Well written, concise, it so needs to be said. We don’t censor ourselves around our daughter. That being said, we don’t really curse. What I think is the most important aspect of this article is the fact that you don’t talk to your kids in a way that assumes that they won’t be able to understand you. My 2 year old just learned the meaning of “herbivore”, uses it correctly, because we don’t assume that she couldn’t possibly fathom ideas simply due to her age. It sounds like you have the same thought. There are times people are talking to her that I want to shout, “she’s two, she’s not a puppy!”
    Best Babble article of the month.

  19. Timothy says:

    I swear, though not lots, and I swear about as much around my kids (7 years and 1 year old) as otherwise.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with swearing, and so I don’t feel right teaching my kids to avoid swearing. Regardless, I do limit my swearing at work and around strangers. I similarly teach my older son that there are words, “most people don’t want to hear kids say”, and he understands he’d get in trouble for saying “shit” at school.

    I’d rather he learns this–good behavior is different in different contexts–than learns there are “bad words”. There’s no such thing as a bad word, there’s just some which will do more harm than good in some contexts.

  20. SF says:

    So we shouldn’t let dumb kids swear, or am I missing something?!?

  21. Dianne Velez says:

    I hold the mentality that it is my responsibility to explain to them when it is okay to say. Just like they learn manners in every respect of their lives, so it should stand on their language. So in front of us and in the correct context (i.e. not used as a direct offense to another person, especially not in anger) I have no issue. Out of doors, manners prevail and there are places where these things are not going to fly. We taught that with general success. In other words – I agree with you.

  22. ChiLaura says:

    I haven’t read the comments below, so maybe the question has already been asked: Why can’t you and your wife teach your son that there are some words that are okay around family, and some words that you don’t say around other people? Too much of a double standard? (Though I don’t think it is.) You thik that he’d say them in public just to get a reaction?

    Just this morning, our almost 3 y/o slipped on something, exclaimed, “Shit!” and kept on running down the hall. My husband and I looked at each other and started cracking up. Someone’s been listening! Really, it was hilarious. Also, I hardly consider “shit” a bad word, so it really didn’t bother me. If he’d said anything beginning with “F,” though, I might have at least explained to him that it’s not a nice word to use around others. As funny as it was to hear his sweet, high-pitched voice say “Shit!”, I don’t want him saying it around his grandparents.

    Finally, for what it’s worth, I was raised with “We don’t say hate,” at least not to direct it at people, and I think that it was good. “Hate” is such a strong, strong word, and I think that we don’t realize it’s force until we’re older than 4, if we bother to pay attention to those things. My 4 y/o has recently called me and his little brother “stupid”; to him it’s just a word of frustration and he doesn’t realize its importance. It’s fine if he wants to complain about “This stupid toy,” but I don’t want him to call anyone stupid until he knows just what he’s saying.

  23. Stoich91 says:

    Which is the better question:

    Should I waste my time reading this article?

    OR

    Should I waste my time commenting on it?

    Ding! Ding! Cookie goes to the winning answer: #2!

    Meh. Bravo, Babble. You win. Controversial articles that get your site lots of hits and have nothing to do with life…you’re doin’ it right.

  24. NMCD says:

    I curse in front of my children but I do not allow them to do it. Language is a powerful thing and curse words are also powerful this is why we reserve them (or should IMHO reserve them) for circumstances where they are called for. I believe that adults are capable of deciding when these words are merited. Children are not. If they use them they are aping adults. I have told my children that the right to swearing is something that they will earn with time. I would also not hesitate to tell a child not to use that language.

    Although it’s really nice to think that your child uses words like “vexed” unless he understands the connotation of choosing those words, it’s really pretty hollow. I think the same is true of the swearing.

  25. Lissa says:

    I have really cleaned my words up since having children. Plus I think I am old enough to learn new ones!
    I dropped something the other day and I said “SHOOT”. My 6yr old son came over to help me, and looks at me and says “shoot, like I get it?” then makes a gun out of his fingers and clicks the thumb trigger “like I get it, shoot?”. I said “no” (but oh I get it is a good one), then I whispered “I said shoot instead of saying shit”. “Oh” he said “you say a word that sounds like a bad word instead of saying one!”. Oh yes the lights went off in his head. Of course children don’t just know things they learn them and that day my son really did! Otherwise yes he would be walking around saying shit because that is something that I would have taught him now wouldn’t it!
    Bottom line is I wouldn’t appreciate if either my son or daughter were walking around cursing every time they tripped or spilt something on the floor. I am really curious if the author would feel differently if his son were a daughter, and really since he is boasting about the large vocabulary that his son has then why doesn’t he teach him a more sensible way off blowing off steam?

  26. Sarah says:

    Well written and funny!

  27. Jay says:

    I cannot believe this article. Even more, I cannot believe the comments here. Reading this just adds to the many reasons that our children are home schooled. No wonder our country, morals, and behaviors as a whole have gone downhill. Once you start accepting something like this, then the next thing they do that is inappropriate isn’t so bad… and so on. So has been the downfall of our society. I seem to be in the minority by not agreeing, but grow up. You have children. You’ve “tried” to clean up your mouth? Well, trying doesn’t cut it. You just DO. People are such slackers… don’t have kids. Seriously.

  28. Rosana says:

    If he is fine with his kid swearing everywhere they go, that is fine, but if I was his wife, I will let him deal with the nun, since being ok with swering is his brilliant idea :)

  29. Beth says:

    It is completely ridiculous to equate using a sophisticated vocabulary with using curse words around your children. You can censor curses without censoring the rest. Occasionally, if you’re taken off guard, you might slip, but otherwise, come on, there has to be a line!

  30. Theresa Burley Hughes says:

    Swearing often shows a lack of imagination and vocabulary, and an inability to properly express ones self (which often happens to me!). That said, studies show that swearing when you stub your toe somehow dampens the pain http://bit.ly/3O5I6B, perhaps it helps lessen frustration as well. Obviously swearing is a strong part of our language, but I don’t want my four-year old cursing on the playground just yet.

  31. cptofthehouse says:

    Your son will not be welcome and may even be asked to leave some places if cursing becomes a firmly ensconced part of his way of speaking. It can easily become a habit, you know. Most all kids pick up cursing, in time, and the battle lies in getting them to keep those words out of the vocabulary in certain, really most, situations.

    With five kids, all boys, all now boys and in their teens and up, I can tell you that social acceptance is a big deal for most kids as they get older. A serial curser is going to find that an impediment and you will find that the type of kids that tend to pepper their words with curse words may not be the ones you want around your kid. That has been my experience.

    I actually stopped my car, and told a foul mouthed kid that he was going home if he did not clean up his mouth. Found out later that he has been shut out of a number of households and places because he can’t control his mouth, and, no, he does not have Tourettes. For some reason, curse words are very easily included in the vocabulary and difficult to excise. I know a young lady who is severely mentally disabled, can hardly talk, but can say a number of 4 letter and other choice words with great force and relish.

  32. janet says:

    I would really like to see Aaron come on to address how he feels about racial or homophobic slurs. Granted, he may say that he never says these things in his household so his child does not know them but if words are just words, and have no power, what about words intended to hurt or wound so deeply? Because surely his child will pick those up as well, while Aaron is complimenting himself on what a cool parent his is. My 9 year old son plays soccer with a kid who lets out a blue streak of words on and off the pitch and while 9 year old boys will listen to anything, and know the words, they just think it’s, well, weird…it’s weird to be around a perfectly normal kid who swears anytime something goes wrong. He’s got cool hipster parents though!

  33. Lee says:

    I consider myself a person who has not spoken “baby talk” with any of my children and also feel I have a more than adequate vocabulary. Thus I have been able to find that fascinating middle ground between a curse word and “oh poopies” when I stub my toe. It has been a good example for my 4 children who have not felt the urge to curse till the teen years when I would expect that they would experiment with the way they choose to express themselves.

  34. Kelly Mah says:

    Almost everyone swears; that is a given. However, not everyone swears in front of their children and there is a particular reason for that. Young children idolize and look up to their parents. Therefore, they will ultimately mimick what you are saying and doing. If they hear you use profane language, they will use profane language. This may not be a problem at home, but once he gets out into the real world, he is going to encounter many difficulties. What if he gets angry in school and swears in front of a teacher: Do you honestly believe that there will be no consequences as a result? Part of being a parent is knowing what kind of behavior is appropriate for their child and their circumstances. Allowing a 4 year old to parrot your profane language is not being a responsible parent. If you are unable to concisely articulate your feelings of frustration and anger in the presence of your child without using profantity, than your grasp of the English language is poorer than you realize. If you really want to be a positive influence on your child then help him find words other than the profane to express his discontent.

  35. Kari says:

    My husband also does not censor himself around our child. My 3 year old, in turn, uses four letter words in context and not to shock. It is so painful to watch the f-bomb come out of a small child’s mouth, no matter how appropriate to the situation it may be. When it happens in front of dad, no repercussions, when it happens in front of me, I tell him those words hurt my ears, to which he responds, “sorry, I meant ‘fark’” The word Mommy uses.

  36. nina says:

    swearing has nothing to do with being a literate and articulate person. In fact, I would argue they are inversely related; i.e. the more literate and articulate you are, the better able you should be to describe your emotions and express your reactions without resorting to either swearing or, as you put it, cutesy bathroom language. I do not swear, nor do I yell “poop,” if I fall, trip, or drop something. Instead, I pick myself up, or the object. If something is so painful as to require a shouted word, “ouch,” is sufficient, followed by, “that really hurt.” So, don’t confuse literacy with swearing. It’s entirely possible to speak in an adult manner without swearing. Many of us do it.

    You are right in that forbidden words do become much more attractive. So is forbidden behavior. As parents, we all draw our lines of acceptable and unacceptable in different places. The problem is that we live in society. Little kids, boys in particular, are not a good fit with modern society. They want, and need, to run, scream, hit, throw, grab, wrestle, and demand attention. We teach our kids they can’t scream in a store, throw silverware across a restaurant, or walk up to random adults and say, “you’re ugly.” Why? Because we live in a society in which those actions are not acceptable.
    Likewise, it is not acceptable for a four-year-old to swear. Or a six-year-old. You permit it, fine. But as nice and cute as your son may be, I would never invite him to my house because I don’t want my kids speaking like that. And I fear you will find most other parents in the same metaphorical camp on this issue. It’s doing your son a disservice to allow this behavior.
    It’s a bit of a parenting cop-out to say, “but if I forbid it, it makes it more appealing.”

    My son went through several “poopy-everything” phases at 3 and 4. It was annoying, but our family rules include “we don’t name-call” and “we don’t do poopy-talk.” Each day, he got one reminder, and then a time-out each time the rest of the day he said it. Each episode was quelled quickly.
    In my son’s private pre-K class, there was one boy with very permissive parents, who allowed the boy to use any kind of language he wanted. The other kids in the class would come home and tell the parents about this boy and his behavior (it wasn’t only a language problem) and the boy became known among the parents as a problem. He has very few playdates, and sadly, only two kids went to his birthday party.
    So, for your son, I urge you to think about what you are doing. Yeah, words are words… but I imagine if you stop yourself from swearing, your son might just follow your lead.

  37. Dewi says:

    You’re an idiot, and an asshole.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    What do you think of that? Is that appropriate language?
    No!
    Or would you prefer I say:
    I disagree with your point of view.
    ~~~~~~~

    I don’t think it’s developmentally appropriate for a pre schooler to be in charge, a child is not learning socially acceptable words to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas.
    He is pushing the boundaries.
    Wait until he is an adolescent how horrible it is when that language really has a depth of meaning and the hate behind it.

    It SUCKS for your kid to use curse words and know how they hurt.

    There is a developmental correlation between toddlerhood and adolescent. It is Autonomy, the most difficult struggle for children at both these stages in there life.
    Prepare you preschooler for the world.

  38. Ninesandquines says:

    So if I’m interviewing your kid for his first big job out of college in about 18 years and he drops an F bomb I will be sure to tell him that his parents should have taught him better and good luck at his next interview…..

  39. seasoned mom says:

    Give a gift to your child and yourself:
    Have you ever consided it’s possible you don’t know how to identify and express your emotions with words.
    How about a preschoolers chart to help the two of you.

    Prepare him for life by learning how to express his feeling with real words, not baby nonsense silly talk and not slang or curse words.

    http://www.amazon.com/CHART-HOW-YOU-FEEL-TODAY/dp/B000FA6E50

    Good Luck!

  40. Momtothree says:

    Your kid is not likely to have too many second playdates. That will break his heart. You’ve made a big mistake and he wont even understand the problem.

  41. yomama says:

    I think we have as a society slowly stolen childhood away, and this is another example. It is sad. I think the author belittles his wife by demeaning her wishes for age-appropriate behavior from her husband with her child.

  42. Johanna says:

    My kids also used “vex” and “rapid” at four and I never talked down to them or used “baby talk.” But I don’t swear in front of them because that is not deemed acceptable in our society.
    I am looking forward to the day when Noah is 15 and turns to you in anger and says, “F*** You, Dad.” Have fun with that — and hope it is not in hearing range of any teacher or principal at his school.

  43. NotIntoFilthyLanguage says:

    Here’s how it works for me:

    Situation: 4 year old kid on the slide yelling “Oh sh*t.”

    Mental reaction: “Note to self – white trash alert – steer son away from those people.” (Yeah, I know the kid can’t help it, but I’ve worked too hard in life to have my kids growing up around parents like Joy Farrah Darville Hickey Turner mynameisearl.wikia.com/…/Joy_Turner) or her male counterpart, whether he writes a column for Redbook or not.

    Physical reaction: Act like I don’t hear it, and just keep walking. Life is too short to stare at people.

  44. Mandolin says:

    Geez, it’s like half of you didn’t actually read the whole article. For those of you who “can’t wait for Aarons son to say “f*ck you”" to his Dad, please look at the part of the article where it’s written, “curse words are directed at toes and cereal bowls and the Mets instead of at real people…”
    I was raised in a house where we were not aloud to swear, and I’ve heard all of the arguments from my own Mother as to why we shouldn’t, however I agree with Aaron. Making anything taboo, makes it more desirable. As long as Noah isn’t calling someone an “asshole” which clearly Aaron is against, based on the above quote, then saying “shit” when he stubs his toe is nothing. Why is it so offensive? Because you’ve given it that power. He’s not directing it to anyone, and when saying “shoot” instead of “shit”, the context is the same, you mean the same thing, why try to cover it up with a close sounding word? The words only have power if you give it to them, it’s the context that matters.

  45. Wow says:

    Wow…just wow..I have never seen so many self-righteous parents in one grouping. Now that you all feel superior because your kid uses “big” words and not cuss words congrats…But I should remind you, there is no parenting award for being that awesome. This is a parenting style. Attacking the writer personally is a little out of control.
    I bet all you parents who would “never invite THAT kid back for a play date” (WTF is a ‘play date’ anyways? what ever happened to “mom I’m going out side to play”…when did we have to schedule our kid’s fun? but I digress) I hope you feel special. Because here is the thing. Even though you don’t curse in your own home…they will figure it out. I was dropping f-bombs by age 10. Not around my parents, but I was doing it because I hate to tell you, but most every one was at school. So unless you plan to home school your kid like Jay a ways down there on the comment list (which brings up a whole other mess of kids that don’t know how to properly function in large groups of society or in the real world) they will be cussing well before high school. So you really are just raising closet-foul-mouthed-children. I have a mouth like a trucker most days…However I have NEVER cussed in a job interview. Its just simple common sense, it has nothing to do with whether you were raised to cuss or not. So all you self-righteous parents out there with clean mouthed kids…shut. the. fu*k. up. You are not better parents because your kid is not allowed to cuss. You just aren’t. They too will cuss and it will be behind your back…hmmm I wonder what else they will do behind your back that you don’t like???

  46. SF says:

    This feels similar to the argument I’ve heard about buying alcohol for your teens because they’re just going to drink anyway. I don’t for a second think that my children won’t at some point, try alcohol, I’ve heard them both use some colourful language and I know that they will push many more boundaries as they grow. My job is to set these boundaries, not eliminate them because I think my kids are too clever to have to abide by them.

  47. chrisTN says:

    The one caution I would give to Aaron — one I bet he hasn’t thought about — is that Noah’s freedom with language could potentially be a danger to other kids whose parents aren’t so tolerant. I was physically abused for saying “shit” and “crap” as an 8- and 9-year old. In one instance one of my friends joked in front of my parents about a funny time I had said “crap” at school — because, much like Noah, she didn’t know there was anything all that wrong with it and couldn’t have imagined how much trouble she would get me in. In another instance, a teacher told my mother I had been saying “shit” on the playground with a few other kids. I was beaten and had soap poured down my throat both times. So you see the danger: having a child that thinks these words are nothing special, you can see how easily he might get other children into a game of saying them — not because they hold some special, forbidden power to him, but because they do *to the other kids*, who might be awed by his nonchalance and decide to start experiment with saying them too. Think about the other child whose parent might be confronted by a grumpy nun after a little bout of shit-saying in preschool (or elementary school) — parents do some appalling things to their kids, and given my childhood I can’t help but feel that a little boy who doesn’t know the power that some words have to get people in a whole lot of trouble is a dangerous thing.

  48. Sam says:

    What is even considered a “bad” or “cuss” word is up for grabs. We were allowed to say “fart” for passing gas in my house but at my friends house you would get your mouth washed out with soap. At that same friends house they said “shit” but let me say it at my house I would have gotten my mouth smacked. Words are words and unless they are meant hurtful toward someone else I don’t see the problem. That being said, kids HAVE to know what is socially acceptable. My friend and I knew that although “fart” was ok at my house and “shit” was ok at her house, those were the only places we used those words because in “mixed” company you may offend someone. I’m an adult now and I don’t say “OH God” because that offends a lady I work for so that makes it taboo. I don’t think words are the problem. I think the context in which they’re used and the disrespect some people show while using them is the problem. So in other words, I think if you want to let your child say “by-words” at home, it’s your business but he probably should be made to understand that most everyone else in some shape form or fashion is going to be offended by that. I don’t think it would be fair for a child to learn the hard way that it’s not socially accepted.

  49. E Normous says:

    A 4 year old saying “vexing” is just creepy… seems a little Stewie-like.

  50. Sweetness Jones says:

    I only watched my foul language around my children when they were too young to understand the meaning behind the words and their social connotations. After that, they were given permission to “swear,” but with a few stipulations: no calling someone a swear word (or any other insult), no using swear words outside of our home, unless they were in the company of people they knew they wouldn’t offend, and no using swear words at school/relatives’ houses. You know what? The little beasts won’t swear, even if offered money. The fascination has been removed for them, and the words aren’t that big a deal to them. What does offend me is parents who don’t allow their children to use proper names for things and then make their daughters say “bottom” instead of “butt” or “vulva.” Um…hello? “Bottom” for all of the stuff down there because all the other words are somehow “bad?” And also tying swearing to social class or vocabulary is just dull. And what’s so wrong with the word “vexing?”

  51. Jess Pendleton Caraway says:

    I kind of stumbled onto this article. I don’t have kids, but my husband and I have been discussing having children soon, and how we will treat “taboo” topics in our home.

    We’re not planning on censoring ourselves. As someone who was very sheltered and home schooled from age 7 to age 14, I have to say, the things I did once I got a modicum of freedom would make my parents build a time machine and re-think their “coddle and shelter from the world” approach. Just something to think about.

  52. Al says:

    My parents (my mother especially) were somewhat more strict about things like cursing or watching PG-13 movies. Having that background, it’s much more awkward going over to a house where the parents cuss or let their children swear in front of them. It made me worry when my mom would come and pick me up that she would be offended. It also made me worry that it would make my friend look bad if they came over to my house and did the same thing. Whether this is right or wrong, there are people who have parents that are more offended. I’ve also been over to people’s houses whose parents were more strict than my own. In either scenario, it’s hard to be “that kid.” I’m afraid the writer’s son may have difficulty at friends’ houses because of something he says or because the friend will worry about their parents’ reaction at the writer and his son’s language. The problem would have been solved if the writer had just never sworn to begin with or at least told the kid right off the bat not to repeat those words.

  53. Frances Locke says:

    I’m sorry, but if your kid is smart enough to use the word diversify, then he can certainly handle being polite enough to refrain from cursing. It’s not about censorship, it’s about being considerate to other people. I hate the self righteous tone of this article. Please stop trying to equate letting your rude child say “shit” with freedom of speech issues.

  54. GingersUnited says:

    Personally, I find “poopie-butt”, my daughter’s personal favorite frustrated expression, much cruder than a good ol’ fashion “aw shit…”. My mom cursed around me growing up and we kids quickly learned it wasn’t acceptable to curse at school or to curse people out. But the occasional “Dammit!” was just ignored. I’m fine. And I made it through many a job interviews without dropping the F-bomb.

  55. Shane says:

    I’m elated to hear all of the ‘commenteers’ have such articulate and advanced children! You ALL have done an exquisite job arming them with the magnificence of language!

  56. harryhharrisonjr says:

    The writer of course is an idiot. If we can’t teach our kids a modicum of self control when they’re four, when do we expect them to exercise it? Unless this child learns to control his mouth, teachers will not be amused, nor will future adults want anything to do with him.

  57. Anonymous says:

    I love the fact that you are open enough to share this. My son has a foul mouth and in my home it has always been something that is frowned upon. I think I’m going to use this method for a month or so to see is he is less likely to use foul words if we don’t scold him for saying them. Thank you :)

  58. Allison says:

    Yes children should be polite but forbidden the word hate is a bit over the top to me. I mean come on..

  59. enjamber says:

    The most lucid and reasonable article on kids and cursing I’ve ever read. I totally fucking agree.

  60. Anonymous says:

    In the real world, a four year old who swears like a sailor is ostracized and disliked by the other children, their parents, hi teachers, school administrators, and the general public, so congrats for making your stupid f*cking point at your child’s expense. Most people swear around like minded adults, but are clever enough to understand that most preschoolers lack the impulse control to know their audience and only curse at appropriate times. And thinks for considering the other citzens of world, while we’er at it. Maybe I don’t want your four year old swearing in front of my children or my elderly grandmother. Only a dumb sh*t would think that was okay.

  61. Anonymous says:

    While I discourage my child from swearing, to me the larger issue here is the disconnect between the author’s stance on acceptable language and his wife’s views on the matter. Inconsistent boundaries are difficult for a child of four to navigate, and the author lazily glosses over this point.

  62. Anonymous says:

    Its just a word. the only reason your probably upset at this is due to the fact that you give too much power into the words that you dont like. Aaron most likely gives more love in to the words that have more meaning than a couple of stupid phrases that adults tend to communicate a brief emotion.

  63. Ana Mihti says:

    Right on, Buddy! I agree with enjamber & GingersUnited. You’re doing a great honest job of parenting. Perhaps we, as a people, would be a little less fucked up had our parents not felt the need to infantalize & lie to us during our youth.

    Good points about the value of learning that there are many different boundaries & values in life, as well as how to respect the people who live by them.

    Sounds like you’re raising a solid, healthy, centered young one. Good job! Congratulations! And, Good Luck!

  64. oh please says:

    In truth, I actually prefer the occasional shit and damn to all the infantilized alternatives. I will take a responsible, stubbed-toe curse word to a poopie-butt or doodie or pee-pee or whatever other cutesy scatological nonsense that makes other 4-year-old boys crack up.

    I really don’t agree with you here. I am an adult, and I try to limit my curse-words. Just because there are curse words doesn’t mean everyone HAS to say them. I think there are “appropriate” terms you can teach your children to cry out that are not obscenities, nor are they “cutesy scatological nonsense”.

    gosh darn
    fudge
    darn
    shoot
    crud

    and my personal fave:

    ai-yah

  65. Chase Chase Zocco says:

    I have to admit that the implications of a word like “sin” or “shame” in the mouth of a preschooler bother me more than a well-placed “shit!” would. But on the other hand, the kid should know how these words are viewed by the larger society, not just how they fit in his family’s (deeply dissonant!) register. Thought-provoking!

  66. Grandmama says:

    To the person who asked “What’s up with “playdates” anyway? When did we start scheduling our kids playing?”

    Since nearly every neighborhood in Urban USA has a registered child preditor within a hop, skip and a jump from that kid who just headed out the door hollering over their shoulder “I’m heading out to play”.

    As for the “let em swear” father, you sound pretty selfish to me. Your wife would rather he conform to the way society expects intelligent people to speak, and you would rather he be just like you, swear whenever he likes as long as it’s not directed at a person.

    Problem is, rather you’d like there to be or not, there will be reprocussions for your son, and they won’t be good. It’s like the studies that that have been done proving that, as a rule, people who are physically attractive are more successful. I’m betting the same could be said for speech, that those who’s speech conforms to the social norms will be perceived as having respect for those around them, playments and adults alike.

    It’s all about teaching respect. Without realizing what they are doing, the majority of his classmates are going to take his swearing as bad behavior. They are being taught at home, at school, in friends homes, at Grandparent’s, that swearing is bad behavior, that it’s being disrespectful of those around you. There’s no doubt in my mind that your son will be judged for his “Oh Shits” on the sliding board and found wanting.

    What I see is a father who would rather let his son take the social reprucussons because of his own inability to tackle his ingrained bad behavior of cussing in front of his son (and elsewhere I’m sure).

    I just hope this little boy is smart enough to learn early on that swearing is wrong, regardless of what Dad says before he’s lost the respect of all the kids who know better. Hopefully he’ll see that mom knew what she was talking about and that he’ll be better served taking her advice over his fathers, probably about more then just this issue.

  67. mightydoll says:

    I don’t really care if my kids swear at home (and they don’t very often) but they both went to school with a clear idea and no problem with the concept of “some words aren’t for school”. The only time I’ve ever been told that my child used a word unacceptable at school, the word was Hell (in the context of “what the hell?”) when he was in grade 4. I was flabbergasted that I was getting a phone call about this word, and explained that since we weren’t christian, Hell wasn’t considered any kind of bad word in our house, and that I’d talk to him about it. When he got home, I told him that, apparently, Hell was also not a word for school, and we moved on.

    My point is, even 4 year olds can understand about words you use around people you know well, and words you don’t. It’s not much different from explaining how it’s ok for your parents and/or siblings to see you naked but that you wear clothes when you go out, or when people come over. They may not understand quite why, but usually “it makes some people feel very uncomfortable, and it’s not going to hurt us to respect that” suffices as an explanation.

    When the kids get a bit older, you can get into explanations (as I have with my kids) about what some people think about casual swearing, and when it is very appropriate to curb swearing in order to present the impression you want to present.

  68. Mjolner says:

    That article was stupid. The first Amendment is about the government censoring your speech not about teaching your kids how to have no class. A 4y/o doesn’t understand when a word is proper to use.

  69. Mjolner says:

    and what about the parents who don’t raise their children to be trashy? I guess they just get to hear the results of your “progressive” parenting. Who cares about the other parents who don’t want their 4 year old kids to hear your sons dirty mouth right?

  70. Christina Leonor Mastin says:

    I understand the exclusion of cutesy baby language and useless non-words. However in my opinion curse words aren’t anything less then a display of ignorance. The English language has many other words and phrases to exclaim distaste, pain and discomfort. Why pray tell does a child or adult for that matter need to use curse words?

    I am not going to sit here and claim that I NEVER curse. I have used those same words that I profess shows such ignorance and when I do use them that is exactly what I am showing. I do not use curse words on a regular basis or even on a truly semi-regular basis. I’d like to hope my vocabulary is well stocked with other much more descriptive words then those that have been transformed to have unsavory meanings that branch far from the original dictionary definition.

  71. Kat Anne Werder says:

    Words only have the meaning we give them. If you make words “bad” and forbid them then you’re only going to encourge them to use them as a form of rebellion. Instead, explain what they mean and that not everyone likes to hear them. Children are smart. They’ll understand.

    Don’t you want to raise a child who knows how to express himself? Well, swearing is part of that. Its not ignorant at all. The occasional cuss is a part of life.

    I’m in college to be a pediatric nurse and when I stub my toe I’ll curse. It hurts. Is that ignorant?
    No.

    Is cursing every other word ignorant? Without a doubt.

    Should a 4 year old be cursing…? Well, thats a harder question.
    Yes and no. He should learn the words and their meaning. He should learn that their not to be used often or lightly.

  72. Anonymous says:

    I think every parent has the right to raise their children the way they want. I don’t intrude on their parenting, just as much as I don’t want their children coming to school, putting bad words in my 4 year old’s mind and messing up my ways of parenting. My son comes home from school telling me about one particular boy who says “stupid” and “shut up”. These words aren’t acceptable in my house, but I understand they are fine to other people. Now if he were coming home telling me this child was saying “shit” and “damn” I would be appalled and say something to the teacher and parent. My son knows not to use those words, but being around them without my control at this young of age is unacceptable. The way these children learn is by example, and the fact that you think it’s a good example to teach your son these cuss words is sad. And before any conclusions are jumped about my son using them as “power” because he knows they’re forbidden, that is not the case. He has slipped and said shut up when he’s very angry maybe once or twice, but knows he was in the wrong and apologizes immediately. When he’s upset I teach him to use intelligent words, and express himself without the use of “ignorant” words.

    I may seem strict, but I’d much rather have my 4 year old son say “Mom I’m so upset because I dropped my toy and it broke” than “Shit! Mom, I dropped my damn toy and it broke like the stupid piece of shit it is”.

  73. redhenblack says:

    bullshit. (pardon my french.) i think you enjoy your sons cursing. “baby language” bothers you. you can’t skip a few f-bombs and s-words here and there? to slip up and curse is one thing, but to intentionally curse in front of your soon-to-be schoolchild, when you know it will get him in trouble at school. c’mon now.

  74. authorisamoron says:

    You are simply a lazy parent. And when your child doesn’t have any friends because other parents don’t want their children around your potty mouth, you’ll have plenty of time to teach him other innappropriate behavior. I guess your lazy parenting is why you are sending your child to a Catholic school…for someone else to correct your mistakes. And who reads a 4 year old Harry Potter? I guess anyone can have a kid…you have to get a license to drive a car. And you are a moron.

  75. eh says:

    Are any words off limits? Is it okay to call someone a B**** if they’re being a B****? Is it okay for your child to use racial slurs? How do you decide which offensive words are okay? Only the ones that don’t offend you? Unfortunately, its not for you to decide which words other people find offensive and which words they don’t.

  76. Anonymous says:

    In my house swearing is an okay thing to do. My son who is 6 years old now knows where he can use those words and were he can NOT use those words. He understands at school those words are not to be used. He knows he can’t use them at daycare or at grandma’s and grandpa’s house.
    I think as long as you let your child know the meaning of the words and where they can and can not be used is okay. I have a bad potty mouth and of course my child is going to pick up on it. I however have taught my son to use those words only in my house, because sometimes people get hurt by them.

  77. Lynne Wilson Hass says:

    Interesting article.

  78. thevirginialibraryproject says:

    Do you think you would be as lenient if your son were a daughter?

  79. Sherri Zahradnicek-Hunter says:

    I enjoyed the read and can find some truth in what you are saying.

  80. Robin Warner Smith says:

    wtf?

  81. TaraG says:

    I’m totally offended by this article on pure principle. The Mets are a stellar team.

    Otherwise I agree. This father isn’t saying it is OK to curse people out, he’s saying words are tools that we control. It’s not how you say something, it’s what you’re saying. I’d rather a sweet kid with foul words than a foul kid with sweet words. All the hatred of these posts only confirms how I feel about this. There are parents insulting this man because they taught their children something else. I wonder if these people taught their kids not to attack people for having different opinions,

  82. Carolynn Protsko says:

    Ummmm……………no

  83. anonymous says:

    i don’t think it is a big deal if a kid swears one in a while. And as a parent it is hard to sensor yourself all the time. Although, as your kids parent its good to teach kids about the time and place that it is appropriate for certain behavior and language. And as for people giving the author shit for his opinion, get over yourselves. Nobody’s got parenting down to a science. what works for one kid will not work for another and people have different views on it. Hey as long as your raising a happy healthy kid, who the fuck cares.

  84. scoutsmom says:

    Lazy lazy lazy parenting. Whoopee, your kid can use words like “vexing” but you are too lazy to teach him more imaginative words than some of the most common and ignorant ones in the English language. My parents taught me that any idiot can spout swear words. It takes imagination and a vast array of vocabulary to really express anger, hurt, etc. I grew up in a household where swear words were forbidden but regular trips to the dictionary were encouraged. Calling my sister a b*tch was not only forbidden, it was considered lazy; calling her a vacuous bag of snot made her cry for an hour! Score! Words like “asinine” and “inane” lived on the tip of my tongue as a teenager. They live on my teenager’s tongue now. I know I’m supposed to think it’s cool to hear those 7 words you can’t say on tv but, honestly, whether it’s a child or adult, not only am I offended to hear them, I can’t help but think, “Really? That’s the best you can do? Were you short on time for a retort?” Buy a thesaurus people!!

  85. Momoftwo says:

    Why not just say Ouch when he stubs his toe, and Oops when he drops his cereal bowl?

  86. Anonymous says:

    I love this article! As a mom who comes from a long line of swearers, ( I have been swearing since I can remember), I was worried how my language would affect my 21 month old son. I have a hard time sensoring myself and secretly thinks it’s cute when my son says shit or damn it! Thanks for this story. It’s a relief to know that my husband and I can raise a loving little boy who swears when the Patriots lose!

  87. Dad says:

    Lack of self control and justification for that lack of self control on the father’s part. Associating the extent of a toddlers vocabulary being based on the allowance of cussing is nothing but the father justifying the fact that he has lack of self control.

    The inablity to utilize other vocabulary other than cuss words show’s a lack of language skills. Cuss words do not carry special meanings that can’t be expressed with other words. Utilizing cuss words in your sentences may get you some headway with the guys when your a teenager but beyond that where will the abililty to utilize a cuss word over another selection gain your child any ground? What value does the cuss word have in your childs life? By accepting it doing nothing but cutting your child short in there abilities.

    Father of 4 boys and proud to say they have the ability and class to carry a conversation without using cuss words!

  88. Shirl says:

    While I don’t have a problem with swearing in and of itself, i do think that it’s important for kids to learn that there are places where swearing is not appropriate. If not, then the lesson is that they can say anything at any time, no matter what effect that has on anyone else. That will not serve them well as they grow up

  89. Jonathan says:

    I thought this was a great article. Like a lot of things in life, the more we try to censor our child’s experience, the more curious they become about that which we have demonized. I too think there is certainly a right and wrong, but I can also be open to the idea that another parent may have extremely divergent views on “appropriateness” compared to what I hold to be “appropriate”. What I will say is that I would rather have a child who occasionally spurts out a “shit” every now and then, than one who censored to the point of being in absolute rebellion later on. And, as a linguist, I do have to mention that I find people’s disdain for particular words amusing. Spend some time amongst many other cultures and you will find that they have taboo words that mean nothing to us, and vice versa. We really need to get over ourselves. Good job dad…and kudos to your wife as well!

  90. Terri says:

    “And who reads a 4 year old Harry Potter?”
    Funny, I thought Harry Potter was a series of children’s books. Sure, the target audience is usually older than four, but they’re still kid’s books. My parents read me Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan when I was younger than that, which I’m sure horrifies you. Jeez, I probably would have tried reading Harry Potter myself if it had been out when I was four.

    “When he’s upset I teach him to use intelligent words, and express himself without the use of “ignorant” words.”
    “Your wife would rather he conform to the way society expects intelligent people to speak…”
    The problem with the second quote is that the vast majority of society is incredibly, painfully stupid. And to all of you whinging about how unintelligent you think cussing is, I would like to quote the genius that is Steven Fry:
    “Swearing is a really important part of one’s life and it would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing and without enjoying swearing. There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who would say swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary as such; utter nonsense! The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies!”

  91. Anonymous says:

    Everyone who is upset must be completely missing the point. His kid has a full vocabulary and it includes the OCCASIONAL curse word. The issue is giving forbidden words the allure and power that makes kids want to use them even more. We don’t censor ourselves in front of our kids either, but that’s not to say that we curse often, not even kind of. My then two-year-old son dropped a “shit!” on us and my husband and I hid our convulsions of laughter in the next room. He must not have found the word very interesting after that and I haven’t heard it come out of his mouth since then. He’s now seven :)

  92. Samantha Angoletta says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. While I personally do not want my princess going around saying ‘shit’, I can totally relate to wanting to be yourself in front of your kids, not wanting them to use the cutesy tootsie type words, and wanting them to express themselves through their speech. The bottom line here is that he is YOUR child. We all (with the exception of a select few) do what is best for our children. Each child is different, each family dynamic is different, and thus the way we raise each child is altered to cater to their specific needs, wants, personality. Your child has two loving parents, a roof over his head, food in his belly, and he is loved and well cared for. If him saying ‘shit’ is the biggest concern you have, then I agree with you, you’re doing a damn fine job. All the people taking the time to throw negative barbs, should get a clue. It’s a cruel world out there where kids are abused, neglected, and starving. Let’s focus on them, not whether or not a well cared 4 year old has a peppered vocabulary.

  93. ffwife3boys says:

    I enjoyed and agree with your article.
    Well said.

  94. Atreyus Mama says:

    My partner had a friend who raised three kids and tried an experiment. The only words she said her kids couldn’t say was “mayonnaise”, but never complained about anything else. Henceforth, her kids ran around screaming “Mayonnaise! Mayonnaise!” because they were told not to, and they never had a problem with other curse words. Now, if you eat mayo a lot, might not be the right word, but I thought it was hilarious. I agree that highlighting how “bad” a word is only gets a kid’s attention even more. Thanks for sharing!

  95. Jasi says:

    We try not to curse but we’re very free with our emotions in this home. Our first child spoke early and took to a more sophisticated way of expressing herself. Our second took his time learning language so we did speak in some baby terms to increase communication. We realized it’s time to lose them when he cursed “Pee pee!” when he was upset over having a toy stolen. It is creepy.

  96. Sierra Rix says:

    My kids (1.5, 4, 6, 8) are big readers (oldest 3) and have great vocabularies. We never dumbed down our vocab when we speak with or in front of them. But then again, we generally don’t curse either. I think its inappropriate for adults or kids to do it. Our kids have picked up choice words from other kids at school. We talk about the meaning of the word, why/how it’s come to have a meaning other than “shit” or “F*ck” explain why its inappropriate to use as an expletive and move on. When they test us with these words, and sometimes we do, I/my husband ask if they hear us use them, and if they remember why they shouldn’t.

  97. Anonymous says:

    It its so nice to see that there are other parents that feel the same way I do about cursing. I’ve never done the “baby talk” thing with my 3 year old daughter, and firmly believe that talking to her like an adult and reading daily has helped her to develope her strong vocabulary. But, in turn, she also occasionally uses fowl language. I can’t scolds her for saying things I taught her (even if it want intentional) I have, however, taught her there is a between the innocent “shit” for spilling her milk, and directing fowl language towards another person with malicious intent. I realize I may hear from school officials in the future, but that’s a bridge I’m willing to cross. As long as her occasional slip of the tongue remains just another word and she doesn’t become the uncontrolled kids telling “f you!” To people in the streets, I will keep my views the same.

  98. Lauren Bresnan says:

    All of you supporters of this article seem to have a theme in common: not using baby talk and speaking to your children like an adult. Guess what – you can do that without cussing. And it’s quite simple, you should try it!

  99. Alicea Coopwood says:

    I find it very interesting how most of the people on here that are agreeing with this article and saying they’ve done similar things, are marked as anonymous, could it be they are at least slightly ashamed?

  100. Tawn says:

    Completely agree with the author. A word is just a word. My two cents: http://totallytawn.wordpress.c om/2010/11/18/w-is-for-words/ Where do we draw the line? Is “stupid” a bad word? Because there are situations for which it’s the perfect adjective, and it would be a shame to have to replace it with something inaccurate because of some overly sensitive eavesdroppers.

  101. Beth Wankel says:

    With you 100%. Our son swears sometimes, and it’s not a huge deal to us. Of course we will have “house words” and “school words” and that will all shake out in the end, but to us, words are just words. Some words only gain power over other words if we give them that power. And kids LOVE to exert their power. If any teacher EVER gives my son shit for swearing, my only response will be, if you don’t want kids swearing in your classroom, be the effing teacher and don’t let them do it. This is not my responsibility. THEY ARE JUST WORDS. Grow up and move on.

  102. BethV says:

    I don’t swear, and my kids don’t swear. If that is how you prefer to raise your son that is fine. It just gives me more chance when my kids hear it to train them that they don’t need to do everything someone else does :-) .

  103. Dany says:

    Check that off the list of tihgns I was confused about.

  104. your two cents on my dollar says:

    I have something to say about these parents who let their kids swear. Your trash. No thanks to people like you for ruining your child’s life. Way to take the pizzazz out of being young, innocent, and having fun…now they’ll spend a good chunk of their childhood getting detention, suspensions, expulsions, and probably hindering their chances at getting a respectable education. Kids have no sense of when the words are appropriate or not…let alone they won’t be able to thrive from the negative attention they will surely receive from most. Thanks for contributing poorly to the decency of the human race, where common courtesy is not so common anymore.

  105. roflcopter says:

    this boils me…i’d like to rub his nose in his own shit to teach him a lesson!

  106. idgi says:

    all these people saying it’s wrong are really stupid. -_- who cares? it’s just a word. it’s not like the whole world is ending if they say swear words. it’s not like the kid is swearing at the parents disrespectfully. and it seems like he doesn’t use it in a disrespectful ways. just because they’re kids doesn’t mean they have to be one of those ‘innocent’ kids. just because the kids swear doesn’t mean their childhood is forever ruined. kids actually start swearing from elementary, you just don’t know it. just stfu, you overprotective parents.

  107. Nessa Goley says:

    Mom tell the story still of how she tried to tell my grandpop not to swear in front of me because I’d pick it up too and he said that wasn’t gonna happen. Cut to a trip to the toy store “Mommy what the fuck is that?”

    Personally I agree with this. It’s a word people! And frankly if you think about what they MEAN you’d be really surprised at what kids are saying. Example: Dork. A simple word right? It means whale penis.

  108. Pete says:

    Staci, why is there something “low-brow” about anyone saying shit? Is it o.k. by you to say ship, shim or shin? If these three words are o.k. by you then the truely “low-brow” part of the word must actually be the letter “t”. The only difference between ship and shit is the last letter. I would rather my kid say shit in almost every sentence while still resonding to my wife’s question with a yes, mame instead of the great “yea” she gets from most kids who would never think of saying shit because their manners are soooooo great!!

  109. cynthia says:

    DOES HIS injury or pain feel better after he curses? no! why say that? nobody should even have to curse. Why not say “ohhhh that hurts! ” saying curse words dont even make sense in the context most people use them in. You are just so used to hearing people say #%#%#^ when they get hurt that you feel it is ok for your son to do it? sorry thats not right

  110. Adrian says:

    I don’t see judgement solely based on what others think as viable. There was a time when racism against Africans was encouraged because of the frowns a child would receive from the nuns when he admitted to be-friending a Black.

  111. Jeina says:

    My little sister is a professional writer, and I remember when she was like 9 my parents had this huge talk with her because since she was writing for teens and adults and wanted her writing to be believable so they said she could use any curses and any language (to a degree) as long as she never repeated it out loud. So once when I read one of her stories when she was in sixth grade the language was way worse than what any or my friends or I said (i was 16) and getting so mad because I was like “You let Ani talk about THAT? How does she even know what that means?” A lot of people thought my parents were being stupid but Ani’s an adult now and turned out just fine. She doesn’t even like to curse.

  112. SMorris Morris says:

    I, for one, never have censored my language around my daughter. She is now 18 and has grown up being allowed to say any swear word she wished. That being said, she has also been taught the appropriate time for such words and the times they should be avoided (school, grandparents’ house, etc). She also is never allowed to use racist terms of any sort at any time. Nor was she ever allowed to use swear words to belittle or demean anyone. Beyond that, any and all words were permitted at all times. I first heard her utter the “F word” at age 5, for which she received no punishment or scolding whatsoever. Prior to that age, she had used the “milder” swear words nearly since she was first able to talk. Do I regret allowing such verbal freedom? NOT IN THE LEAST! Words are just words abd should be used freely, even by children.

  113. V says:

    My parents always let me swear. My dad never censored me and in return I knew the appropriate times to use foul language. I graduated with honors as the president of my senior class. I go to college and work full time and I don’t party or do drugs. Just saying. I was a pottymouth and I turned out fine. Words are just words. People make a bigger deal out of them than they should.

  114. babymoma says:

    Wow there are quite a few people on here that feel like they must tell this guy and others how they should raise their kids. I for one think that everyone adults and children are different and can choose how to raise their kids, as long as they are not abusing them; which this is clearly not at all. I appreciate all those here and everywhere that already understand this. My son has a huge vocabulary and he also swears a blue streak. I think it is because I have been trying to tell him he shouldn’t use those words. I am going to try this approach and see how it works.
    BTW DON’T REPLY TO THIS POST!

  115. bill says:

    Has anyone even bothered to question why specific words are considered foul language? Educate yourself before judging; you’d be surprised at how silly it all really is. Can anyone actually post a good reason why some words are “bad”?

  116. Bryan Young says:

    When my wife and I started raising kids we decided not to cuss around them. It was hard for me. I work inside a prison and I was in the military. Simply put I can cuss with the best of them. My wife rarely uses a bad word. As the kids started getting older they learned bad words at school, from other family members, hockey practice, and even church camp. Kids are going to cuss. When I hear it from my kids I do not react. I think the author made a good point about taking the power away from the words. My kids do not cuss around my wife and I, nor have they ever been at trouble in school for using cuss words. I would like to think my attitude which is very close to the authors does work. One of the great things about parenting is you are probably going to do it right as long as you try. I have to respect the authors attempt to open up communication with his kids. I recently had to talk to my son about drugs because of the possibility of medical marijuana being on the next ballot in our state. From past open conversations I have had with him I felt comfortable talking to him about drugs. I think the author is doing something similar. By talking to his kid like a person I would guess his son will talk to him when he is a teenager about much more important things like Sex and Drugs

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