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Should we really call them “bad words” to our kids?

As Noah is getting older, he’s starting to learn that there are certain words in the English language that he’s gonna get a lecture about when and if he says them. I’ll let you use your imagination as to what those words are.

Some people call them “bad words.” And I have to wonder, is that really something healthy to teach our children? That some words are “bad?”

I for one, try not to swear too much, but sometimes I enjoy saying almost every word that I would tell my son is a “bad word.” I like to put them into my writing sometimes to emphasize certain emotions or points; I like to use them to be funny during certain conversations and with the right people; And, as much as I’m working on it, there are times when they just slip out when I least expect it. Like when I see a cop’s red and blues glaring in my rearview mirror.

I used to be married to his mom, and I know for a fact that she occasionally uses some of the “bad words,” too. And, I’m 99% positive his stepdad uses the “bad words” sometimes as well. I know his grandparents do. I know some of his aunts and uncles do. In fact, there are very few adults I know who never say “bad words.” Most of them, if anything, enjoy a good cuss word here and there. I think it’s part of our human nature… to rebel against the norm when it won’t hurt anybody.

So if most of the grown-ups use “bad words,” what does that teach my kid? As he himself grows up, he’s going to hear a lot of the people he loves use a lot of the words that he has been told his entire life are bad.

>> I wrote this entry and published it on my Babble Voices blog, and I’m only permitted to post a snippet of it here. Read the whole thing and comment on Danoah Unleashed >>

16 comments
Absma
Absma

My 5 year old loves the bad words. I know that sounds bad. In fact I don't agree with it myself, however it is hysterical to hear and see. She believes that as long as she is with her Uncle. It is okay for her to say them. So luckily she will only say them when he is around. I myself slip out a few here and there and she always reminds me. "Your not supposed to say that. It's a bad word". 

mlibbydp1
mlibbydp1

A friend calls them "mommy words" and "you can't be a mommy until you're 35 or have a college degree." (She only has daughters, but I like it overall, and her two girls - 5 & 7 - know the drill and respect it.)

Hello
Hello

I can really relate to this article.  I grew up believing in "bad words," and when I heard family members say them, I felt awful.  I couldn't stand to see my family say those words with absolutely no remorse, and truly felt that they were being bad people.  Once, at a family party, I told my dad that he shouldn't have said a curse word, and he became visibly embarrassed with me.  I cried.  It wasn't until I grew up a little that I realized I didn't need to be ashamed of my family when they cursed.  Even then, I saw the same reactions in my little sister.  So I can say that I definitely think this approach is the way to go to teach kids about "bad words."

Chea
Chea

I like the "Adult" and "Hurtful" words idea. I may use those one day. When I have kids, there will be hurtful words that can never be said. But other adult / bad words, Im going to allow. They are part of our english language, and help with expressions. I have no isse with my child using them. Funny story - I do have a friend who allows such words, in the privacy of their home, in certain circumstances. For example, when someone out bid them for their home, and she was extremely upset after putting down the depost, etc, her 4 year old said "The a**holes better give us back our money!" My first blurt in front of my parents was when I was 15. We were riding home from school, and a dog ran out in front of my moms car. She stomped on the breaks, and I screamed F***!! I immediately turned red, apologized profusely, and she just laughed and laughed all the way home, and then told my Dad, and they had a good laugh. Their little goodie daughter just screamed her first swear word in front of them. It was always a respect thing for me. I respected my parents enough to refrain while at home of such language. But I dont see the issue with them so much anymore unless they are focused in a negative hurtful manner toward someone. You cant help but laugh, and agree.

JessicaLangstonFambrough
JessicaLangstonFambrough

I don't teach my kids that words are bad. I teach them that words are hurtful, and some words when they get old enough to understand them and how to use them are okay. When I inadvertently cuss around them, and one of us catches it, I will sit down and explain why it's not necessarily a bad word most of the time it's inappropriate, and as they get older they will know when and or how not to use those words. 

ChristinaMays
ChristinaMays

My daughter grew up with me telling her that certain words are inappropriate for the place/time that we were in at the time.  It's all about context.  We give words power.  Otherwise they are just meaningless noise. 

mrschili
mrschili

I am an English teacher and a mom, and here's my take on "bad words:" there's no such thing as a "bad word" except as used to intentionally inflict harm on another.  I'm a big believer that "sticks and stones" is a load of horse shit; words can and do have power, and when we use them to try to hurt others, we're abusing that power.

 

Here's my take on "adult language":  http://theinnerdoor.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/thought-for-thursday-23/

EllenDeckinga
EllenDeckinga

I call them expletives. I think Wikipedia had the best definition - Syntactic expletive, a word that performs a syntactic role but contributes nothing to meaning Expletive attributive, a word that contributes nothing to meaning but suggests the strength of feeling of the speaker. When my students use these words they do not add to the meaning of the statement, but do emphasize the feelings of the speaker. Just an option.

shawmutt
shawmutt

We simply call them "adult words".  They aren't allowed to drink or smoke or do other adult activities until they are older, it's the same with adult words.

AaronOwens
AaronOwens

I personally don't even see the point in considering them to be 'bad' words. There are no actually bad words, they're simply words. Someone somewhere in history apparently decided that those words were to be forbidden from polite conversation, but what is that other than arbitrary nonsense? Its like walking into a movie theater and saying "Oh, don't sit there, that's a bad seat" when in actuality it is probably a perfectly fine seat, and is simply against your preferences. Words are words, and there are plenty of words that aren't considered 'bad' that should be avoided in certain situations, and even the 'bad' words are considered perfectly acceptable in other situations. So why bother labeling some words as 'bad', it serves no real purpose at all.

JanelleJensenSouthern
JanelleJensenSouthern

We have "polite" and "impolite" words.  We remember our polite words such as "please", "thank you", "excuse me", etc.  Not magic words -- polite words.  "Impolite words" such as swear words or rude words like "dumb" or "stupid" we are more selective about.  We recognize that there are situations where "stupid' or "dumb" are fine (dumb computer!  stupid car!, etc.) but we don't use those words to talk about people.  We choose not to use certain other words in our home, but recognize that we will hear them sometimes in movies, books, and around us as people make their own choices.  We can choose to surround ourselves with people and tv shows, etc. that use the sort of language we are comfortable with.   

Joe
Joe

I'd say it's about teaching kids that there's a time & a place for certain words. Also asking what their intent is when they use certain expletives or button-pushing words. Yep, it's complicated--that's why it's a 24/7, rest-of-your-life job.

Emily
Emily

@JessicaLangstonFambroughI like that idea. Teaching the difference between "bad words" and "hurtful words." I think these can be interchangeable, and a child grasping how to "use" a word to have it mean something else is a difficult concept. But, regardless i think it's an important point to make.