Before I became a mother, I have a very vivid memory of when a little angel dropped his Mum right in it with swearing. It was over 10 years ago and I was waiting at the train station to catch the train to University. There was this gorgeous little boy sitting with his Mum and playing about with a toy truck waiting for the same train as me. Suddenly the truck fell onto the ground and rolled under the seat. This little boy, who looked like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, let out the F-word at the top of his lungs. His mother, instantly embarrassed, exclaimed “Where did you hear that word?” He turned around, almost in slow motion, fixed her with an angelic smile and replied…
“From you Mum”
Now that is one of those parenting moments where you just wish that the ground would open up and swallow you whole. We have all had those moments where our children have royally embarrassed us with their brutal honesty and I really felt for this Mum. I vowed then and there that I would never swear in front of my child to avoid this particular strain of embarrassment.
Fast forward 8 years or so and it was my beautiful little 2 year old who uttered the F-word. Where had she heard it? I was baffled. I had never consciously sworn in front of her! It wasn’t until my husband enlightened me that while cooking dinner, prepping lunches for the next day, emptying the dishwasher, emptying the bin, wiping the bench, cleaning the fridge and the billions of other things I try and juggle in the kitchen on a daily basis, I get quite sweary.
Without meaning to, I had given my sweet little toddler the tools to swear. Never before had the term ‘little ears have big mouths’ been more appropriate!
Attitudes to Swearing
The same with anything, you can avoid or you can immerse. So the first attitude is to try and stop yourself from swearing in front of your child, seems pretty simple in theory. If they do not hear the words in the first place then they obviously cannot repeat them.
The other attitude is to deliberately swear in front of your children so the words are not taboo. You can then teach them that they are not appropriate words for polite conversation.
Whichever route you choose to go down, the important thing is to be consistent.
How to Stop Them
As I found out, it is so easy to slip up without meaning to! And those cheeky little monkeys always seem to know just the right context to use their new vocabulary addition in.
The only way to prevent it completely is for them to never hear the word in the first place, but that is not realistic. Even if you are vigilant on your own speech, children can hear it at school, at their early learning centre, even walking around the supermarket or down the street.
I tried not to make a big deal out of it, as I knew she would just say it more if I had a big reaction. So I sat my daughter down and explained to her that it is not a polite word to say. We shouldn’t use it when we speak. Mummy should not have said it, and made a mistake when she was frustrated with something. I did this every time the word slipped out of her mouth. Thankfully in our circumstance it only came out a handful of times.
About a year later we were in the supermarket car park and there was a man parked next to us putting his groceries into his car. The wind was quite strong and it blew his shopping trolley into the side of his car which made a little dent. He said the ‘F-word’. My daughter kindly said very loudly, “That man said a naughty word, that’s not polite is it Mummy?!”
Thankfully he smiled and laughed about it so it avoided a potentially embarrassing situation! And I could take pride in the fact that she had taken note of what I had said and retained it!
Have you had to deal with swearing with your little ones? How did you combat it? Let us know in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.
Gemma is a kiwi Mum of one and is the Editor for The Baby View. She also works with preschool children, loves cooking, loves sunshine, loves chocolate and loses countless hours at a time looking at cute baby pictures on Instagram!