Swearing around children

Now that Baby has started talking, it’s probably starting to become clear exactly how much of what you say they are picking up on and filing away for later – that is to say, pretty much all of it. Maybe even including a few things you wish they would be a little forgetful about?

While it’s annoying if Baby remembers your guilty pleasure song and tries to start a song-along with it in public, it’s any four-letter words you can’t say on the radio that they may have overheard that are more likely to cause the memorable embarrassing situations.

Plenty of parents choose to try to cut out curse words from their verbal diet for exactly that reason, while others take the stance that their children are going to come across these words at some point, and since it’s parents’ jobs to teach their children which words are appropriate for which situations, it’s better for them to come across them when their parents are around to talk about it and set boundaries.

Pros and cons of keeping curse words away from your toddler 

There are plenty of reasons to avoid swearing in front of your child, from the way it seriously cuts down on the chances of Baby letting something slip that they shouldn’t in front of your in-laws, or their caregiver at daycare, to even just your fellow-shoppers at the grocery store. More than that, though, it’s a double-standard that Baby will probably pick up on pretty easily, that there are words you get to say that they doesn’t – ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ is one of those dated parenting philosophies that rarely work. Baby doesn’t get to drive your car, either, sure, but even if they could, their feet still wouldn’t reach the pedals – unless you’ve got an especially giant toddler. On the other hand, though, what else are you supposed to yell when you step on Baby‘s favorite pointy toy in the middle of the night?

Speaking in anger

One of the best arguments against swearing around children is that words that are taboo are often the ones that come out in extreme anger, and can carry really negative connotations which can have damaging effects on children. While there is a certain amount of truth to this idea, it has more to do with the intent behind the words than the words themselves – being around frequent, angry disagreements can be stressful for children, whether they’re expressed using swear words or just angry regular words. Still, the occasional curse around a child has a different impact than swear words directed at, or describing, a person, since, like in every other situation, Baby is taking their cues from you about how people should be treated, and the amount of respect and kindness they’re owed.

  • Kristin L. Jay, Timothy B. Jay. “A Child’s Garden of Curses: A Gender, Historical, and Age-Related Evaluation of the Taboo Lexicon.” The American Journal of Psychology. Vol. 126, No. 4 (Winter 2013), pp. 459-475. Web. October 2 2014.
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