Admit it. From time to time, when unfortunate events happen in sequence, you become so frustrated and irritable that the occasional cuss word flies from your mouth. “Damnit!” You exclaim when you break a dish or stub your toe. The driver in front of you who is more interested in reading text messages than navigating the change of the traffic light becomes an “asshole,” and your mother in law – who so often seems to meddle at just the wrong moments, is the occasional “bitch!” And of course, regardless of how adamant you were about not saying such blasphemous words in the presence of your innocent children – you say these things right in front of them. Cussing in front of the kids is one of those silent ‘facts of life’ that few people talk about openly. After all, you don’t want to be known as the foul-mouthed sailor spreading dirty jargon from one generation to the next. (do you?)
Of course, giving your habit for verbal ugliness away is your toddler who upon accidentally knocking down their block tower shouts, “Well dammit to hell!” Cute? Or shameful?
The raw facts from research indicate that 2/3rds or 4 out of every 5 parents ADMIT to swearing in front of their children. According to a sociological survey of over 2500 people, adults swear an average of 14 times per day. And many of these adults are parents. In fact, over the years swearing has become a lesser of the many evils in society and around 93% of parents today admit that they allow their children to swear without consequence. If you watch primetime television, even on non-cable channels you will see that the today, many cuss words that would have just a decade ago been edited out of television are now acceptable.
The PTC or Parents Television Council, which is essentially a group of well meaning citizens that have the high hopes of protecting the sanctity of primetime television for the sake of children has a group of advisors that sit around all day and count curse words on popular shows. They look for reference words, such as calling ‘breasts’ (acceptable) boobs (not acceptable) on television shows that air before 10pm. And this panel of television watching junkies got an earful. In fact the studies revealed that it would virtually impossible to get through a family comedy on an average Tuesday night without hearing one of the many offensive curse words being used liberally in mainstream media. Among the most common were hell, ass, damn, and bitch. Additionally the f bomb as well as sh@t, were used but were most commonly bleeped out in the editorial process. Additionally, these avid television police considered the uses of words like penis and vagina and classified them as cuss words as well. Really?
On the milder side, even Nickelodeon has its share of obscenities. Check out any of today’s wildly popular preteen television shows and you are sure to hear a string of words such as shut-up, butthead and others used in the interest of comedy.
This brings up the next point. Assuming that children are going to hear these words anyways, does it really matter if parents say them in front of children or not? Obviously, there is nothing classy about having a 3 year old who can string together a sentence of curse words utilized properly, but is it truly going to hurt their ears to hear their parents say them?
Perhaps the downside to swearing in front of your children is that if you cuss, and your children hear you – chances are they are going to use these words. In public. Which is embarrassing.
Yet a 4 or 5-year-old copycatting mom and dads use of bad words does not equate to a meth taking teen that is destined to jail. And this is essentially, where parenting comes in. If you are prone to using curse words, it is very important to teach children that they are not socially acceptable. After all, you don’t want your child giving playmates definitions of words they have no business saying. And, if you don’t want them to say these words, you must make it very clear that just because they heard them – doesn’t mean that they are allowed to say them. Many parents today are caught up in feeling as if they have to live like children in order to be good examples. Not True. The bottom line is that the rules for parents and children are different.
And yes, modeling the behavior you would like to see from your child is the BEST way to lead by example. But just like you wouldn’t give your 5-year-old coffee with breakfast or wine with dinner, children have to be able to realize that adults and children are not held to the same standards.
Perhaps the best news is that if you are one of the millions of parents who throw around the occasional (or not so occasional) cuss words while a little one is undertow – you are not alone. Every generation is different from the one before, and societal rule changes are often and vast. Perhaps this new generation of children, lax from the new acceptability of bad language will be the ‘cussiest’ of the group. As a parent, it is best to choose your battles in life – and to help children understand that there is a time and a place for all behaviors. Even cussing. And for this reason, it is in your best interest to not say things in front of your children that you don’t want repeated.