When it comes to swearing, I have had two very different experiences with my children.
My eldest son did not swear around me. Even though I knew he swore when he was around his friends, he didn’t swear in front of me until he was in his late teens (give or take the odd slip such as when a bird pooped on his head). My twelve-year-old will be the same. He knows people swear, he hears it in school, on sports fields, on YouTube, but he knows that as a decent young man, he should swear in the family house. I don’t want to hear it and his six-year-old sister certainly doesn’t need to hear it either.
They both have the social filter that helps them to work out when and where it would be appropriate to swear.
One of my children does not have that filter. He hears swearing around him, the same way that his brothers before him did, but he can’t help but swear himself. Not all the time, but enough for it to have become a problem.
I don’t swear a lot. I do occasionally and rarely in front of the children. There might be the very occasional expletive if someone pulls out in front of my car (if you asked the children, they would probably say that mum only ever swears in the car). I really don’t want my children to think that it is normal behaviour to swear and I do try and lead by example.
But I can understand why they might think differently. It does seem to be normal to swear these days. For some children, the F word has possibly replaced ‘the’ as the most commonly used word in the English language. Some people can’t seem to help but swear regularly and constantly as part of their usual language and it doesn’t matter if they are around children or not. I’m not judging those people. I just wouldn’t want my children to have to constantly listen to swearing and cursing from me. Surely this would simply normalise this type of language? As our children’s biggest role models, isn’t it our job to give them the best possible start in life?
There is no doubt that the general attitude to swearing has changed over the last few years. Our kids do hear swearing everywhere. Music, television, films, YouTube, even if they aren’t hearing it at home or at school, there is no getting away from it.
Is it such a big deal? Am I being too straight-laced or prudish to expect my tweens to grow into teens without swearing? Am I wrong to punish my son for swearing?
Parent seem to tackle the issue in different ways. Amongst the parents I know, some have a zero tolerance policy. It is not acceptable. There is no difference in the type of words used and even the word ‘crap’ or ‘damn’ is the same as swearing.
Others seem to differentiate according to how bad they see the word to be. Some words are absolutely out-of-bounds such as the c-word or the f-word. Other words are acceptable but not ideal and milder swear words are not a problem.
Finally, I have met one or two parents who are very much laissez-faire. They don’t see that swearing is such a big deal at all. If you are going to pick your battles, that is a battle that you will probably never win and so don’t need to fight.
Currently I’m not sure where I fall. I don’t like my children swearing and I don’t think it is ever going to something that I will happily accept. However, times have changed and unless you can stop your children from ever hearing any swearing, they are going to pick up the odd word and use it. You can’t protect them from everything, however hard you might want to. You can’t exactly keep them locked in the house with no access to screens or music in the desperate hope that they won’t be exposed to any upsetting or offensive words.
I suppose that is where communication comes in. Particularly at this time of increased hormones and attitude, I think that it is so critical to keep the lines of communication open and to talk to them about these issues. Talk to them and not at them. I am having conversations with both boys about the issue of swearing. I have explained why I don’t like it and how they might be judged by the language they use. We talked about helpful alternatives such as using ‘fudge’ instead of the f-word but also how some milder words are okay occasionally.
Hopefully it will help us all to make sense of this issue and we can move forward, keeping our house a swear-free zone on the whole.
I would be really interested to hear from other parents on this topic. Should we let our children swear? What is your policy when it comes to the teens and tweens in your house? Is swearing just a part of life now that we have to accept? Let me know what you think.