kid cussin’

Ah, another developmental landmark has been reached!

Last night, I was helping the Bee make her bed. I had pulled the bed away from the wall, and she was behind it, gathering up the stash of books that had fallen down between the wall and the bed and accumulated underneath. She couldn’t reach a book, and she muttered under her breath, “sugar honey ice tea.”

It took me about five seconds to piece that together, and I said, “what did you say?”


I left it alone, as it clearly wasn’t directed at anyone, and god knows I mutter enough curses under my breath when I’m frustrated. I’m not even sure the Bee knew exactly what she was saying, although she probably did. I remember first hearing another kid say the word ‘fuck’ when I was about ten, and just being dazed by the awful power of it. I’m sure that she’s heard that word on the playground by now–there are enough ten-year-olds in her class.

I should say that, while landisdad and I will occasionally mutter curses under our breath, it’s been our policy since the Bee was born not to curse in front of the kids. In my adult conversation, I tend to curse like a sailor, but I never think it is cute when a three year-old drops the f-bomb. (I’m of mixed minds about “freakin,'” though.) This has become extremely difficult to maintain, especially since I got car that basically broadcasts my cell phone like a speaker–many’s the time I’ve had to admonish one of my co-workers, “hey, I’ve got kids in the car!!”

My parents were diametrically opposed when it came to cursing. My dad cussed like a sailor when he was at home (a high-school English teacher, I can only assume that he refrained at work). My mom, on the other hand, rarely curses. I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve heard her use the word ‘fuck,’ and probably four of those happened over 20 years ago, when my parents were still married.

I want my kids to know that they can’t use curse words in every setting, and to know that they need to be able to express themselves clearly in English. On the other hand, I’m not going to freak out if, in high school, they’re using Anglo-Saxon terms with their friends, as long as they keep it out of the classroom.

What’s your theory on cussin’ kids?


December 6, 2008. thoughtful parenting.


  1. jackie replied:

    I’m amazed that your kid got that old before using an “adult word,” which is what we call it in my house, which probably tells you all you need to know about our language! I have cut way down on my swearing, but have not been able to eliminate it entirely, and my husband is a total potty-mouth who has put very little effort into quitting! He does keep a lid on it when other kids are over, because we realize that other families have different policies. Both my kids do know though that there is some language that i reserved for adults and is not appropriate for kids (and I’m an English teacher like your dad too!).

  2. Jody replied:

    Uh, yeah, I’m with Jackie — sort of amazed that the Bee is ten and, if I read you correctly, still only spelling them out.

    Impressed, I hasten to add, but amazed.

    (Yes, I do need to work on my anger-management skills some more. Sigh.)

  3. Library Lady replied:

    I have noted a heckuva lot of mommie bloggers who cuss “like sailors” and see no problem in doing so in front of their kids as part of their “hip” persona. And I expect that their two year olds DO come out with the f-bomb in front of total strangers, who judge their parents accordingly.

    I don’t cuss out loud in the house, just as I don’t curse when I’m in public areas of the library. But away from the kids and in the back office, I curse like the kid I used to be who learned a choice selection while in junior high in the Bronx. My favorite being “shitfuckmothergoddamn”.

    My younger girl, who is about the same age as the Bee, thinks that even “hell” is a bad word. But I know she is hearing them at school, since every other mommy from the supermommies to the Section 8 moms seems to censor TV and video viewing less than I do. And one day she too will use them.

    But as I told my older girl, now almost 14 and in a pretty urban middle school, “I know you know them, I know you may use them in front of your friends, but they’re not appropriate for using at home. And that goes double for in front of your grandparents!”

    And if all this makes me sound like a prude, so be it. I can at least take my kids to a public place and not have to fear that they are going to embarrass me.

    At least not on THAT basis ;}

  4. Mere replied:

    Wow, I definitely didn’t get *that* word out of that phrase. LOL! I’m so out of it. But Sydney has been caught on a couple occasions practicing her “rhyming” and a swear word made it’s way in there a time or two. LOL!

  5. landismom replied:

    Well, we did have a (very short) phase of the Bee saying, “dammit!” when she dropped something when she was about four. It was not cute, and we put a stop to it–but it was mostly happening because certain adults were saying it around her, and we made a family pact not to do it.

  6. CamiKaos replied:

    it’s snowing on your blog.

  7. alala replied:

    Oh, Heavens. I believe in picking your battles, and I knew, I knew I’d never be able to watch my mouth all the time. So when my darling 3-year-old dropped his first bad word – well, shouted it… at the grocery store… I just told him that he shouldn’t say that at the store, or at daycare or at Emma’s house, but Grandma wouldn’t mind, and Isaac’s mom probably wouldn’t either. My message wasn’t “don’t,” but “know where and when,” because I knew it was the only thing I could hope to model consistently.

  8. jen replied:

    Bah! Laughing at library lady’s description of her household. I am totally the same way about cursing, and frankly that’s my approach to obnoxious eyerolling and even masturbation: I know you know this/say this/do this, but do me the favor of not saying/doing it in front of me or other adults.

    Ironically my kids go to parochial school and often have stricter standards than I do when it comes to bad words! They should work in consulting for a few years like I did — nothing teaches you to swear faster.

  9. Comfort Addict replied:

    I do think that kids are going to cuss. It’s part of growing up, being accepted, rebelling against authority. However, I agree that it’s important that they know that curse words should not be used in work, school and polite social settings. You could tell them that adults tend to use these words without thinking when they are angry or frustrated. You could also say that these adults often wish later that they hadn’t used the words; there are some things you can never take back.

    Though I have no kids, I do not swear as often as I used to. Interestingly, I have more impact in contentious situations if I don’t swear.

  10. Susan replied:

    loving the snow here, I have to say.

    On the cusses: I still remember asking my mother, when I was in 7th grade or so, why it was wrong to curse, and she had no good explanation for it. I don’t curse much myself-my partner does a bit more, although like you, we don’t do it in front of CG. but when she’s older, I just hope she knows enough about what the words mean (socially as well as literally) to make good choices about how to use them.

  11. Narya replied:

    My dad–who worked in construction, and, thus, likely cursed on the job–doesn’t curse much at home, and never the f-bomb. He regards cursing as a sign of a lack of imagination.

    I, however, curse like a longshoreperson, and have had multiple jobs where I was surrounded by people who also did. I have tried to modulate, and i don’t talk like that in front of my parents (or nephews, for that matter), and I find that much of it actually has fallen away over time/circumstance.

    When I had a stepson(rather than an ex-stepson), his dad and i emphasized the context thing, I think, though he didn’t seem to lean to cursing as much as either his father or I did/do.

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