Trying to keep swearing away from your kids isn’t easy.
They have sharp ears, they have friends with older siblings, and they have the uncanny ability to ask to watch movies where you totally forget about the curse words until it’s already too late. (All of those classic 80s movies you can’t wait to share with your kids? Just a heads-up — they are ALL full of swears.)
There’s a certain point where you just have to cut your losses and accept that your kid knows the d-word… and the b-word… and yes, even the f-word.
But hearing your sweet little darling say the f-word doesn’t have to always be a hair-raising experience. Putting aside the fact that little kids swearing is one of the funniest things in the world, there are situations where curse words are actually GREAT for your kids.
No, really. Here are five moments where I was happy (heck, downright grateful) that my daughter got to see, hear, and experience the f-word.
1. Listening to the Hamilton soundtrack
My nine-year-old is OBSESSED with the Broadway smash Hamilton at the moment, which is wonderful for a whole lot of reasons. The music and lyrics are downright genius — they’re stirring, evocative, and beyond catchy — and, thanks to Hamilton, my daughter asked if, rather than Disney World, we could take a vacation to Revolutionary War historic sites next year. (Might be the first time in history that a kid chose Weehawken over EPCOT.)
But, yes, they do use the f-word a few times in the libretto. So, should I have kept that music from my kid because of “appropriateness concerns” or should I have let her experience a musical phenomenon that has inspired in her a love of both music and history? It’s no contest. I let her sing the f-words from Hamilton with total impunity.
2. Reacting to bullies
A few months ago, my kid came home from a sleepover in tears. Some girls, former friends, had spent the night teasing her and mocking her relentlessly — classic mean girls behavior. And my daughter was beside herself. Why were they so mean? What was wrong with her? None of my pleas for her to calm down were working, so I resorted to the nuclear option.
I said, “F___ those girls.”
That got her attention. I then told her that she could say it herself. After a hesitant moment, she replied with, “Yeah, F___ those girls,” and the effect was instantaneous. Letting my kid use that one taboo word robbed the bullies of all their power and gave her a sense of empowerment. So what if they teased her? Do they even know what her dad let her call them back at home?! One little word transformed my daughter from victim into a victor. What’s not to love?
3. Watching The Blues Brothers
It’s one of my favorite movies. She grew up listening to the soundtrack and loving the music. There’s almost nothing objectionable in the movie… aside from a handful f-words.
So I let her watch it. And she loved it. (I regret nothing.)
4. Looking at modern art
Years ago, I took my daughter to an art museum and, in their contemporary wing, there were a few pieces of artwork that featured the f-word prominently.
They IMMEDIATELY captured her attention. “Dad… Dad… Dad… do you see that?”
I could’ve shielded her eyes and run out of the room, but I didn’t. Instead, I started a conversation with my daughter about WHY an artist would want to use that word in their art. It was, without a doubt, one of my favorite conversations with her that I’ve ever had. She was curious, insightful — she really wanted to understand why someone would incorporate that kind of language in a piece of art. And I never would’ve had that moment with her, if I’d run out of the room in shock at the first sight of the word.
5. Asking what it means
The first time I ever heard my daughter say the f-word, I didn’t know how to react.
Did she just say what I think she said?
When I brought it up, she was embarrassed, mortified even. She’d heard an adult using it and had just tried it on for size, not knowing what she was doing. She was convinced that I was going to punish her forever and take away her toys.
Instead, I took a different approach. I said, “What do you think f___ means?”
She was shocked to hear me say the word out loud, but I wanted her to know I wasn’t mad. She hadn’t used the word in malice or spite. She’d accidentally heard a grown-up use it and there’s just no way you can unring that bell.
So, instead of trying to make her pretend it never happened, I brought the topic out into the light. I let her know that no one was angry and told her we should have a conversation about the word, just so she completely understood what it was she was saying.
That started a ten-minute discussion about the f-word, where it was referenced heavily, which ended with my daughter actually having an understanding of what swearing meant rather than just ignoring that she’d stumbled onto a word of power. Now if she used it again, I knew she understood its meaning and could honestly now be expected to deal with the consequences of saying it, which, at the time, seemed like the fairest way to deal with it.
Because swearing isn’t inherently bad. Swearing irresponsibly is and now my daughter knows the difference.
Image via Melissa Wiese/Flickr