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Gateway Profanity: Kiddie Cursing is NOT OK!

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Letting our kids use "replacement" curse words is just a pathway to the real thing.

boy using profanity

Ashlee Holland: Lately, I have been doing a bit of damage-control when it comes to my 8-year-old son and my four godkids (whom I am around on a daily basis). They seem to be getting a little "grown-up" with certain phrases they use. In NO way, shape or form have we parents ever allowed them to use profanity. They are good kids who don't curse -- or so I thought.

My 2-year-old godson was shooting a basketball around in the living room yesterday; when he did not make the shot, he yelled, "What the freak?!" My head whipped around in disbelief of his choice of words during his frustration.

Did he really just say what I thought he said? We all know the adult version of that phrase, and for a second I could have sworn that THAT is what he said. I asked to him to repeat it, but like any 2-year-old, he just laughed and continued his game. Did I have a budding little potty-mouth on my hands?

My first thought was Where did he hear this?! I have no idea where he could have learned this phrase, or how he knew exactly when to use it. He is 2!

As a parent, I have tried to substitute the bad words with other words to set a good example. Maybe I am doing more harm than good.

I started to think about all of the sayings that my son and the older kids use, and realized the power of a simple (revised) phrase. We all know the substitutes kids use: "goshdarn it," "dagnabbit," "dang it," "aw, crap," "freakin' A," "fudge it." (And now this latest, "What the freak?") The list could go on and on.

When my son says, "Are you freakin' kidding me?" I try to imagine what I would have done had he used the adult alternative. When I do that, I am more likely to stop him in mid-sentence to address my concerns. BUT ... I will be honest. Because it was not the ACTUAL word, it has not bothered me as much thus far. Now, after hearing a 2-year-old use such phrases with GREAT conviction, I am a bit more bothered.

As innocent as I once thought these expressions were, I now feel they may just be a form of "gateway profanity." When we let our kids express themselves in this way, will they eventually graduate to a more vulgar vocabulary? In reality, they are just substituting the adult words to express the same type of frustration or to carry out the same type of insult.

I'm no psychiatrist, but this CLEARLY seems to limit our kids verbally, this use of mindless, inappropriate expressions. These "gateway profanities" have been allowing our children to curse, in a "kiddie" sort of way, for as long as I can remember. It's time to stop this! Who's with me?!

Happy potty-mouth washing!

next: Sandra Bullock Gives a Shout-Out to Moms
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
matt March 8, 2010, 11:37 AM

you fail at life, cursing isn’t that bad, kids hear worse in school,it is just a part of growing up

Ashlee Holland March 8, 2010, 12:39 PM

Fail at life? Not sure what you meant by that….. Anyhow, the problem is… we say it isn’t that bad. But is really is at this age. Even if they do hear it at school, as a parent I teach my son it is not ok to repeat and use those words in his vocabulary. It can be a sign if ignorance. Extending his vocabulary and encouraging a mature mindset will teach him to make wiser choices…. use wiser words. A part of growing up… Yes…. allowing it to be an acceptable part of his childhood, NO.

Black Iris March 8, 2010, 4:15 PM

I think you have to have something to say when you stub your toe or your Legos all fall down. I use kiddie versions of swear words like sugar or darn myself.

I try to teach my children two things about swear words:
don’t use them because they offend people, and
don’t use them because then you’ll have nothing to say when the car engine catches fire.

Eric March 8, 2010, 8:06 PM

All you’re doing is replacing the word, not the emotion behind it. The words are funny to them because they get a reaction out of you. Also, this bears repeating -
I’m no psychiatrist
I’m no psychiatrist
I’m no psychiatrist

PS - A psychiatrist is more of a medical doctor, so a psychologist would be more suitable. Still, you’ve made your point.

Renae March 8, 2010, 10:20 PM

For sure! It’ a cop out, pseudo swear words. Our simple way to handle this, especially for the 8 year olds, “Powerful” words. They know what you mean. Explain that there are more intelligent ways to express oneself and that swearing isn’t cool, it’s mindless and thoughtless, considering all the great words there are to express oneself.

Now! After you stop laughing and rolling your eyes, I will say, we are not prudes. I swear on occasion and I imagine my kids do too, but even if they choose better words 90% of the time, that’s better than saying crap, frick and freakin’ all day long! But I do have to admit, it is funny when to proceed to spell the word and don’t even say it. Now that’s bad!

Erminia Snith August 14, 2010, 11:47 AM

@Adam- I was thinking the same thing

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