Teaching Kids Not to Swear

Jun 14 2013

I swear. As in curse. Not as in promise. In fact, I avoid making promises because promises backfire.

“Finish up your chores and we’ll go get ice cream this afternoon,” I say.

“But do you promise you’ll take us to ice cream later?”

“No, I don’t promise. I intend to take you to ice cream. You almost certainly will get ice cream. But I definitely do not promise.”

“But WHY?”

“Because. If the zombie apocalypse arrives before we’re able to go to ice cream, I don’t want to have to bash in zombie heads to choruses of but you said you’d take us to ice cream. You PROMISED. That is distracting and unsafe, and, frankly, I don’t want to fight the zombies and you at the same time.”

So I don’t promise. It feels like the better part of wisdom.

But I do swear. Which is not the better part of wisdom but is sometimes soothing in a way using nice words isn’t. Words are typically used to express things, and some words express things better than others.

I do try to use appropriate words around my kids, though. And also around the elderly. And also at church. And also at school. And also around very, very nice people who don’t like to hear cussing. I call this Situational Awareness, and I try to teach it to my children.

But I have a mildly bad habit when it comes to playing games. Board games. Wii games. Card games. Competitive games of any sort. “CRAP!” I yell when things aren’t going my way. “CrapCrapCrapCrapCRAP!” Which certainly isn’t awful and isn’t necessarily swearing depending on your culture and whether or not you were raised by a Marine, but it’s not exactly nice, either, and when your 6-year-old sons start to mimic you by hollering “CRAP!” and its close cousin “CRAPPITY CRAP!” at the top of their lungs every single time they get a bad draw in UNO, you might, like me, start to wonder if you need to do a tiny bit of remedial training lest they arrive at Grandma’s house or at school and give away your less-than-stellar example.

So we played UNO this morning, and we brainstormed crappy alternatives. I suggested we might learn to say things like:


But they thought it would be better if we chose:


And when I rejected those, they decided on:

or, when things are particularly bad, the ever popular

So that’s settled. I cannot WAIT for the next time we get to play UNO at Grandma’s house or, you know, for 1st Grade Field Day when they lose the 100 meter dash. That is going to be AWESOME.

And now it’s time for the And Thens.

And then, in a fit of optimism, I congratulated myself in front of my eldest daughter and my husband for not teaching the littles to say anything worse than crap.

And then my eldest daughter and my husband laughed at me.

And then I asked them why they were laughing.

And then they said I probably have taught the littles something worse than crap and I might be deluding myself a teeny, tiny bit.

And then I said, “No, I haven’t. I’ve been very careful.”

And then they said, “Prove it.”

And then I said to a 6-year-old, “What is the very worst word mama’s ever said?”

And then he put his pointer finger up in the air in the universal I-know-this-one gesture and said, “Ummmmm… shit.”

And then my eldest daughter and my husband – bless their hearts – Could. Not. Stop. Laughing.


But then my 6-year-old said, “It’s OK, Mom. I know to never, ever say a word that bad.”

In conclusion, I have taught my son Situational Awareness! Sort of. But, frankly, I’ll take “sort of” over “not at all” any day of the week.


photo (60)Share ’em if you’ve got ’em. What have your kids said (taught by you or otherwise) that makes you afraid to take your family out in public?