7 Basic Rules For Swearing Around My Kid

by Dina Leygerman

The late and incredible George Carlin once said, "Why should I deprive myself of a small but important part of language? Why not use all of what we’ve developed to communicate with?" I agree. Swear words are part of our beautiful, vast language. Why must I sensor myself and change my style of communication just because I suddenly had children. I've already given up some of my identity for these little humans, so why this? For what benefit, exactly? However, my husband and I do have some basic rules for swearing around our kids.

I've been swearing since I can remember. In high school I wrote a note to a friend and in that note I used the word sh*t. Of course the teacher found the note and gave me a detention for using a curse word in a note which, by the way, wasn't even meant for her. I spent an hour respectfully defending my right to use a curse in my own writing, all to no avail. That was one of my first run-ins with how harshly our society judges those who curse. Luckily, I don't give a sh*t.

I actually truly enjoy the power of profanity. I love effortlessly intertwining those little swear nuggets into eloquent prose, the way they feel as they gloriously roll off the tongue, and the effect they have on mundane conversations. While I do not give swearing much thought, since it's so deeply ingrained into my language, I realize I curse for various purposes. Sometimes I curse for emotional effect, other times it's due to pain, for a laugh, and even to purposefully offend. Sometimes I curse just because I like it.

Although I've heard countless times that cursing is crude and unladylike and that those who curse obviously lack intelligence and vocabulary fluency, I never bought into that sanctimonious propaganda. I prefer studies that support my point-of-view, like the Marist College one that concluded people who curse are actually of higher intelligence than those who do not. In fact, their research found that "a voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities rather than a cover for their deficiencies." The study goes on to say, "speakers who use taboo words understand their general expressive content as well as nuanced distinctions that must be drawn to use slurs appropriately. The ability to make nuanced distinctions indicates the presence of more rather than less linguistic knowledge." So there.

Carlin also said that people "who choose to deny that part of our language have limited themselves. And that’s fine; that’s good. Good choice over there…but I’m just fine over here." Exactly, Mr. Carlin. I'm completely fine with how I speak, and everyone has the right to their own choices in terms of language. It's just that, when it comes to my kids, we do stick to the following rules. For now, at least.

Never Swear At Each Other

While we swear (mostly) openly, we do not swear at each other. We do not name call and we do not use derogatory language. Swear words are treated the same as other words and since we don't call each other stupid, we also don't call each other assholes either, even when we really want to.

Certain Swear Words Are Off Limits

As freely as we curse in front of our children, we still do it somewhat mindfully. There are some words that are always off-limits. We'll throw around the f-bomb and sh*t pretty frequently, but some other swear words do not make it into our repertoire in front of our kids. I guess I find them more meaningful and save them for special occasion.

Respect Other People & Their Children

As parents, it's our choice to swear in front of our children. However, other parents may not be as lenient with cursing as we are and we realize that. Therefore, our one unwritten rule is to do our best to respect the company we are with. Some of our friends don't care and also curse in front of their children, others do care and, well, don't. By this time in our friendship we have pretty much figured out other parents' preferences and do our best to honor those preferences.

Assess Your Surroundings & Know Your Audience

We do not curse at kids' birthday parties, playgrounds, or any place for children. Even if we do, we do so quietly so we do not disrespect our surroundings. While my husband and I may think swearing is completely not a big deal, we know that doesn't mean every parent at the playground agrees with us.

However, if we are at our house, all is fair game. Unless other children are present, obviously.

No Swearing In Front Of Your Elders

Even though my dad swore in front of me and my brother since the day we were born, we never swore in front of our parents. It was an understanding that our family had and no one had to tell us why. We understood that swear words are for adults only. Even now, as adults, my brother and I hardly ever curse in front of our parents. Sure, sometimes it slips, but we are mostly mindful about it. We expect the same kind of respect and acknowledgement from our children.

Cursing Does Not Make You Cool

One thing to know is cursing does not make a person cool. I don't curse to come off in any specific way; swear words are just part of my vocabulary. Curse words should be used properly and with a purpose and that purpose isn't appearance but rather to accentuate a point. Don't curse for attention, you'll receive the wrong type.

Swear Words Are For Grownups

Yes, you may think this is hypocritical, but I think of it as education. Kids aren't allowed to drink, smoke, drive, vote, get married, and many other things that adults are allowed to do. Cursing is an earned right. So if I hear my kids curse, I gently remind them that curse words are for grownups.

And finally, we never curse in school. Ever.

Honestly, you guys, I don't care if my kids curse. However, I know our society is all uptight, so I make sure my kids have some boundaries. Really, so they don't get into unnecessary trouble.