Of course, it used to be funny when they were toddlers, accidentally pronouncing words wrong that ended up sounding like rude ones and repeating your own expletives. Knife and WHAT? Mummy said ‘bugger!’. Etcetera.
But now? Now they’re old enough to know better. Even worse, they’re old enough to know…
So how can you talk to your kids about swearing in a way that won’t make them laugh, laugh until they vomit or just tell you to f–k off?
Whilst there is the obvious likelihood of us just being a bit over-protective here, surely there’s no doubt that swearing is on the rise. If you’ve ever found yourself walking behind a gaggle of tweens/teens, you’ll know that they chuck f-bombs (and, yes, even c-grenades) about like confetti.
Obviously, those evil twins YouTube and Social Media play a big part in this – no matter how smart you are with your Google settings, bad language does come in. True, there are worse influences you can be take from YouTube (hello PewDeePie, hello all those Peppa Pig hacks) but, well, it’s just not nice. Especially with gran coming round.
Of course, knowing and using the fruitier side of language is a rite of passage – one that makes kids feel cooler as well as distancing them from us old people. It’s also a way to fit in with the rest of the pack. You’ve started Big School and those Year Eight boys with the cool haircuts are saying That Word? Well, what would you do? Exactly.
Swearing ain’t all bad though. There’s a lot to be learned from how language evolves. Now add on this research showing that swearing while putting your hand in icy water meant participants were able to keep their hand immersed for longer. The conclusion? Using swear words in tricky situations activates the fight or flight response and messes with our perception of pain, allowing you to tolerate it better. Cheers science, you total git!
But there are also reasons not to swear. It’s a good idea to chat to your kids about context – it is king, after all. Effing and blinding in front of grandma will see your pocket money docked and your sleepover privileges revoked. Swearing at school could land you a detention plus what can only be described as a proper bollocking at parents’ evening.
Annoyingly, lecturing kids rarely works, so figure out a way to start a conversation that doesn’t sound like you’re telling them off. Ask what swear words they know – make a list if necessary, they’ll love that – and see if they know what those words mean. Try to get them to say where they hear that language and say that you know there’s a lot of swearing about these days.
That solution can work – but does require some patience and, of course, hearing your child say some potentially rum stuff. If you don’t like to hear your child swear, you have to accept that they probably will still do it but you can set some boundaries.
At home, you could explain why you don’t like it and even set a consequence – a swear box is an oldie but a goodie. Away from home however, you have potentially zero control over your child swearing unless you reinforce its impact. Talk through who is around and listening to their conversations (younger siblings, teachers, relatives etc), and how this might affect their perception of them and what that might mean. Ask what their thoughts are about other people swearing and how this affects their perception of others.
Swearing. It’s going to happen. You can’t and won’t get your nippers to stop it – and, whisper it, you probably shouldn’t – but you can get them to tone it down. Understand them, talk to them, bribe them even but whatever you do, don’t swear at them. Mummy may want to say bugger but who’s the adult here