Should we really call them “bad words” to our kids?

As Noah is getting older, he’s starting to learn that there are certain words in the English language that he’s gonna get a lecture about when and if he says them. I’ll let you use your imagination as to what those words are.

Some people call them “bad words.” And I have to wonder, is that really something healthy to teach our children? That some words are “bad?”

I for one, try not to swear too much, but sometimes I enjoy saying almost every word that I would tell my son is a “bad word.” I like to put them into my writing sometimes to emphasize certain emotions or points; I like to use them to be funny during certain conversations and with the right people; And, as much as I’m working on it, there are times when they just slip out when I least expect it. Like when I see a cop’s red and blues glaring in my rearview mirror.

I used to be married to his mom, and I know for a fact that she occasionally uses some of the “bad words,” too. And, I’m 99% positive his stepdad uses the “bad words” sometimes as well. I know his grandparents do. I know some of his aunts and uncles do. In fact, there are very few adults I know who never say “bad words.” Most of them, if anything, enjoy a good cuss word here and there. I think it’s part of our human nature… to rebel against the norm when it won’t hurt anybody.

So if most of the grown-ups use “bad words,” what does that teach my kid? As he himself grows up, he’s going to hear a lot of the people he loves use a lot of the words that he has been told his entire life are bad.

Now, I’m no Einstein, but I’m pretty sure that when you teach a child that something is “bad” and they see you doing it, they will then naturally think you are “bad” for doing it. And, due to the rate of “bad words” that will be slipping out of Noah’s parent’s and his grandparent’s and his aunt’s and uncle’s and everybody else’s mouths, he’s gonna think he has a pretty damn bad family. Pardon my French.

When he gets older, he’s gonna think his friends are “bad” as they experiment and push their boundaries. He’s gonna think his siblings are “bad.” And, he’s gonna think he himself is “bad” when and if he decides that he wants to try those words out for himself.

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So what if, instead of teaching our children that they are “bad” words, we teach them that they are “grown-up” words? What if we teach them that certain words are extremely hurtful and disrespectful to other people? What if we teach them that there are no “bad” words, but there are words that most people don’t like to hear, especially in public and that we should respect that? What if we teach them that there are certain words that will really hurt the people we love if we use them when we fight or are angry? What if we teach them that even as grown-ups we should learn how to control the grown-up words so that we aren’t saying them when we don’t want to? What if we teach them how to enjoy life and learn to edit out the grown-up words whenever we don’t want to hear them?

Right now, Noah’s and my favorite song to listen to together is “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith. It’s a raucous drunk cowboy song. He just laughs and laughs every time we crank it up. It’s a dang funny song. But, there is one line that says “Freddie Mac can kiss my ass.”

I can’t remember the last time I heard the word “ass” while listening to it. We’ve made a game out of yelling the word “beep” as loud as we can when it comes on. I’m not sure Noah even remembers what word we’re covering up anymore. He just knows that it’s something only grown-ups say, and only sometimes. And, we still get to enjoy the song.

I am amazed at how often he hears a word and tells me “Dad, that’s a bad word.” He’s even said it about words like “bum,” “sick,” and “heck.” Where he is hearing that they are “bad” is beyond me, but I’ll tell you this much. He is always relieved when I tell him that those words and some of the actual “bad words” aren’t really bad, they’re just grown-up words that some people don’t like.

Maybe I’m going about it the wrong way,  but I don’t think my kid likes thinking that the people he loves are “bad” people.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

PS. Do you teach your children that certain words are “bad?” And if so, why? Do you think that there are better ways to teach them about those kind of words?



Article Posted 6 years Ago

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