Generally my feeling as a parent is that if you tell it like it is with kids then the novelty will wear off quickly. Until now that theory has worked.
When my son was three and came home from daycare one day saying that his “wee wee” hurt, I reminded him to call it a penis because there is no such thing as a wee wee. Then he went off to Kindergarten and learned a few lovely new words courtesy of the sixth graders on the school bus. While they were not exactly the worst of the bunch, we discussed what they meant and why they were not necessarily appropriate for a five year-old.
Now, I should tell you that many of the lesser offensive words do not offend me at all, nor would I really be aggravated at my kids for saying them. However, I usually suggest that if they would get in trouble for saying the word at school then they probably should not get into the habit of saying them at home either. And when I occasionally let out a curse word in frustration (or road rage) I just remind the kids that I have that right because I am an adult.
Recently, though, my kids are learning a whole new set of bad words. We are talking about the truly offensive ones. They are the words that are overly sexual in nature or meant to offend entire groups of people; the ones that are unacceptable in any situation, under any circumstance.
And now I am feeling torn. Clearly there is a spectrum here, with one end being words that are acceptable in certain homes, and on the other end the words that should never be said, ever. Kids just know them all as bad words. It is not as if they are handed some sort of guide book for cursing. Those words on the complicated end of the spectrum are ones that warrant conversation (at least in my opinion), or that novelty will not go away. Telling kids that these words are off-limits forever is simply not enough. They need to understand why such words are unacceptable, even if it means I have to talk about things I am not ready to discuss with them.
Everything in our media and pop culture is so explicit, so out there, that it is more confusing than ever for kids and just as frustrating for parents. How are we supposed to teach our children right from wrong, when they still hear it all on TV, at the movies or on the radio?
Have you had to deal with this with your children yet? How have you handled it? Do you keep all “bad words” off limits in your household?