Family Talk: Bad words
My friend Deborah and her husband are raising their grandchild, who is about 5 years old. Recently, the little guy shocked Deborah by observing, “Grandpa says bad words.”
“Oh, really?” replied Deborah. “What does he say?”
The youngster wrinkled up his brow, “He says things like, ‘Do it right now!' ”
Before Deborah could recover, the boy went on, “And you say bad words, too.”
Stifling a laugh, Deborah asked, “What bad words do I say?”
The boy frowned again and said, “You say things like ‘That's enough!' ”
I'm glad Deborah and her husband use those kinds of bad words and not the other kind. You know the other kind I'm talking about. Swearing. Curse words. Cussin'.
It's sometimes known as “profanity” from the ancient Latin word "profanus," which literally meant "outside the temple.” Back then, to use profane language was to show a lack of respect for sacred things. Today, profanity is sprinkled liberally throughout conversations, and, often, people don't seem to notice or care; curse words have become more accepted.
But these other kinds of “bad words” can be hurtful and harmful in the family.
In an article, “What Effects Does Cursing at Your Children Have on Them?” Liza Blau lists a number of adverse impacts caused by adults cursing at children, including lowering self-esteem of the child, providing them a negative example and modeling poor stress management:
Cursing at your child can lead him to believe that using profanity is an acceptable way of dealing with anger, frustration and stress, because that's what you are teaching him by example. He'll likely struggle to learn more appropriate ways to manage and express anger and other emotions, which could have many adverse consequences in the outside world. Frequent cursing and poor communication skills could lead him to have trouble at school and difficulty forming and maintaining close relationships.
Here's something that should go without saying, but contemporary conversations compel me to say it: Don't curse at children! It harms them!
What if your children are the ones using swear words? When it happens with very young children, you might think it's cute or funny, but if children are not reigned in, they can grow up to curse conversationally and curse at their kids. What to do?
The Child Development Institute lists ways to deal with children who swear, including:
• Don't overreact. If you make a big scene when your child utters a dirty word, there's a good chance that it will reinforce the behavior.
• Do your best not to laugh. Whether you truly find it amusing or just giggle nervously, this also could cause a repeat occurrence.
• Avoid confronting your child about swearing when he does it when angry or upset. Work through the problem at hand, and discuss the bad language at a calmer time.
• Watch your own language a little more closely. Kids often pick up curse words at home, and if you use them frequently, they are more likely to think it's acceptable to do so themselves.
Here's a novel idea: Let's elevate the conversation in our families. Don't curse at children and don't allow children to be profane. Bad words impact people. Let's make sure our words have a positive impact.
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at email@example.com.