Every parent has that moment when your kiddo starts speaking, and you think to yourself: SHIT! now we’ve got to stop swearing so much! We were just talking about swearing at work over at Corporette, and I thought an interesting corollary over here might be to share stories and tricks on how to stop cursing around kids.
As I’ve explained at Corporette, personally I like to joke that I was a sailor in a previous life because, around good friends at least, I tend to swear quite a bit. But when my eldest, J, was starting to speak, I found I definitely not want him to start saying bad words — I didn’t want to be That Mom with the kid who swears like a sailor since I feel like it reflects more on the parents than it does the kids. I’ve surprised myself in how little I want my kid to swear — I don’t even like for him to hear the phrase “that sucks” or “crap,” just in part because I think it’s just as easy to say “that stinks” or “well, carp,” both of which are much more acceptable.
Another worry also cropped up when J was around 3.5 or so: I worried that he would say a bad word or insult on a playground and anger an older, bigger kid. It all started when he started calling us stupid. I was stupid, his father was stupid, the stroller was stupid, his teacher was stupid, we’re all stupid. Not only was this kind of a bummer (thanks, kid) but I also started to worry that at the playground, he would call some older/bigger kid “stupid” — and get his clock cleaned. His teacher suggested I “give” him another word — so one day when we were arguing about something, J called me “dusty.” I had no idea what “dusty” meant or what word he was mistaking it for — but I made a HUGE deal out of it. “HOW DARE YOU CALL ME DUSTY?” I thundered. “Don’t you EVER call me DUSTY again!” Sure enough he stopped using the word “stupid” and started using the word “dusty.” Problem solved.
As for curbing my own swearing, some of the best tricks I got included finding substitute words — I think it was a Hellobee post that introduced me to the idea of sugar and fudge as substitutes for saltier language. I don’t think I’d ever willingly choose to use these words, but I’ve found them to be tremendously helpful for when you (or someone else) gets halfway into a swear word and you need to “save” it with your kid. “Ah shhhhhhhhhh ugar.”
(Another silly story: when my second, H, was around 3, he was still very hard to understand, so when he said “OH DEE!” in the bath one night when he dropped a toy I assumed he was repeating a swear word he’d heard from his babysitter, which surprised me — so I asked her about it. “We say ‘oh dear’ a lot when we drop things,” she said. Awwwwwwww.)
How about you, ladies — if you’re a fan of swearing in general, do you do it around your kids? What tips and tricks have you tried to stop cursing around kids? (Similarly, are there words or phrases that are kind of “swear word adjacent” that you also prefer your kiddo not hear or repeat — e.g., “that sucks”?) For those of you with older kids, has the swearing policy changed at all? (Weirdly enough I still try not to say the F word in front of my parents.)
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