How Do I Talk to my Child About Bad Language?
There are all kinds of tricky things we get to discuss with our kids. Some topics we would rather not discuss until they turn 20, but that’s just not reality. I find it’s good to have a plan of action regarding things like this so that we as parents don’t end up getting totally blindsided, and that’s why I’m so glad I am across an article awhile ago about discussing bad language with your children.
Before my kids started school the “bad words” they heard and repeated mostly consisted of things from Disney movies (thanks Toy Story) like “stupid” and “idiot”, but when they went off to school I knew that would change. We watch our language pretty carefully in our family, so I wanted to set up some guidelines with my 7 year old son so that he would know he could talk to me if he had any questions about words he heard at school.
I started by explaining to him that different families have different values, and that he might hear a word and be unsure about whether or not it’s something we would want him to say. I told him that he would never get in trouble for asking me if a word is appropriate for him to use, or what it means. It is a much better choice to ask me or his Dad about a word he is unsure of than it would be to find out whether or not it’s ok by saying it in conversation!
In my opinion, there’s a very specific reason why it’s so important to set guidelines for this type of conversation when your kids are young. Do you want to know what I did when I was unsure what a word meant and I was too embarrassed to ask my parents? I looked in the dictionary. Yeah, I found out some interesting stuff from the urban dictionary in my high school library. But if my kids are curious about what a certain word means they aren’t going to look in the urban dictionary, are they? They are going to find out from our friend Google. Now Google is super duper helpful for many things, but I really would prefer that my children not do a google search for swear words. That is when the google images that turn up at the top of every search are most definitely not my friend.
I’m so thankful that my son and I had this conversation at the beginning of the school year. He has actually come up to me 5 or 6 times since the beginning of the year to ask about language he has heard at school. We’ve had some kind of funny moments, like when I defined a certain swear word as meaning “poop”. And we’ve had some not so funny moments, like when he accidentally put his middle finger up at school and was informed by his playground buddies what exactly that meant. In that situation I confirmed that his friends where correct but told him that the definition of the word that was being used was not something that would be appropriate for me to explain to him. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, it’s just fine to say “that’s cold!“
I know my kids may not always choose to come and talk to my husband and I about the things they have heard elsewhere, but at least we can try to lay the groundwork so that they’ll know it’s “safe” to discuss with us anything they are unsure of. Parenting really isn’t for the weak of heart, is it?