Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to grade schooler, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national parenting and lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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My Kids Know Swear Words, And So Do Yours

My kids have been known to swear. They come by it honestly as their dad and I sometimes let the cuss words slip out in frustration.

Usually they are doing it to get a reaction, so we ignore it.

The level of swear words, is pretty tame -- I have yet to hear the F-Bomb drop out of any of their mouths (but I assume as my 11-year old moves into teenagehood it is coming). Though I am still surprised when he says "Sh*t", which is I guess why he does it.

When we talk to our kids about swearing -- which we do fairly regularly due to our own lapses in vocabulary judgement, we emphasize the importance of context. My kids know that swearing bears consequences: people may lose respect for them, the message of their argument may get lost or they may make people angry.

I assume when my kids are hanging out with their teen friends they will use swear words as punctuation; but when they walk in the house and are talking to me or their siblings that will stop. I hope that even now they know that the more mild swear words are never acceptable at school, or when talking to people they don't know.

We have told them many times that when a kid swears that is all anyone hears and they will be judged accordingly. We use the techniques outlined in this Today's Parent article, and sometimes, we even make jokes about the words. (The planet Uranus is a big punchline on our house right now.)

In this day and age, kids hear swear words all around them; whether it is Cee Lo's F-You hit, or the homeless man yelling in front of the liquor store. As a parent you have to assume that kids as young as five know what many of the swear words are. Which is why I am always surprised at the comments on my blog when the subject of swearing comes up.

I have been told that swearing in front of my kids is akin to child abuse, that I am a lazy parent (yes, but for other reasons), it is selfish, and letting kids swear is a symbol for the current trend of indulgent, out-of-control parenting.

I disagree. Teaching kids that swearing is a part of life but you need to show self-restraint when using it, is good parenting.

And everyone else can just F... I mean forget I ever said anything.


Want more chaos? Last year I wrote about the my kids going wild at the library. Books are free there!

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Reader Comments (28)

I know I swear a lot depending on the situation, sometimes every second word that comes out of my mouth when I'm talking on the phone or being clumsy..But my kids learned very early that it's not acceptable for little kids to say bad words. My mother once got very angry with me over swearing in front of them, but when I asked them in front of her 'is it okay for little boys and girls to say bad words?' they answer ' no, only adults can say those words, little boys and girls who do are being bad.'Most people who know me know my habits and are amazed the boys haven't picked up some of my less desirable habits, but i think it's not so much what I do as what I teach them is right.. They do as I say, not as I do.They did go through a brief period where they would do it to get a reaction when they were toddlers but that quickly passed after being put in the time out corner a few times. Kneeling up with their nose to the wall for a few minutes may seem mean, but it doesn't hurt them and after a few minutes (I don't start counting until they've stopped crying or screaming, but one minute for every year they are old is the general rule for most people and that works) they're pretty repentant.I think having kids shouldn't mean you suddenly have to become a stepford-esque perfect person. Nobody is more perfect than when they are themselves, bad habits and all.
July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteph
Is swearing in front of your kids child abuse? Of course not. Swearing at them, constantly, in a personally demeaning way, sure it is. It's how you swear - the context and content that makes the difference. "You F---ing stupid idiot" - yeah, that's child abuse. "What the F--- is that smell?" - not at all.

They're going to hear it, as parents we have to teach them what and when it's appropriate. And if we feel it's not appropriate, we have to apologize to our kids when we slip up.
July 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbecky
My kids know how to swear in several languages, but with few exceptions, they don't use it inappropriately. They understand that you don't use it in front of elderly people, or at school, or as salt & pepper to a conversation. Swear words are now, and have always been, a part of every language. I use them, and when my kids grow to be adults, they'll use them regularly as well. They have been taught that kids swearing is considered low-class, and that they're better than that. (For those about to tell me that adults swearing is low-class - I've been privy to the conversations of some of the poshest, monied, titled people in Europe, and they swear like troopers, so adults swearing is NOT a class thing - it's a personal choice - swearing every-second-word, however, shows a lack of ability to express oneself, and often a lack of education). If other adults find it offensive that I swear in front of my kids, that's their problem. My kids know that they get no reaction from me if they swear, (provided they aren't doing it to shock in an inappropriate situation), and so the novelty value has worn off. They don't do it for effect - they reserve it for when it really counts. And let's face it - they'll be far more balanced and bearable teenagers if they've gotten it out of their system!
My daughter found out what the F word was when she asked me after being told at school to tell the teacher if anyone says it. I must admit I probably swear more now than I ever did before, but I am always embarrassed by it and feel that there is no place in proper communication for it. Telling a child that only adults can swear is like saying once you are 18 you can swear all you want and that is not true. Also, as teenagers they will have urges to do things more adult and if they think that involves swearing then that is what they will do.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCrystalrose
First off, learn how to either write properly or proofread your work, writing "people may lost respect for them" in an article is evidence of poor writing. Second swear words are only words, the only reason that they are 'bad' is because we give them power, if we were to stop thinking of them as these terrible words they would lose their position as 'bad words'. Words themselves should not be considered taboo, only their context and how they are used.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob
I am a curser and I AM PROUD OF IT!
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLikasombodeeeeee
This is news HOW exactly?
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorey
I disagree... they'll learn anyways but that doesn't mean we should teach them it's ok. If you want to raise your kids in a world where it's ok to swear with their friends do you really think they won't swear at a teacher or parent when they get older and angry? Ignorance is bliss and the best medicine will be years from now when you're wondering where you went wrong and think back to this article.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
My wife& I swear very little But shit(oops)happens!Our parents swore very little but dam that hurt when he hit his finger with that hammer!Words that were terrible in days past are not so bad now!Kids& swearing, They should know it's inapropreate (esp. in some circumstances--But you are not going to stop it completly!(esp. after the age of 5 or 6)If you believe your 10yr old never swears--Your living in dreamland!The best you can hope for is to teach children is that it's a LAZY way to talk& in most peoples company it's a bad thing!Learning where& under what circumstances which manners should be used is the important part!

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercuckholddon
Cursing is just bad at any time. At a young age, I was taught by my parents not to swear under any circumstances as it can offend someone or worsen a situation. Of course, it is something that kids will pick up at a young age since other children might use it as a "normal" word. But, to educate them and let them know the severity of saying such word is important.

Swearing would lead others to believe that one is less educated or just plain rude and disrespectful. It is not a "judging by the book's cover" situation, it is more of how you set up yourself to others.

I am 23 years old and I have cousins of all age. We are all told not to swear because it is disrespectful. But, younger generations think it is just "a word" used by everyone.

I don't think it is a problem with parenting. Parents are at guidance of the situation. It is more like a problem with the society and the level of exposure of swear words in the media.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCY Yim
Even the best of us drop bombs every now and then. Censoring yourself to a certain degree is appropriate. But the reality is that children are going to be exposed to the words, and I think it's better for it to happen at home, in an environment where their meaning and the repercussions of their use can be explained and explored. My 11 year old occasionally says "shit", but becuz I don't have a hissy fit over it, the novelty wore off and he seems to know when it's appropriate and when he needs to find alternate words (stub your toe? yes, in front of your baby brother or grandparents? not so much).
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebeccah
My hubby & I own our own business, working with welders, truckers, and (apparently!) sailors. We sure swear along with the best of 'em! That being said, I tried desperately to raise our daughter without the curse words becoming a common factor in her vocabulary. So we introduced the swear jar.

Here's how that works. Or I should say, here's how it's SUPPOSED to work.... Every time a bad word falls out of someone's mouth, a loonie (or a quarter - pick something!) goes into the jar. Hubby & I found ourselves paying for the first trip to Disneyland. The deal was, the F bomb was a $5 fine! After I backed the car into a stacked pile of steel, knocking it into the ditch behind it, I silently handed my daughter a $20 bill & deposited the swear jar funds into her bank account.

So what's my point? When I decided to have a conversation with my daughter about how her loving mommy & daddy really needed to wash their mouths out with soap but wouldn't it be nice if SHE could be the one to set an example for US, she just giggled. "Mom, do you really think all these words are new to me? Spend 5 minutes on the playground!!" She was 10 at the time.

She's 21 now, and as she puts it, swears like a truck-drivin' sailor. BUT she knows when she can pull that off & when she can't. She claims she learned that part from us....

At least we did part of it right. Sigh.....
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimsMom
My children know the roots of the words therefore making them less userfriendly

F##K= fornication under consent of the king=Cannon law,

Sh%T Store high in transit, (from the first settlers in the new world, having dried manure sent from england! Swearing is part of the language, I dislike the Text speak more, its taking more from the children than swearing ever has or ever did!
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkaren
people have to realize that swear words are not bad.. in this topic the only time a parent should worry, is when they are just being rude.eg. "your a poop head"eg2."your a shit head"

these are both rude, thus these are both bad

using swear words for getting hurt or when something happens is just expression.

kid stubs toe "owww poop!"

kid stubs toe "owww shit!"

this is fine and should be let go

there is no difference except the word which he/she is trying to express.Its just that society says that is bad.

people need to be more open minded and stop being to insecure and protective.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterspence
"And everyone else can just F... I mean forget I ever said anthing."

You spelled "anything" wrong.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDrea
its their habits some people think its okay but it goes into the childs childhood and mind to be honesti swear but its still bad.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentershazir

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentershazir
Does nobody see the double-standard here? "We have told them many times that when a kid swears that is all anyone hears and they will be judged accordingly."When ANYONE swears it is heard and they are judged accordingly. I have read that swearing when you stub your toe actually reduces the pain. Neurologically, then, there is an appropriate time to swear. It is also apparent that curse words originate in the same area of the brain that violent actions are triggered.That is reason enough for me not to make "bad language" part of my daily life. And it makes it easy for me to transition between interractions with adults and children in any situation.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLost Arts
If your kids are raised to be respectful then they know that it's not ok to swear at other adults and teachers. So what if they swear amongst their friends, they all do it and you should take your heads out of your butts if you think they don't. If you raise them properly they will know right from wrong. This is why some kids think it's cool to swear because adults make such a big deal out of it and make it taboo. Lighten up and Matt the word is "anyway" not "anyways". You will be the one looking back years from now and thinking about your spelling lesson in this article.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkc
My parents swore all through my childhood and I turned out fine. They might have swore a lot, I was told that it was unacceptable to swear. I know it's rude and I always knew it was rude. It didn't make me turn out any different.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
I never really understood the idea of creating words that aren't supposed to be used.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
By your words you are saved.. and by your words you are condemned. Jesus of Nazereth.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM2D
Listen lady, when my brother was 9 he stole my parents car and drove down a busy street. The cops literally had to block off both sides of the road to get him to stop. He has been drinking since he was 10. He has been doing street drugs since grade 5.You think swearing is a problem, wake up. Things could be so much worse. There are so many young children having sex, doing drugs, drinking etc. If the worst thing you hear from your 11 year old is him saying shit, you've got a good kid.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnon
I told mine from the first they heard that your friends will say bad words and many do to let out anger and frustrations-and they hear adults say them-you when you are with friends and no one esp adults hear you then why not-but if t becomes a habit-I explained of some friends we have then it is noy respectable-people you talk to now will be there in the future and remamber you-you may loose a job because of how you where remembered-well that has already happened!!!
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary Lumsden
I agree... I have sworn 'in front of' my child, but not 'AT' him. He is aware that curse words are something only adults over 18 can use. I know he will likely use these words before 18, but, he will certainly not use them in MY presence before then! I have also reminded my son, on more than one occasion, that he KNOWS the right thing to do, and what he will get in trouble for (at school, daycare, or at home). If he chooses to use 18&up words, he must be OK with the consequence. He has not used any 18&up words thus far...

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersigh
to those people who "never" swear... you're lying! everyone swears to some extent. even if it's a muttered "damn" after stubbing your toe. just like everything else in life there is a time and a place for everything from discussing medical problems to religion to personal beliefs to swearing and everything in between. it's better to teach a child to think and act responsibly than demand that they unquestioningly (and blindly) follow the opinions and ideas of one person simply because they were told to. admittedly the less education a person has the more likely it is that they will be inclined to use a plethora of swear words for lack of any better options. so educate your children and let them make their own decisions and deal with the consequences. and for all those idiots out there who will come back with "my five year old....." i'm not talking about very young children (or any particular age for that matter), they obviously need more guidance and direction from parents, BUT you can teach them from a very young age to begin to think for themselves. it's a process that starts early.....for the record, i swear... quite frequently at times. however i am an educated and intelligent individual and have enough common sense to not swear up a storm in front of anyone and everyone. if i sense that the person i am interacting with will be offended by swear words, i choose other words to make my point. children are quite capable of learning this skill as well, and is a skill that carries over in so many other aspects of life.
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchacha
here here! :) lmao
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchacha
I honestly think I'll be more worried about them spelling properly than the occasional use of a swear word (it actually does lessen pain when you do something like stub your toe, which is about the only instance I would tolerate). The fact that many of you can't even spell all that great means maybe you should focus your attentions elsewhere, hmm?
July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGG

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