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 probably personally won’t swear around my kids, or at least try to, just because I’d worry about other parents’ reactions. No one wants to be the kid who other parents don’t their kid to play with.

    That being said, my parents swore around me and I turned out fine. We also have funny stories like the time my mom asked my dad why he was back so soon from sectioning up a tree and 3 year old me (his ‘helper’) replying, “The damn chainsaw won’t work.”

  2. We let it all hang out. I was a complete hypocrite in the beginning. No one could cuss around my child. One day, my husband told me that he got cut off in traffic, yelled fuck you, which our son (2 at the time) immediately repeated at the top of his lungs. I cried for hours and withheld business time for days. Then, I realized that it’s not that high on the priority list.
    Now our son is 7, and his little sister is 3. She’s a fan of dammit, while he rarely swears. We explained that, much like our brand of dark, sarcastic humor, not everyone appreciates it. There’s a time and place. There is one rule for language overall: nothing mean-spirited. I can call you a jerk face in playful banter, or call you a jerk face because I want to hurt you. It’s all about intent.

  3. I think Deborah has the right idea.

    I say some pretty heinous language (think Hunter Thompson, and times that by 3, and yes, I have no problem using the “c” word to describe some women).

    Now that I’m pregnant, I am going to cut back. My husband works in construction and the stereotype that construction workers are enthusiastic swearers is 100% true. He drops F-bombs so casually in a conversation you don’t even pick up on it at first.

    I support cursing (to quote Spencer Tracy’s character Henry Drummond from ‘Inherit the Wind,'”I don’t swear for the hell of it. Language is a poor enough means of communication. We’ve got to use all the words we’ve got. Besides, there are damn few words anybody understands!”

    However, just like when it comes to art and writing, I think there is definitely the element of ‘knowing the rules before you break them.’

    In this case, just breaking public taboo about swearing, especially in front of children (your own or others), is just poor taste if you’re doing it ‘just to do it.’

    It’s no different then someone jumping on the bandwagon to get tattoos or piercings because it’s “hip and cool.”

    There is an underlying art to it. I think about how you hear people cursing in Britain (think Absolutely Fabulous), verses in the United States.

    You have to be very careful when you swear, and how you teach your children to swear. You don’t want to come off as just being ignorant.

  4. I think swearing is fine around children as long as it’s not used hatefully or directed towards a person or animal. Of course it helps that I normally swear in a variety of non-english languages.

  5. I really like what they did on Fantastic Mr. Fox…Actually saying “Cuss” in lieu of the cuss word itself. “What the cuss?” “Ya gotta be cussin me!” “Oh cuss!”

      • that’s a good one! i haven’t heard that before but when i’m at work i use the word “expletive” in the place of what i really want to say. sometimes i switch it up and say “aardvark” because it gets a good laugh & lightens the mood. as in “oooh that customer was a dirty little aardvark!”

  6. It’s a difficult situation, isn’t it? I’m currently expecting and due in about a month, so debate about these sorts of things has become frequent between my boyfriend and I. We both kind of swear like sailors, and probably won’t do well trying to censor ourselves around the child. You don’t want to ban words from your child when you yourself use them all the time, but you don’t want your child to use the words in inappropriate situations (like at school) or in hurtful ways, and you don’t want swear words to become a major part of your child’s vocabulary. But then again a good hearted “fuck you!” every once in a while is almost essential. Where do you find a good middle ground?

  7. I’m a nanny, and I try to never curse around the children I’m taking care of.. but if I ever procreate, I will curse around them, though perhaps not with the regularity that I do now! Words are words, it’s the tone that really matters.

    I remember sitting in a Burger King with my mom when I was little, and I kept saying “bugger me!” (I think I’d picked it up from a movie) over and over again until my mom got fed up and said “PLEASE don’t say that anymore! It means having sex with someone in their butt and that’s not nice for a little girl to say.” I was mortified, and never used it again.

  8. My husband and I have never altered our language around our kids. Basically, we’ve told them that words are just words and that people are offended by all kind of things, including words. It’s all about context, context, context! I don’t care if they say, “shit,” or, “fuck,” as long as they’re not using those words in anger against others, and obviously there are people who require filters. Don’t use those words around teachers or grandparents!

  9. I don’t think my husband and I will censor ourselves when we have kids. I think we’ll explain that some words are “adult” words, just like some movies are “adult” movies and some drinks are “adult” drinks. I think kids need to be sheltered from a lot of things, but words are just words.

  10. My mom swore when we were growing up; I picked up her habit but I also learned by example that swearing at school or at work or at the grocery store was not appropriate.

    The one word my sister and I were not allowed to say for a long time was “suck”. My parents also loathed “shut-up” and “stupid” but “you suck” or “that sucks” really bothered my mother. Being the sex-positive mom that she is, after telling her that “all the kids say it” she explained what “sucking” was and therefore what it meant “to suck”.

    Ultimately, I think it was a problem for her that 10 year olds were not only talking about each other “sucking” but that we were using it in such a negative way. I didn’t see that at the time and now of course “suck” is used pretty liberally but I still apply that theory to my own cussing practice.

  11. When I taught pre-school we taught the kids that there are “at home words” and “at school words” so if a swear word was dropped we just told them that was an “at home word”.

    This came is handy big time when I had a boy in my class who liked to use the N-word. He was African American and I had heard him use it as a greeting to another child (Whats up my n…) but I also heard him use it in the derogatory sense (you ugly n….)so he and I talked a lot about how that’s an at home word.

    With my daughter now, we swear around her but try and keep it in check. I don’t often use those words in every day conversation so she hears them in what I consider the appropriate context (say I stub my toe, or drop something). So far she hasn’t mimicked any of them but one. She went through a phase where she would say G-d Dam-it a lot…..I didn’t have a huge issue with it, but she goes to daycare with a boy whose family is VERY religious so we tried to curb it out of respect for them.

  12. i was raised around a father who is totally unable to verbally express himself without the use of multiple colorful metaphors. so my daughter has grown up around a bunch of pottymouths. but she knows that kids aren’t allowed to say those words and she doesn’t. as she’s gotten older, i’ve slowly allowed her to say a few chosen words, but ONLY when she’s home. never outside of our house. she’s 12 now and i know that the kids on her bus could probably give me a good run for my money with words i’v probably never even heard before. so trying to shelter her from it would be ineffectual. i let her say ‘sucks’ and ‘friggin’ to express how she feels when she wants. but that’s it. i don’t think i’ll mind it as she gets older if she wants to use other words too, just as long as they aren’t used in a hateful way to hurt someone else.

  13. My husband and I aren’t swearers really. I am known to let “shit” fly here or there, but never the f-bomb. My son, who is 6, hears who knows what at school though. He doesn’t repeat it. He knows what are swear words and doesn’t say them. I’m not overly concerned with the particular words but how they are said. Honestly there is no difference between him saying “oh poop!” and “oh shit!” I will equally tell him to simmer down. Where as if he just went around saying poop I wouldn’t care. It’s all about context. The poor kid still thinks “stupid” is a swear word though. I’ve recently had to explain that saying that something is stupid isn’t a swear, it’s just rude. And we shouldn’t be rude. And that some words are swears and will really get you in trouble around others so we shouldn’t say them either. He gets it.

  14. I was shopping at Kohls the other day, and heard a woman say to her 7-8 year old son “I am going to kick your F*$#&@^ A**!” I was horrified, and heartbroken for the child. I will never speak to my children this way, nor would I speak this way merely in front of them. It’s completely classless to teach children that it’s ok to use this kind of language.

  15. My partner and I have a policy of appropraiteness in our home. We swear in front of, and with, our child. We occcasionally share in “inappropriate” humour with our child. The key is to enforce the idea of situtational appropriateness, which is something our daughter has a firm grasp on. This is not just about knowing who you can and cannot swear around, but also knowing the appropriate use of each word.
    Swearing in anger is never acceptable in our home.

  16. When I first had my daughter, it didn’t seem like an issue. Yes, I swear a lot, but this itty bitty baby isn’t yet mimicing what she is hearing. By the time it started to seem to matter, I could watch my own toungue but no matter how many times I admonished her father or my own, or any other number of people constantly around her, it didn’t matter. No amount of reminders that she was started to repeat words would get anyone else to watch their mouths. I had no choice but to give up. It became a problem around age two. The one day we were at the bookstore and she kept running away to climb the ladders. The first time we peeled her off she said “fuck” but not too loudly. The next time, the word was screamed so loudly that literally everyone froze and turned to stare at us. I was so embarrased. After that, I changed my aproach. It was no longer about not getting her to hear it, it was getting her not to say it. Every single time she swore she was punished, and the adults who found it funny were snapped at within her ear shot (I wouldn’t normally do that, but I wanted her to know their reactions weren’t acceptable either). It has worked like a charm. It took a few weeks and quite a few spoonfuls of hot pepper but she finally gave it up. Almost 5 years later it is still working. She’s not shocked by hearing swear words, she is not enticed by secrecy, and she will not say them. She knows that they are words that are for adults only. She has asked me recently to “say a swear word for her” after knocking herself in the head, she just got THE LOOK for that question. May I also add that I never swear TO her, I can’t stand hearing that… “Pick up your fucking toys”…really? That’s neccessary?

  17. I chose not to cuss around my kids for the simple fact that the rest of my family is extreme conservative christian, I want my kids to have a good relationship with the rest of my family, and swearing would become a MAJOR issue with them, not being able to swear in front of my kids is not that big an issue to me. Recently my oldest, (nearly 12)has been hanging out at her friends houses a lot, and yesterday said “That’s Fucking Awesome!” about something on TV. That’s the first time i’ve ever heard her swear. She immediately covered her mouth and looked at me like she was now in the worst trouble ever. I laughed a little and told her. “I don’t have a problem with swearing, but if you talk like that in front of your grandparents you’re old enough to take the brunt of their displeasure.” She told me she’d be careful, I haven’t heard her swear since then. We also talked about the effect her swearing in front of her sisters would have on them and she decided on her own that it wouldn’t be fair of her to possibly make it more difficult for them to not say certain words at school and at home. They are 7 and 9.

  18. I LOVE cursing and I don’t always censor myself around my 4-year-old son, but I also know there are much better words in the English language than 4-letter ones and I want him to learn those, so I try to choose those more often. More often than not I say “frick” but its dirty alternative makes an eppearance from time to time. He knows that they’re not nice words (and reminds me when he hears me say them) and I just tell him that they’re grown-up words that aren’t nice for little boys to say. But words are just that so I don’t want to make a huge deal of it if he lets an occasional “damnit” slip, and I don’t jump on people for swearing around him.

  19. I do curse around my kids. I try to keep it minimal because I’d like them to realize that in normal everyday circumstances most people try not to curse like a “sailor” or “truck driver” or whatever else sterotype can be put there….but people do curse! If I am infuriated I’m not going to restrict my emotions because I’m around my children. Sometimes, yes, this backfires and my children will repeat what I say. Sometimes, actually, often times, this is not in the best situations. From there, they learn when to say something and when not to. People try and restrict their children from so much. When they’re older and in school, guess what? Kids are going to curse. Kids are going to say probably worse than what I will ever say in front of them. The key here is to be able to teach them when it’s appropriate to express certain things and when it’s not in their best interest.

  20. It kind of depends, Have you ever noticed anyone taking offense and some one using correct English or not swearing? How about people taking offense and swearing? If you know people who take offense at others not swearing, then swear around your kids all you want, of pal around with a better class of people.

  21. I TOTALLY swear in front of my two 8 year old girls (one biological and one by proxy), and I always have. We are extremely mindful and gentle parents, and we enjoy colorful, creative expletives mostly for the sake of comedy. I often say “There’s nothing like the smell of blasphemy in the morning.” It’s true. What is also true, is that this irreverent approach to language diffuses many tense situations with the kiddos, and it actually gives them some good (yes, good) coping tools. From day one we always spoke to them as we would any other human being. In return, we have these extraordinarily articulate children who comfortably converse with adults in any setting. When child-swearing became an issue at about age 2, we simply explained that when kids swear in front of most people, it “creeps them out.” Therefore, if they want to use that language they should do so within designated free zones (such as their rooms and my car). Worked like a charm. We do not allow unkind use of expletives, but when angry they are free to go to a safe zone and cuss the hell out of a stuffed animal. And let me tell you, the compound swear “shart” has abruptly ended more tantrums than I can count. It is funny on such a base level that they can’t help but get on the laugh train, and it also makes them feel drawn into the fold–accepted into the adult world of special and reserved words.

    So I say don’t just cuss around your kids; teach them to cuss appropriately, and in private, where no uptight outsiders will be creeped out, encourage them to get creative and swear in new and exciting ways. I SWEAR it will lead to a lot more laughter in your home, and will also empower your children with new wisdom about interpersonal communication.

  22. Well i have mixed feelings about profanity. I don’t make it a habit but if i’m upset i’m not going to hold my toungue. I don’t feel offended when kther people who curse like sailors do what they do, they’re simply expressing themselves, i don’t view them as any less educated and i think that people who think that are being ignorant. Generally i believe that they are just words, but at the same time curse words tend to make things seem more tense and can change the meaning of a sentence drastically. “what the fuck are you doing?” sounds way more agrwssive from “what are you doing?” i’m 23 and have a 7 year old daughter and i have cursed around her lik in the car when someone cuts me off or if i drop something or watching a movie and yell oh shit lol. One time she dropped her pudding on the floor and yelled out “oh fuck!” and i did talk to her about how thag’s not appropriate because although i’m not totally against the topic of profanity, it’s still important to be careful when you use it. I don’t have a problm with cursing around your kids but i don’t think a parent should ever curse AT their kids.

  23. I don’t cuss too much around my daughter, unless she overhears me in adult conversation. The worst in the past year was saying “shit” when the dog got out of the backyard. BUT her dad cusses like a sailor. There’s just no stopping him. He tries to be more aware, but still slips in casual conversation. And you can forget it completely when he gets mad.

    I feel kinda bad cause at 6 she thinks there are 3 cuss words. The K- S- and F-word. Crap (which I’ve explained is not, in fact, a cuss word, but inappropriate for kids to say), shit, and fuck. So yeah. Of the three, one’s not real and one’s the worst. Oh, well. She doesn’t say them unless repeating what someone said and that’s after I promise she won’t get in trouble, lol.

    I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but my mom never cussed around be til I was in my 20’s, so I try not to. Of course, my mother didn’t stop insisting santa was real until I had my own kiddo, so she may not be the best model, haha.

  24. Here is my non parent point of view.
    I won’t cuss around children that appear to be 16 years of age and younger.
    I feel that children will pick up swearwords on their own based on their environment. It is not my place to corrupt them.
    If children swear around me that is the business of the folks raising them.

  25. I personally find it to be kind of silly when parents try so hard NOT to swear around their kids. I’ve found that the more kids learn that something is “bad” to do or against the rules, they want to do it more. When they pick up a swear word and repeat it and their parents gasp and say “DON’T SAY THAT!!” they find it fascinating, and they want to say it more, because of the response they get from it. When you go about it casually and don’t make a big deal out of it, kids are less likely to find it as cool to repeat. It’s just another word. With my little sisters, my mom swore regularly around them, as did the rest of my family because it’s always been the norm. When they repeated it, we just ignored it and after a few days they stopped because it was no longer amusing to them. Just another word. They know enough now not to swear, but that wasn’t really taught to them-they just know that it’s a grown-up thing to do. I plan to be the same around my son. He’s only 6 months old right now, so we know we’ll have to tone it down a little soon, but it’s just not as big of a deal to us as it is to a lot of people I guess.

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