To all my new moms: kids cursing is pretty much a regular stage that all kids go through. One of my favorite movie moments of all time is from “A Christmas Story” when Peter Billingsley’s character Ralphie gets busted saying the “f dash, dash, dash word.” His father who regularly curses around the house turns to him and asks him where he heard that and he gives up the name of a friend. Later on as his mom tells the other boys’ mom what he supposedly taught Ralphie, you can hear him getting his butt whipped over the telephone. Classic, hilarious.
Times have changed. Most every parent I know will squarely place the blame on themselves, even if they try very hard not to slip up around their preschoolers. As it happened, my two older boys started it and ‘ended it’ in preschool, that is to say I gather that one of them never really stopped but he was savvy enough to know when and where to do it without getting caught. The toddler, preschooler form sounds like parroting entire phrases picked up from parents. Stuff like “oh shit!”, “stupid bitch!” and “shut up, asshole!” (What, that’s only in my house? Eh.)
The trick is to not make too big a deal out of it because it can be such an attention getter that they want to do it over and over for a reaction. A mild, “That’s enough Sean. If I continue to hear you use those bad words you’ll have to go to bed early.” Generally they get it pretty quickly and voila, they move on to the next stage where they stop cursing, but every time they catch you doing it, they say things like “Ooooh mommy, that’s a bad word! Stop using bad words in front of me, I’m a child.”
I thought I had pretty much escaped that whole thing with my youngest, he never got in trouble (read caught) cursing until he was six, which I thought was a little old to start. And even then, he didn’t get busted in the traditional way but it was more the fact that I’m one of the worlds’ nosiest moms and modern technology. I was relishing the fact that he and his god-sister & best friend were old enough to hang out in the backyard unsupervised when I noticed that it seemed kind of quiet. No basketball bouncing, no screaming, chasing etc., just a regular conversation. Weird. I snuck over to the window which was open about five inches, bent down and began listening to the conversation.
J.: “I curse. We could be out here cursing and no one could even hear us.” Of course as soon as I heard that, I whipped out my iPhone, turned on the camera to video, and eased it out the window. I didn’t get too much of a visual with the fire escape blocking it, but I caught classic first grade chit chat.
J.: “I can curse. I curse all the time. I can say ass.”
Khev: “Oooooooh! You’ll get in trouble! I can say ass too. ‘Ass’. See? I just said it. I can just say it.”
Ess: “So what. Anyone can say ‘ass’. Ass, ass, ass, ass. It’s not even that big of a deal: ass.”
The three of them proceed to chant ‘ass’ a few more times and then forget about it and moved on to something else. Meanwhile I’m laying on the kitchen floor laughing my ass off with the dog jumping around me wondering what the hell I’m doing. Still, I felt it needed to be addressed so later on that evening when Khev and I were alone, I told him, “I heard you guys in the backyard saying ‘ass’ this afternoon and I think you know better. Please no more cursing, ok?” What happened next was way more shocking and disappointing to me than his casual foray into bad language.
Khev: “No I didn’t!”
Me: “You did I heard you. The kitchen window was open and I was standing right next to it listening to you guys talk. I didn’t say anything at the time because I figured I would talk to you about it later.”
Khev: “I didn’t though. I swear I didn’t curse, it wasn’t me.” We went back and forth for a while and I grew increasing frustrated and pissed off until finally I told him I had it on my phone and if he didn’t just fess up, say sorry it won’t happen again, I was going to punish him for lying. He insisted he hadn’t said it so I played the video for him where each of them is clearly heard saying the word multiple times and not that quietly either. He was speechless.
And then I sent him to his room to lay on his bed for twenty minutes for lying, not cursing. He still occasionally lies, it wasn’t some magic cure all, but he certainly thinks it through better!
Cheryl is a student at The CUNY School of Professional Studies and the mother of three boys. A former office manager, she currently writes a blog about her adventures in parenting called UrbanMommys.com. In her spare time she likes to check out fun new places and things to do with children for her readers. Cheryl is also actively looking for a full time job that is both challenging and satisfying.