Monday, November 29, 2010

Kids and Cussing 101

I'm a cusser. Not the best thing for a mom to be, but hey, we all have our vices. I worked as pretty much the only female in a male dominated shop, company, and industry for 3 years; I've heard it all, participated in just about every dirty, nasty conversation there is, and, quite honestly, had to hold my own as the only female. So, I learned how to have a quick tongue (figuratively speaking), blast back insults at the men, and developed a thick skin when it came to raunchy conversation. And let me tell you, now that I've left that life behind, I've had a few people tell me they miss my ability to stand up and put people in their place.

Now that I'm back to being a stay at home mom, the cussing is a flaw more than an asset, as it was in my old life. My 8 year old knows what cuss words are, and knows not to repeat them. My 6 year old, however, will repeat just about anything for a reaction- at home, at school, on the phone with family... yeah, that was a fun one to explain. And, while it's sometimes hilarious when a kids cusses (you can't tell me it isn't, depending on how they use a word, the context, and if it was even used correctly), the hardest thing to do as a parent is to not burst out laughing when you are trying to get the 6 year old into the bath, saying 'How about you just go get into the bath?' and out of nowhere he says, 'Yeah, how about I just go brush my balls?' True story. I couldn't make that up if I wanted to. (That little saying apparently came from daycare, by the way, not me. His sister ratted him out on that one.)

So, all of this had led me to think about what exactly constitutes cussing in our house, and how to deal with it. We are traditionalists; the common 4 letter cuss words are cuss words in our house, and those are the bad ones. We, as adults, limit those as much as possible (I'm referring to the 's' word and the 'f' word.) The 'b' word, 'a' word, 'd' word, and 'h' word are less offensive, but we still try our best not to use them in the house, especially with the kids around. I grew a thick skin at the shop about the 'c' word (rhymes with 'hunt'), but, now that's back on the banned list, along with other words that are usually used to describe body parts- the 'd' word (rhymes with 'sick'), the 'p' word (another word for a cat), and the 't' word (rhymes with 'sits').  These, of course, are the mainstream words most people think about.

In our house, we have another list of cuss words that are not to be used. These include 'hate' (unless of course it's in a non-demeaning manner like 'I hate brussel sprouts'), 'can't', 'stupid', 'retarded', 'dumb', 'jerk', 'idiot', and many times 'no', again, depending on how it is used. My kids added 'boobs' to the list inadvertently, because whenever that word is used, we get big-eyed stares and mouths dropped open. So, no more talking about mommy's wish for a boob job with the kids in a one mile radius. Anyway, these words are what we call 'potty mouth' words, especially when used like 'I hate you', 'I'm stupid, I can't do this', 'You're a big jerk'... you get the picture. I don't like my kids talking that way, so, if they do use these words in a negative way, they  get in trouble for it.

So, how to deal with cussing and kids? Here's my philosophy on it:

  1. Set an Example. I'm not big on the 'do as I say, not as I do' philosophy, so, if you don't want your kids to cuss, then don't cuss. If it does slip every now and then, and the kids catch it, I do have a whole speech set out: "Mommy is sorry that she said that word around you. She shouldn't have, it's a bad word. Now, Mommy is an adult, though, and sometimes adults use words like that. They are not kid words, though, so I should never hear you say that. But, Mommy should definitely not have used that word around you, and I am sorry." I feel this speech shows my kids I respect them, admits I was wrong, but still shows the kids that I'm the adult in the situation. It seems to work for us, so far.
  2. Clearly Define Your Family's Personal Set of Cuss Words. There's no need to go posting a list on the fridge or anything, but do what I did above; know what you will accept and won't accept from yourself and your kids. People with older children may allow cussing around them, may even allow the older kids to say a few words here and there. But, if it's a word that is acceptable in your house but may not be acceptable other places, make sure your kids know it's a home-use word only. And, define your list of non-cuss, cuss words, like 'stupid', 'idiot', etc. These help kids with their self esteem, help them to properly vent their emotions, without offending other people. 
  3. For the Love of All That is Good In this World, Try Not to Laugh. Way easier said than done when your 6 year old tells your 8 year old that the video game they are playing is 'bulls*it' and throws the controller. Yep, Daddy's the culprit on that life lesson right there. Laughing only encourages the behavior, especially if the kids are young. So, muster up every ounce of your adultness, reprimand your kid, then go hide in the closet and laugh your ass off. 
  4. Have a Game Plan for When it Happens. What happens if you are trying to cut down your cussing around the kids and it slips? Do you apologize like I do? Put money in a swear jar that goes toward a family outing? Having a game plan set ahead of time for your slippages help you fix them as soon as they occur. And, what happens when your kids slip? Time out? Do they have to put some allowance money in the swear jar? Mouth washed out with soap? It's gonna happen eventually (even if you don't utter a cuss word in your house- TV, school, friends- so many outside influences), so why not figure out how you are going to deal with it ahead of time? 
  5. Be Consistent. Just like with every other parenting (or pet training, for that matter) technique, consistency is the key. If you slip up, apologize, or put money in the swear jar, or whatever your game plan is, and do it every time. If your kids say something they shouldn't, make sure you handle it every time they do it. There's nothing worse than training yourself or your kids to steer clear of cussing, and have one slip up go unnoticed, because, on either end, it snowballs. If it's the kids pressing their luck, they'll notice that you didn't pay attention to the fact they just said the 'a' word. What else can they get away with? On your end, one slippage could lead to that word becoming an everyday vocabulary word. Not good. 
  6. Formulate a Coping Strategy. Are you going to completely erase cuss words from your vocabulary, or use substitutes? We have employed both of these in our household. 'Fudge Brownies', 'Darn it', 'Son of a Biscuit Eater' and 'Holy Crapoly Batman' are used, as well as just using letters; 'Eff that hurt', 'Ess, I forgot to put the bread in the oven', and 'My 'a' hurts'. See what works for you and your family.
  7. Be a Parent. One of my largest pet peeves nowadays is those parents that blame everything on TV, movies, and music. "Oh, little Johnny would have never smoked crack, robbed that liquor store, stolen that gun, and tried to shoot that boy if it wasn't for rap music." Puh-lease. Music, movies and TV don't make kids do anything. Parenting does. I started watching horror movies at age 7. Did I grow up to be a serial killer? No. Why? Because my parents raised me right. Did I listen to rap music, watch R rated movies, and see violence on TV? Yep, sure did. Hell, I grew up in the Wile E. Coyote trying to blow up Road Runner, or Ren and Stimpy with their fart jokes, era. And do we all remember Beavis and Butthead? Good wholesome family entertainment there, right? Wrong. But, did any of that affect my morals, ethics, or the responsibilities that my parents instilled in me from a young age? Nope, sure didn't. So, be a part of your kids' lives. Yes, monitor their TV, movies and music (I wouldn't advise letting a 12 year old subscribe to a porn site), because that's part of being a good parent. But, mold them into who you want them to be as an adult, for when it's time for them to make their own decisions, and don't place blame elsewhere. 
So, now you have the Tatted Mom way of dealing with cussing and kids. It's definitely a work in progress with me, something that takes a conscious effort on my part because of the way I lived my life for 3 years (tattoo artists have the worst mouths ever). I do remain calm, try like hell to keep the laughter at bay, and try my best to set an example for my kids. Every now and then I'm baffled, though. I mean, what are you supposed to do when your 6 year old tells your 8 year old, "I hate your freaking cuss word." What does that even mean, and where do I start with that? We'll tackle the 'hate' part, and the 'freaking' part, but what did he mean by 'cuss word'? He didn't even know, so how am I? Yes, I locked myself in the closet and laughed my ass off after that one. The only thing to do, really.....


  1. Hahahahaha! We are having some of the same issues in our house. I'm the one with the potty mouth, sadly, and we are handling it much the same way you guys are. Which is great to know that we are not alone, and I firmly believe that apologizing for things I shouldn't have done or have done wrong is much, much better than trying to convince my kids that I'm never wrong and don't make mistakes, because...please! At 6 and 3 they are already smarter than that. I also hope it's teaching them accountablity... I did this, I was wrong, and I am sorry. Fingers crossed that it works. For real.

  2. I totally have a potty mouth! My kids are so used to it, which is, but they are getting to the age where they are starting to say bad words when they are with their friends and think I don't know! I guess I always thought it was more important for them to know when is an appropriate time to use them and when is not. Like in front of your

  3. Call me a sailor, my kids have heard it all. Fortunately, only one of them has refused to adhere to our, "only big people can use big words like that" rule. Nothing funnier than hearing your 3 year old say "God Damnit Kilin, you're pissing me off". Don't get me wrong, I don't cuss at my kids. I just cuss at the dog or the cat, or the driver who is pissing me off because they can' t find the g-damn gas pedal or the g-damn blinker. KWIM? He's just smart enough to figure the proper conjecture out and use it.

    Sorry novel comment. We've started a swear jar. When I utter a big one (f bomb, asshole, shit) I have to put a quarter in the jar. For each kid who is present and catches me. It adds up.

  4. LOL....nope, you couldn't make this stuff up!

    In a moment of sheer frustration, I'll let something slip, but it's not like I'm saying "How the -bleep- are ya?!" haha :-)

    You're SO RIGHT, set an example!! Our kids will be raised to know what cuss words are, but also that they are just words. If they hear them in public, or *when* they do, it won't be something that the run home crying about, but they'll know it's not something they'll be using in casual conversation.

    You should write a book ;-)

  5. I chose you for the Stylish Blogger Award!
    To see what to do go:

  6. Ha love it! Its so hard not to cuss I so try. I remember driving in the car with my daughter and she was sitting in the back seat singing and out of the blue she said, "Mom, we don't say FUCK!" I almost drove the car off the rode! It was so cute to hear her say that. Weird to say cute and cuss word at the same time. I made sure I didn't laugh but it was hard. I said, "You are right we don't!" She then said, "Mom, I'm never gonna say FUCK"! I then said, "ok, how about we start now with the not saying it!" Out of the mouths of babes!

    Hey I'm your 76th follower only 24 to go good luck!

    Thanks for following and liking my xmas!


  7. Ok I'm the biggest dork in the world. I already was following you! After I hit post I remembered your post the "Family perfectly captured"

    Ok I blame it on not having enough coffee yet! Oops!


  8. What about when Daddy won't stop dropping the f-bomb? I am so not even kidding you, my son was walking around say mamafufu when he was around 18 months. El Hubs seems to not grasp that the little one repeats EVERYTHING.

    Of course, that's not to say that I'm a saint. But still, at least I don't throw them around -as much-.

    I'm super glad that we connected, I totally love to read your blog - I love your writing, and your 'tude, mostly because you remind me of a cooler, more interesting version of me. :-)

  9. Thanks for the follow..I am now following your blog...awesome by the way!

    I love tats, I have 7 more on the way! I cuss like a pirate but I have no good excuse like you...well I'm Italian does that count?

  10. this was fantastic. my kids def listen and say what i say - even the "sarcastic" tones. I love this and think you rock momma!! Thanks for following me, I'm following you back!


  11. Ok.. I was gonna leave a well thought out comment, but I can't... still laughing at brush my balls... bwahahahahaha

  12. Yeah...I totally get this one! And I too have been known to let a couple of choice words slip out. And the trying not the laugh is the hardest part of it all and I have learned my lesson on that one. The first time my son said "shi#" after hearing me say it I laughed...then he said it about 10 more times in a row. Oops!

    Favorite story: All 3 of us in the car and my hubby get's cut off by someone and he let's slip out: "Stupid Bit*#" My son's response from the backseat "Daddy, your not supposed to say stupid. It's a bad word." That time I laughed...and I laughed hard!

  13. Perfect post...I have the same disorder. It's pretty bad when our kids have to tell US how to behave, huh?