Should we let our children swear?

Should we let our children swear?

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.

Should we let our children swear

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12 Comments

  1. June 20, 2016 / 5:52 pm

    I would never have dared swear in front of my parents, I know its more the norm now a days but it just sounds a bit vulgar when thrown in every other word. Whilst I do think the British english language is brilliantly creative at swearing I think there are other better ways of expressing one self. Saying that I do love a good swear word, I don’t have children though. And I don’t think I would like to hear them casually swearing and hate it when I hear parents aggressively swearing at their kids- how does one differentiate the ugly swearing from the casual swearing I know it depends on context. Aah long comment. Love this discussion though xx

  2. June 20, 2016 / 10:16 pm

    No, I think you are right to feel uncomfortable with your son swearing at home or in front of you. My 12 year old keeps trying out the odd word in front of me and I keep telling him off and letting him know it is not acceptable.Mich x
    Michelle Twin Mum recently posted…Streamlining my Life the KonMari wayMy Profile

  3. June 21, 2016 / 10:00 am

    This is really timely for me. Maxi hs that filter, but Mini doesn’t and he swears as he knows it pushes my buttons. I do not know what to do about it. I want him to learn what is acceptable and what isn’t, but with swearing being so commonplace it is hard to instill that, especially when you bring autism into the mix!

  4. June 21, 2016 / 10:34 am

    It’s a difficult issue! On the whole though I say no swearing at home. I used to swear a lot at work – I was renowned for it, but I’ve always been able to not swear in front of the kids. Now I don’t go to work, I don’t swear. I tell my boys off for saying ‘bloody’ and they wouldn’t say anything worse than that at home. As they get older, I’ll ease up on that and ‘sh*t’, but I don’t ever want to hear the f word or c word. I’m aware that my eldest at least will say worse than that outside the home and I’m willing to let that go.
    To be honest, we swore at home as teenagers, but I don’t remember from what age – it may have been as young as 15 for me, therefore 13 for my brother, or we may have been a bit older. We said ‘bloody’, ‘bugger’, ‘sh*t’ and ‘b*llocks’ in front of my parents and that was all fine!
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…The doorbellMy Profile

  5. June 21, 2016 / 10:55 am

    I do slip out the odd swear word (or square word as our 7 year old calls them) in the car especially and have heard the 9 year old say words that sound awfully similar to swear words. It is tricky but I guess trying to encourage self control when using swear words is one option – sometimes we can’t help it when we are really cross but I don’t think i t should be the acceptable way to talk. xxx

  6. June 21, 2016 / 11:14 am

    I dont swear around mine – but for some reason the word ‘crap’ slips through my auto-pilot filter! My eldest and I do sometimes swear around each other – but she is almost 20 now! Syd has only ever sworn by accident so far – he managed to come up with wanker during a rhyming game (anchor led to wanker as he worked his way through the alphabet!) and I had to stop myself from getting the giggles as I figured the best thing to do was not make a fuss in case he decided to use it again – he hasn’t fortunately!
    Sonya Cisco recently posted…Chocolate Orange BrowniesMy Profile

  7. June 21, 2016 / 1:27 pm

    I am very much like you in that I don’t swear very often, and I really don’t like it when it’s sprinkled all over every day conversation whether it’s adults or kids. I never swore as a child and thus I was never punished for swearing, but my parents didn’t swear a lot either. I have two grown up children and their Dad was one who swore a lot but would punish them if they swore in front of him. He’s been gone many years but now my kids have grown up they swear as often as he did. (I’m a believer in nature over nurture with those two, both so much like their Dad.) So now my younger children have swearer’s around them, even though I don’t. They are embarrassed if they have the odd slip though, so I believe that these three will be more like me and not actually like swearing. I always think that maybe I’m old fashioned, but I really don’t see the need for abusive, nasty words (which most swear words are) in everyday conversation.

  8. June 21, 2016 / 8:51 pm

    It’s difficult because I know that most children will swear when they’re with their friends so I guess I’m OK with it if it’s not done around me and never in a iisrespectful way x

  9. June 22, 2016 / 10:50 am

    I think with older kids a few (small!) swear words aren’t too bad but I agree that I wouldn’t want all f’s and c’s. My MIL misheard my five year old last week and told him off for swearing – we explained quickly that ‘he doesn’t know that word (and were less than thankful for her saying it in front of him) and he piped up ‘I do know that word! I know chips!’ lol 😉

  10. June 22, 2016 / 8:58 pm

    I won’t tolerate swearing with any of mine, even the teens and if they do it in front of the littlies they get a clip around the ear. I have to admit we do use silly swear words like fiddlesticks or sausages which seems to work

  11. June 23, 2016 / 1:56 pm

    My oldest who is 19 swears around me and me around him but the I’d come down on the littles with a tonne of bricks if they did 😉 Bugs aged 5 recently learnt the F word by reading some graffiti on school property. *Grrrr*
    Sonia recently posted…Nerf Super Soaker Tornado Scream ReviewMy Profile

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