Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why I Don't Censor My Language Around My Kids

Google any combination of "curse" "foul" "vulgar" "potty" "language" "words" "kids" and "children"... see what you find. Probably hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to stop your kids from using words that may offend others. Perhaps a few about how to stop using them yourself. But mostly it's about preventing your kids from "swearing like a sailor". There is even a place called "Cuss Control Academy" (no, I'm not joking), which informs us that swearing:

It contributes to the decline of civility

It represents the dumbing down of America
It offends more people than you think
It makes others uncomfortable
It is disrespectful of others
It turns discussions into arguments
It can be a sign of hostility
It can lead to violence

If I stub my toe, and say, "Shit, that HURT!" am I being hostile? Starting an argument? I really, really don't think so. Do I sound dumb? What am I really doing? Actually, scientifically speaking, according to some researchers at Keele University, I'm easing the pain. Swearing starts a surge of adrenaline in your body, which actually does help mitigate pain when you're injured. Is that a bad thing for my child to hear? Will they take it out in the world and start being stupid, uncivil, violent, and disrespectful? 

So, let's start with my personal belief that words have power. You're not going to catch me arguing against this, unless I'm being contrary. I don't think words are inherently "good" or "bad", but we do give them power. Words mean something to us - language is both a banal and integral part of our lives. With it, we ask our spouse to take out the garbage before dinner, and we write treatises that change the world. Word choice has meaning in our lives - otherwise there wouldn't be much point in poetry, would there?

This leads into our word choices, as parents, having power. I'd like my children to have a wide vocabulary, so I use my own wide vocabulary with them. If I tell my four year old something is "innocuous", I'm not going to sigh and use a smaller word when he asks what it means. I'm just going to explain it. This is partly because I believe knowledge is power, and I don't like restricting, censoring, or greedily hoarding knowledge... and partly because I want him to know what is going on in the world. He knows the proper words for his penis and testicles, and he also knows that those parts are private, and not only are they not for others to touch, but they aren't things we just run around talking about. Anyhow, this is related. I swear. (ha, ha)

Just like I don't censor knowledge from my kids (though I might explain certain things in a way less likely to frighten or cause undue stress, because they are, in fact, children) I don't censor my language. I do believe words are powerful, so I use a wide variety of them, sometimes pausing to pick one I feel is most appropriate in any given situation. This means I use profanity rarely - I'm not a chain-swearer, because I feel that usually there are words more appropriate to most occurrences. But I do use it. My children have heard all the words, and have tried them out. I don't mind them hearing, or knowing - knowledge is power. I don't want them hearing things on the playground and coming home and telling me things like, "Susie is an asshole!" I want them to know that school probably isn't an appropriate place to say that, actually!

 I want them to know what the words mean, when they're appropriate and inappropriate to use, and in what situations they could be hurtful to others. So they know when NOT to use them! Each "bad word" has resulted in a discussion of that word, what it means, and that sometimes words offend or hurt other people. We heard someone use the term "gay" in a pejorative manner a while back - and we had a long, serious discussion about it. Personally, I think "gay", used to hurt, is worse than "fuck" when I stub my toe - why? "Fuck" is for me. It's releasing my anguish, mitigating my pain, expressing my power, releasing my endorphins, expressing myself. "Gay" (and other words like "retarded") is hurting someone else. 

So no, I won't censor my language. If something happens that triggers that primeval part of me that really wants to let loose and use "low language", instead of taking time on my diction, I will. In front of my children, or yours. Call me vulgar. Call me disrespectful. Call me stupid. Then think about what you're saying.

Do you censor your language with your children? Why or why not?


  1. I could have written this, I agree with everything you've said. I do not censor my language, or my daughter's. Meaning and Intention have far greater value than vocabulary choice! "That's Fucking Awesome!" is fucking awesome. "You're being a douchebag!" is not. My daughter has been taught to be kind with her words, and she is. She also says Fuck a lot. :)

    1. That's It - Mostly, As Long As They're Kind, The Language Is Secondary!