Explaining cursing and foul language to children

Colorful Language

That’s the term Dex uses to refer to cursing. “Colorful language.” I am not even sure where he picked it up, but he is not very fond of it.

“He is annoying. He uses colorful language all the time.”

The funny thing is, I have quite the potty mouth myself, although I have tried hard over the years to curb it in front of Dex. And generally, we have not made cursing an issue around the house. We have always talked about it in terms of consequences.

Like, early on, we explained which words were considered “bad” or “inappropriate” and basically said he would get in trouble if he used them. School stretched the list further to include words like “stupid,” which we appreciated because there was very little name-calling among the kids in their younger years.

As Dex has gotten older, he has learned the extensive vocabulary of curse words that tweens spread around and giggle at… and as each comes up, we explain what they mean in age-appropriate language and gently remind him that he shouldn’t use those words, especially at school.

Recently, the conversations have become more complex. A boy was skateboarding next to Dex while they were waiting for pickup afterschool and apparently was cursing a blue streak. My son was quite offended; he was taking it all personally.

We had a long talk that day. I explained how the word fuck has probably more meanings than almost any word I could think of, and it’s used in many more different ways. If the kid was saying “fuck you,” to Dex, well – yeah, he had reason to be offended because it was directed at him. If the kid was just saying fuck over and over again because he couldn’t get the trick right, well – perhaps the kid should have been more sensitive to his surroundings since there were people he didn’t know – but in general, maybe he was just testing out a word that felt powerful to him. Like how, usually, when Dex hears me say it, I have slammed my finger in a door and the intensity of the moment gets the best of me.

He sat thinking for a minute, absorbing the idea that “bad words” had their place and time and tentatively said, “Well, we still would never say ‘fuck’ in front of teachers, right?”

Right. And not in front of your grandmother either.

This article has 11 comments

  1. Sarah P

    Great post. Great way of approaching the issue!

  2. Amy Evans

    Hahaha. Don’t tell grandma. Exactly.

  3. Zipper

    great advice. I always think taking through is best.

  4. Ben

    Ha. Great post.

  5. Heather

    SUCH great advice, Aimee.

  6. julieanders40

    this is a great way of dealing with swearing.

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