Do you cuss around your kids?

Guest post by Emi
By: Lord JimCC BY 2.0

I’ve always thought that if I ever have a child, I will inevitably cuss around my kid(s) — I kind of cuss like a sailor. Whenever I am near other people’s children, I try my best not to cuss just because I know a lot of people don’t like it. But I don’t personally mind it, as long as it is not used in a hateful or violent manner.

I’ve been thinking lately that I’m not sure how I would handle the situation of cussing and my own kids. On the one hand I would not want to censor myself or my child, but on the other hand I don’t want to needlessly offend others around us. I know that if I or my child cussed in earshot of others, we may be judged incredibly harshly because of that.

I don’t have children yet, but I want to ask how Offbeat parents how they handle cussing/cursing around their children.

Have you chosen not to cuss around your children, or to just let it all flow? If you have chosen not to cuss around your children, how do you handle it when other people do? How do you approach those people and/or how do you talk to your children about these words?

If you have chosen to cuss around your kids, how do you keep it from being an issue when they are out of the home?

Comments on Do you cuss around your kids?

  1. I have a nearly four year old daughter, and I also have a very bad habit of cussing. We tried to be good for the first year or so, but I found it really difficult. My husband doesn’t cuss as much as me but he does say a lot of rather silly or inappropriate things.
    The first time the baby cussed she said “Oh shit!” when she fell down. Laughter ensued because of how she used it. (I’m sorry but when kids use cuss words in context without using them at someone, I find it quite funny).
    We started trying to tell her no, those are bad words don’t say them. Which resulted in me being told constantly “Don’t say that, Mommy! Its a bad word.” There are even words she considers bad words which aren’t, its just the context in which she hears them.
    We finally just decided to tell her there are no such things as bad words. Its how and when we use those words that are bad. She knows not to cuss at school, and not to cuss at anyone. Now she seems to think of them more as grownup words.
    I even get asked now, “Mommy, when I’m a big girl, can I say fuck?”

  2. As part of an elementary school project way, way back in the day, we had to make a list of house rules for our respective families. The first rule I wrote down? “Only mom and dad may cuss.” My parents hung that list on the wall.

    I assume I’ll use the same idea – some words are “grown up” words that, like a driver’s licence, may need some social practice and training before you get to use them freely.

  3. I think I grew up with the idea that it was OK at home but not in public. I don’t know how I learned that, and don’t have any anecdotes on how that came about, but I liked that my mom was not an uptight mom and have tried my best to channel that as well, now that I am a mom.

    What is a little funny though is that, although my mom is laid back about that kind of stuff, my mother-in-law used to be the preacher’s wife and is not comfortable with people cussing around her granddaughter, even herself. She is basically a sweetheart about how she corrects people, so it does not bother me, but I find it amusing at times. I suggested that we are trying to swap out cuss words for Yiddish versions, even though none of us are Jewish, just because they are fun to say. One of my daughters regular sitters is a guy who is not used to having to curb his language and I don’t bother asking him to, but my mother-in-law caught him dropping the f-bomb around my baby when she was maybe 4 months old and told him about using Yiddish instead. Later she correct my best friend for using ass, which never bothered me (especially since she was using it to describe a part of a her body, not call someone a bad name).

    Personally, since I have so many friends who enjoy popular scifi shows, ourselves included, I have considered trying to cultivate the use of made up curses from the shows, like “frak” from Battlestar Galactic.

  4. Here’s my thing, I’m ok with curse words when they are used in the right context. I’ll talk about how the cat shit needs to be cleaned up, but I won’t say it if I dropped something and it has nothing to do with shit. I think when we start ignoring the meanings of words it opens up a door where people feel it’s ok to use words like retarded or gay as insults.

    **hops off soapbox**

  5. i am a nanny for twins and i swear like a sailor. as they are starting to talk, i am usually pretty good.

    the other day i was walking through the kitchen in bare feet and stepped on a toy (hard!) and shouted, ‘sonuva…chicken!’

    the girls’ dad (who works from home) shouted from his office, ‘nice save!’

    • Since we got married and my husband moved in with me and my daughter, he’s been saying “God… Bless America!” instead of his usual “Goddamnit!”

      It kinda cracks me up. We’ve all become very patriotic in our moments of momentary stress or pain.

  6. My sister and I were just talking about this. As children, we were told that some words were “bad,” as in it was a sin to say them. Then we both grew up to be writers and to feel that the idea of “bad” words is laughable at best and offensive at worst. Then we had kids and really didn’t want to be yelled at by other parents for our children teaching the entire kindergarten the f-bomb.

    My daughter seemed to catch on quickly to the idea that there were “grown up” words. I can’t think of any really embarrassing incidents with her. Whenever she tries a word out, we remind her that some words will get her in trouble at school or grandma’s house. What we’re tough about is being rude or unkind to others, which ties in to swearing. You can say bitch, but you can’t call someone a bitch.

    • My daughter on the other hand, (I’m Amy’s sister) never really cursed, until a weekend with her paternal grandfather, who yelled at me about cursing in front of his granddaughter. When I curse, I try really hard to explain to my daughter that these are expressive words not meant towards someone. For example, I use bitch as a verb not a noun. Unfortunately my father-in-law likes to call his wife a bitch…so then my daughter walked around calling everyone and everything a bitch. She couldn’t understand that it was an insult because Grandpa used it so lovingly. This is the problem with cursing, but to be fair, this is the problem with language. Not everyone uses language to express their emotions in positive ways. I want my daughter to be able to navigate these waters, and part of doing that is understanding words in all of their horror and glory.

  7. I don’t let my 6 yo curse at all. Of course, she did say a few choice words when she was 2-3 and still learning! It’s not even because I think cursing is ‘bad’ but I don’t want her to get in trouble at school for something I taught her.

    I won’t mind if she cusses when she’s older, but I dislike it when every other word out of someone’s mouth is a curse word. It’s just too over the top….. don’t they know any other words? 🙂

    • Oh, and my little girl thinks the f-word is ‘fat’ and the s-word is ‘stupid’, both of which she is never allowed to use if she’s taking about another person.

  8. I’ve got a 2 year-old, and I never, ever swear in front of her.
    I’ve got nothing at all against swearing/cussing, it doesn’t offend me in the slightest, as long as it’s not spoken in an aggressive or derogatory manner… but other people do, and I have to have consideration for that. She’s not old enough to know when is it’s an appropriate time to curse and when it is not.

    It was hard to stop myself swearing, sure, but it’s not the only habit I’ve changed for the benefit of my child. That’s just part of being a parent; you work at things, you change what you need to.

    I found it very difficult, as I used to swear like a sailor, but it the only other options were to either:

    1. Swear in front of her and just let her repeat it, thus exposing her to social rejection, as I know for a fact there are many mothers out there who won’t let their kids associate with a child that swears all the time, for fear they’ll pick it up.
    As much as it’s wrong for parents to do that, they do. And I’m not going to let my child suffer for my own more liberal opinions.

    2.Swear in front of her but tell her not to repeat it. That might work for other people, but not for me. I’d feel too much like a hypocrite, and I prefer to lead by example when possible.

  9. I’m not sure if my mom swore around me when I was younger, but she did have some slips when I was old enough to know it was a cuss word. It was definitely banned from our household. My mom grew up with super stressed out teen-parents-grew-up-poor-with-five-kids who swore AT them, among other violent gestures.

    Even with the baggage, though, I knew my mom swore, so it became a right of passage for me to be able to swear around her. We’ll still apologize to each other for dropping F-bombs, but not if it is totally warranted 🙂

  10. When we swear around our kids we shout “BIRTHDAY CAKE!!!” immediately following the offending word. All they hear is birthday cake. What swear word?

  11. I don’t around others’ kids, but do around my own. I don’t hide that in frustration I will curse, rather I point out that I’m an adult and sometimes this is how we vent frustration. My kids (at the moment anyhow) don’t think twice about it and don’t curse. In my experience, hiding certain things, whether it be cursing, drinking an occasional beer or glass of wine, etc, only fuels their curiosity.

  12. I have a 3 yo son and me and the other half swear a lot. We usually do good at limiting ourselves but words slip and naturally he always hears it and repeats it. We let him try it out in our home a few times and treat it like its not a big deal ( dont want to put a stigma on words) Then before bed I tell him why its not a good word to say around other kids and what it means and why he should wait til he is older to use it. He gets it and so far its worked he hasnt received any negative remarks from his preschool (we would have since its in a church). Slip ups happen and they usually happen around young children. In my opinion its best not to punish them for copying your actions, but explain to them the meaning of the word and why only adults should use it. Its worked for us.

  13. I grew up with a father who wouldn’t let me say “butt” or “fart.” But whenever he wasn’t around, my mother said “shit” or “hell” or “damn.” She always made it VERY clear to me that cussing is extremely unprofessional (in MOST professions, obviously there are going to be exceptions to that statement) and was more appropriate in the privacy of your own home. I said my fair share of colorful words in front of friends (and Mom) while growing up until a guy I dated briefly said it made me look uneducated so I stopped (not to change myself for him, but because I agreed that it didn’t do anything for my reputation). My husband and I cuss in front of each other and in front of friends (and in the car), but that’s where the line is drawn. I never cuss at work and, in fact, my husband is trying to limit is cussing in preparation for our future children as he doesn’t want them learning to cuss from us. I don’t think it’s a censorship thing so much as there are much more sophisticated ways to express oneself. On the opposite side of that coin, sometimes shock value does get the point across better.

  14. I heard a lot of colorful language as a kid, but my mother was rather restrictive. ‘Fart’ was a bad word, because you know, it’s ugly for a little girl to say that. My aunt (mom’s younger sister) cuses like a sailor, so I ended up being the kid that taught all the other kids curses in kindergarten. My grandfather actually taught me horrible racial slurs (we do live in the deep south, and despite how great of a man he was, it was one of his faults). Mom stopped that by spanking me when I used them, then calling him on the phone so he could hear me cry.

    I do tend to have a fowl mouth on occasion still, probably because I associated that language with being an adult.

    When I have kids, I plan to use my dear friend Joie as a model. Her daughter is turning eight this week, and is totally aware of curse words and even has a favorite. The rule is she can’t say them in public or around people who aren’t family, not because it’s wrong but because it makes other people uncomfortable. So the lesson becomes more about being considerate which, I think, takes the romance out of the words.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

  15. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard my mother swear. My dad used to swear in Spanish around us but that won’t work for us as my husband is half Honduran. I went to a religious school so there was no swearing there either. I’ll never forget the first time a teacher swore in class in college…I think my jaw dropped. I sound like such a prude but I don’t plan to swear around my children. I feel like there are lots of other words that express my point just as well. I had a teacher in school that used to say “Fudgesicle soup” instead of the F-word and I use that from time to time as it’s pretty hilarious. I don’t plan to punish my kids for swearing but it’s also not a habit I want to encourage. If I’m going tell them that ‘retard’ and ‘gay’ aren’t appropriate when used as an insult, then why not shit and fuck too? Or heaven forbid the racial slurs my 72 year old FIL still drops from time to time. I swear I’m not as prude as I sound.

  16. I have four kids and found a method that has worked very well for us. I cuss like no other, so this was very difficult. We tell the kids that they cannot cuss around women or children younger than 14. That way they get to have a bonding moment with their Dad when I am not around, and Grandma never hears a word. We don’t tell them they are bad words at all. The bad words in our house are stupid, idiot, ugly, and so on. I do not tolerate those words at all and are considered bad words.

  17. My parents swore all the time in front of me as a kid, but I was well aware that I wasn’t allowed use those words myself. I’m planning something similar with my kids — I’d feel weird trying to quit swearing, but I’m not really comfortable hearing children swear.

  18. The rule in my house growing up was “you can’t swear until you are 18”. I liked and still like the rule. Having 5 brothers and sisters, when the majority (4) of us were 18 my 2 younger sisters thought it meant that they could swear too…

    Having a son of my own (he’s only 5 months) my husband and I try not to swear around him. Some slip out here and there, we hope to be better about it when my son is older.

  19. So I have an almost 5 year old. I don’t curse a *whole* lot, but I do occasionally. I attempt to minimize it in front of my son, but I don’t make a big deal out of it. When he was in the “parroting” phase he used to repeat them to the point where I was concerned he would say it in an inappropriate situation. Now that he is out of that phase, when he says a “bad” word I explain that they are inappropriate for little kids to use. Also, that it isn’t that they are “bad” but that it bothers some people to hear them. He keeps insisting that they ARE bad though – and in fact has been known to suggest that some perfectly regular words are bad too. (I’m certain that he’s picked up the concept of “bad words” from the kids at school). He makes an effort to avoid saying them – I know this because I’ve heard him correct himself. He’ll say OH MY GOD! I mean GOSH!

  20. I cuss like a sailor, mainly because that is the culture I grew up in. “F” falls in front of just about every noun out of my mouth. My biggest problem with swearing is just that it is a lazy way of talking. Why think up an intelligent way of expressing yourself when you can just say F@#K? I have watched video of myself talking and just cringed because I come across like an ignorant person with a very limited vocabulary. I think in the workplace when I slip…I might be viewed as “uneducated” even though I am not. I wish there was a class I could take or hypnotism to stop swearing! I really want to break this habit for my child, who is still a baby.

  21. Cussing doesn’t offend me either, as long as it’s used appropriately. Like, don’t just scream the “f” word for the fun of it, but if you stub your toe and it just happens to erupt from your mouth, no big deal. My son is allowed to cuss at home, but he knows not to do it at school. He uses it appropriately. At school, he’s not even allowed to say “what the” because he may be thinking of ending it with “hell” or something worse. I said “what if you’re thinking ‘what the bananas’?” Apparently now you can get in trouble for thought crimes at school.

    My theory is that since any “bad” word can be substituted with a “good” word, yet still mean exactly the same thing, then how is it a “good” word if the intention is the same as the “bad” word? If I call someone a bunny but really mean to call them a bitch, then how is it any different? The intention is the same.

  22. We don’t, when we can help it. It is inevitable that the kids pick up the words at school etcv anyway, they don’t need us to also be using them all of the time.
    We have a great time making up words to use instead. I like that aspect of it. Because, you have you admit, swearing is often the laziest path.

  23. I am also fond of using salty language and didn’t want to be a hypocrite with my (now 5 year old) daughter. So, I call swear words “strong words” and talk to her about how some people don’t like to hear strong words. It’s always been about context, and she knows she can swear at home (though doesn’t much), but not places like school.

  24. I like the idea of courtesy being the driving idea behind not cussing in public. I’m still trying to conceive so I may change my tune when the time comes, but right now the idea of getting ME to stop cussing is impossible. I was the kid who weaseled the “f” word out of my mother, telling her that I needed to know it in case I said it by accident. I haven’t stopped saying it since.

    So my kids will hear it, I know. I do believe they’re just words and I also believe it’s hypocritical to use “shoot” and “darn” and act like they somehow make you a better person when they mean the same thing.

    However, I do think it’s courteous to not swear in public because it does offend people. The same way we fart in the house but not in public. That’s a lesson that is understandable and age appropriate for any young child.

    Oh and for the record, I recently read about a study that said swearing when you get hurt may actually reduce pain. Apparently, it only works though if you don’t swear very often so that means I’m shit out of luck! 🙂

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