Watch that Language! You Dropped an “F-Bomb” Behind the Couch

Over at The Hot Word, there is a post on swearing toddlers. In a recent episode of the sitcom Modern Family, a cursing two year old was featured, which apparently has been causing a big rukus.

A swearing toddler in the media isn’t a strange sight these days. It happens a lot in films and if anyone’s seen Will Ferrel’s hilarious video short from Funny or Die of him getting chewed out by his tiny daughter, they’ll know what I mean.

It’s all funny and cute until your kid drops an “f-bomb”. Well, yeah it is still funny. Sometimes.

As a mother of a very verbose five-year-old boy, I wanted to burst laughing and scream simultaneously the first time I heard my son say, “Mommy, what the fuck?” Kids are verbal sponges and I’d obviously hadn’t been aware of all the “f-bombs” I was dropping around the house here and there.

And then there was the day he came home from preschool and gave me the finger. It wasn’t given in an F- you,-Ma-I’m-flipping-you- the-bird manner. He just lifted up his middle finger and said matter-of-factly, “This is the middle finger.”  And then he smiled that devious little boy smile. I exploded. All my vows to be an enlightened, tolerant mother of the 21st century went up in smoke. “Who taught you that?!” I yelled. I had suddenly become one of those uptight mothers who hate “foul language.” He shrugged. I continued: “It was one of those kids at school, wasn’t it?  One of them has an older brother and he learned it from him and now you know it and. . .”   You get the picture.

No matter how closely you monitor your own mouth, the swear words are going to fly out of someone else’s, especially at school. And even more when they get older.   Timothy Jay, a psychologist who studies psycholinguistics and obscenities at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts sheds some light on the subject. In an interview with Live Science he said: “Preschoolers are pretty well-versed in the lexicon, and by 11 to 12, we are looking at adult swearing patterns.” He added: “Kids say swear words as soon as they talk. We have 1- and 2-year-olds who say ‘f—‘ and ‘s—‘ in our sample. . . We don’t learn how to swear from television — nobody does. We learn how to swear from our siblings, from our parents, from the backyard.

So what do you do with a swearing toddler? Everyone has a different method when handling this situation. When it happened to me, I realized I was about to become a blazing hypocrite, but I sucked it up and had “the talk”. I told my son that swear words are “grown up words that grown ups shouldn’t use”. Hypocrite.  And then I told him that while I’d be watching his language, he should also correct me if I let a bad word slip out.

You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear his little voice say, “Mommy, can you please not say that word?”

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