I’ve never been a big swearer. I can remember as a 10 year old in fifth grade, when my peers started to use “bad words,” thinking that using the F word in every other sentence was a cop-out for taking the time to choose words more carefully. I never thought it made other kids seem cool.
I married a Navy man 18 years ago, so I am no stranger to foul language. Horatio is not bad, but he does occasionally forget the house is not a ship, and we are not the ward room!
Recently, seven year old Harold declared his new awareness of the “F word.” Hoping his idea of the F word was Fart, I asked for clarification. He climbed down from his bunk bed so that he could whisper in my ear, then he paused and said he was afraid to say it. I told him to spell it. He said he wasn’t sure if he would spell it correctly but that he’d try. If it had been on a spelling test, or Word Study test, as it is known as these days, he would have gotten it right.
He said he learned it from YouTube.
My initial reaction was to ban him from watching YouTubers who use the word. How could I monitor that, though?
Parenting tip alert: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from parenting four boys over the past 16 years, it’s to think about what I say to them before I say it. Once I say it, I can’t take it back without it appearing as though I am backing down from my rules.
I talked with my older boys, and at first, they were eager to put restrictions on their annoying little brother, but upon further investigation, they revealed that he’d never said the word and that, basically, the word is unavoidable on the internet.
So, I pondered the F word for a bit. I thought about how and when I hear the word used. The F word is used everywhere these days. Once kids get past a certain age, unless parents ban them from interactive video games, YouTube and social media, they will hear the word, and many others. The power of it is not what it used to be. The power of the word is taken away by its more frequent, colloquial use.
With my 14 and 16 year olds, I recognized and acknowledged the fact that they’d use language NSFW/S (Not Safe For Work/School) among their friends and on social media. I held onto the idea that they should not use the language around me, though, thinking it was disrespectful for them to think it is OK to drop the F bomb, or even say that something sucks, in my presence.
I’m sure many readers will disagree with my change of heart, but I’ve had a reversal of policy. I haven’t exactly announced it, but when one of the boys told me his friend was being a “dick,” I cringed and then let it go. I realized that he was expressing his feelings honestly and if I interrupted his train of thought to tell him to be more respectful to me, I’d be missing the point. He was showing me respect by opening up to me about something that was upsetting him.
I will keep telling the boys that they should always try to think of a better way to express themselves and to be cautious in how and when they use curse words, but I understand that sometimes, the only word that fits the bill is a curse word.
When Dwight texted me from school saying, “WTF, I got a C on my history test,” I responded by commenting on the message, rather than the language. He was frustrated that his intensive, long study sessions were for naught. I acknowledged his feelings and encouraged him to talk with his teacher about what study techniques might be more effective next time. I saw no point in mentioning his word choice. I’ll save that for when he asks me to help edit his essays.
I’m not trying to be their friend. I’m not giving in on an issue. I’ve made a parenting choice, which I believe is the right one for us.
Language is one authentic method of expressing our feelings. Sometimes, writing, mumbling or shouting a swear word is the best way to do that. I feel a bit liberated. I know the boys will not use “bad words” in front of their little brothers. The two little ones know the words but don’t use them. I’m fairly confident that they won’t drop the actual “F bomb” when I’m in earshot any time soon. I will continue to tell all of the boys to choose their words carefully, but hesitate to correct their choices.
As long as the continue to be kind, caring and respectful boys and young men, I’m ok with giving them autonomy in the choice of language.
What are your opinions on this issue?