SHOULD WE CLEAN UP OUR BAD LANGUAGE WITH KIDS?
As new research shows more than half of UK parents are happy to swear in the presence of their children, Emma says we need to decide on boundaries and be realistic
Whether treading on W a plug, or getting cut up on the road, swearing can be cathartic – but is it ever OK in front of kids? Research found that 52% of parents happily use bad language in front of theirs, and 64% worry about the language their children use.
SET YOUR RULES
I don’t have a problem with swearing generally, but I don’t do it in front of my boys. Now they’re teenagers, they’ll hear a myriad of expletives at school, but I’d prefer it if they didn’t associate bad language with me. That said, I wouldn’t condemn parents who do swear, provided it’s contextually appropriate. Directing foul language towards a child in anger or aggression is never acceptable, but using an expletive in shock or surprise is far more socially acceptable. When it comes to other people’s kids, curtail the curses if you know that’s what their parents prefer – it’s simply respectful.
We do lots of grown-up things in front of kids daily, from smooching our partner, to having a glass of wine after work. We don’t need to wrap them up in cotton wool. The majority of research suggests their development isn’t negatively affected by exposure to bad language. If anything, it prepares them for what they will be exposed to in life. If you feel worried about your own language, though, there are strategies to try. Learn to “pause” in the heat of the moment by breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four, and breathing out for four.
PLAN FOR STRESS
Think about flashpoints and ways avoid them; if you’re often stressed in the mornings, get up earlier to allow more time, and avoid a frantic rush before school. If your young child swears, don’t laugh. Kids like nothing more than their parents’ attention. Simply say, “Don’t use that word please” and move on. If you swear, apologise and also explain that certain words are OK in some places, but not others – at home versus at parents’ evening, say. Also try using alternative words like “fudge”, “shoot” or “balls” when kids are in earshot. Sorted.