Bad words

by DaniGirl on May 31, 2006 · 16 comments

in Uncategorized

Of all the potential parenting pitfalls, I never expected words to be one that would trip me up. I may not be much of a cook, I throw a ball like your grandmother and what I know about fashion you could write on a grain of rice, but I know from words. I gots me lots of words, big words and little words, fancy words and simple words, and I even know how to string ‘em together real purty.

At first, the concept of ‘bad words’ seemed cut-and-dried. Curse words bad, other words good. And I knew that my propensity to curse might some day be problematic. I don’t exactly swear like a sailor, but I have been known to drop the occasional f-bomb. More likely, a d-bomb or a sh-bomb. And I simply refuse to give up ‘bloody hell’ as a nearly perfect curse for all occasions. However, as predicted, my potty-mouth has come back to bite me in the ass – er, tucus. One day when he was about two, Tristan asked me in the most polite, gentle voice to “Open the damn door, please, mummy.” Oops!

That same year around Halloween there was this singing ghost in Canadian Tire that Tristan loved, and it sang that old disco song by Wild Cherry: “Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die…” We sang that song over and over again for months, except every time we’d sing it, I’d change the last word so it would be “play that funky music till you cry.” (I know, I know, but I was still a newbie parent then. I was naïve and full of embarrassing idealism. Thank god that’s gone now.)

So ‘die’ was our first stealth bad word, and from there we discovered a universe of seemingly innocuous words that lead a secret double life. Soon ‘hate’ arrived, and shortly thereafter ‘stupid’ came to call. Each time, I tried to explain to Tristan (and now Simon, who is, if anything, even further ahead on the linguistic curve than his brother was at two) that some words are simply not nice. You don’t ‘hate’ something; you do not like it. You absolutely never call another person ‘stupid’. (Except when they are, and then you only do it behind their back. But I’ll wait ’till he’s in school for that part of the lesson.) That boy did not try to ‘kill’ you; he simply tried to take your Thomas train away.

And then, just when you think you’re getting through to him, he tosses you the curve ball. You’re talking to your spouse about houseplants and lamenting that you’ve ‘killed’ every one in the house, and your son, whom you didn’t even know was listening, pipes up and chides you for using a bad word and it takes a full minute of replaying the conversation in your head before you can figure out what he’s on about.

So you launch into a discussion about context, and meaning, and intention. And around the second minute, you see his gaze wandering and you realize he hasn’t processed a single thing you’ve said, and you wonder why they only listen when they’re not supposed to.

And you realize that the whole ‘words’ thing is a slippery slope, and you’re on the way down fast. When the issue of name-calling comes up, as it inevitably does with a four-year old, you immediately react when he calls his brother ‘stupid head’ and tell him name-calling is not acceptable. You try to teach him that words have power, and in using words you have responsibilities. You suggest that calling somebody a ‘potato-head’ is a much better alternative, but when you actually hear him calling his brother a potato-head, you change your tune and issue a no-name-calling edict instead, and you realize that not only have you rather hypocritically just contradicted yourself, but that you’ve just talked yourself into a corner as well.

And the most disheartening part is you realize that this is only the first of many, many times you will do this. You realize that you have debated the philosophy of semantics with a preschooler, and lost. And you realize you have changed from the first to second person half way through your post and are simply too lazy to go back and correct it.

Words. Phft! They’re nothing but trouble.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dean dad May 31, 2006 at 2:08 pm

With ya on ‘stupid.’ We’ve also banned ‘idiot,’ for similar reasons.
The Boy keeps coming up with new ways to unsettle us. Recently, anytime something frustrates him, he says “that kills me.” Where he got that, I have no idea.
The car is the real danger zone. Since we live in a high-traffic area, much cursing goes on when driving. (The Wife is as bad as I am.) TB has radar ears, so I worry what he’s picking up there. Alas. Learning to deal with and express frustration is part of growing up. I just wish there was an aural equivalent of (#)$&@@$, whereby one could express the idea of profanity without actually using it.

2 Jerri Ann May 31, 2006 at 2:09 pm

stupid is on our list, so is butthead, imagine that…also we had to do away with kill and like you, we can’t make him understand that killing someone is evil, killing my flowers, well that is just life,

3 Renee May 31, 2006 at 2:14 pm

How about ‘fart’? I let my kids say this one, but it was prohibited when I was growing up.
I think it’s a funny word, so I rather enjoy hearing it.

4 suze May 31, 2006 at 2:16 pm

i’m not looking forward to the day when my (so far hypothetical) toddler out-debates me, but I’m told it will happen. My mother swore I was going to be a lawyer because I could out-debate her by the time I was three.

5 Marla May 31, 2006 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for the map of the minefield. Those of us with a two-year old whose speech impediments are the only thing that keeps me from looking like bad mommy some days really appreciate it. ( as in “Boo Boo is NOT a tucking tat, Daddy.” )

6 H.A.Page May 31, 2006 at 2:58 pm

Words and meanings. The best way to get a child to stop and think and redirect is to throw out a new word…
“Are you being persnickety?”
By the time they wrap their little minds around the new word, they completely forget what it was they were doing or thinking. Isn’t language captivating.
P.S. My oldest still claims persnickety as her favorite word.

7 nancy May 31, 2006 at 3:52 pm

Banned words in our house are EXACTLY the same as you: hate, stupid, kill, die, and now getting to the point we need to re-direct phrases like “I don’t love/like you anymore” or “I never want to play with you again”.
We have just most recently in past couple of days been OK-ed to be permitted to ‘kill’ a bug, especially when you get to squish it all over the patio!

8 Barb May 31, 2006 at 4:29 pm

We haved banished stupid, shut up, shut your mouth..the list is grwoing. We use silly goose instead of…hell I can’t remember.
It’s a losing battle. The one I’m trying to curb right now is “what” followed by me saying pardon me and her saying “Parn me” This am I heard that before what..maybe its’ sinkin in

9 nancy May 31, 2006 at 6:12 pm

Oh, also not allowed ‘shut-up’ or ‘You wanna piece of me?’ which they learned on a Veggie Tales DVD from the library. We aren’t allowed to watch that one anymore.

10 Danigirl May 31, 2006 at 6:29 pm

Nancy, my boys got that “you want a piece of me” from daycare!! It is both appalling and hilarious to hear Simon say it.
Barb, we don’t even have the ‘what?’, it’s a very ugly “Huh?” Working very hard to eradicate that one!
Marla, ‘tucking tat’ – priceless!
Renee, I gave up on ‘fart.’ I tried to get them to say ‘toot’ for a while, but their father is the worst of them all. Not only for the talking farts, but for the gleeful laughs when someone lets one go. Men!

11 Jen May 31, 2006 at 7:48 pm

Baby Girl now says, “F*^%, that’s annoying” whenever she’s upset. Whoops.

12 Miche May 31, 2006 at 8:22 pm

Like Marla, thanks for the lay of the land to come. Right now all my daughter says is “up!” It sounds like these are the glory days!

13 Tina May 31, 2006 at 9:06 pm

I didn’t know “butt” was a bad word until another parent point it out to me. Don’t you love being corrected by another parent? Right now “bad” words are hysterical to my 2-year-old boy, so I try to not make a big deal out of it. Growing up, we couldn’t say queer or pregnant (!) Seems kind of quaint by today’s standards.

14 Anonymous June 1, 2006 at 4:23 am

We sing a cute version of Twinkle Twinkle…Little fart, How I wonder what you fart…
Daycare is awesome for some things…but the things she comes home with…Yikes

15 nancy June 1, 2006 at 1:10 pm

I like the word fart.

16 Jennifer June 1, 2006 at 11:05 pm

At my kids’ daycare, they’re not allowed to say “fart.” They have to say “toot.” But my husband and I just can’t seem to change our ways on that word. Toot seems just so absurd. I am waiting for the moment when I can explain words you’re allowed to say at our house which you can’t, unfortunately, use anywhere else!

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