I’m in the car lane waiting to pick up Titan. I’ve made the first wave (as I like to call it) and look back on the line of cars extending beyond the McDonald’s on West Corbett Avenue. They, too, are waiting to pick up their child. When 3:05 p.m. strikes his teacher begins escorting the kiddos to their parents. And she stops at me.
“Titan said a bad word today,” she said.
It’s not secret. Call it the Yankee in me or the fact I’m Italian, but I’ll admit I do let a curse word slip now and then through my lips. So, I braced for the worst.
“He said damn it,” she whispered with a hand somewhat blocking the side of her mouth as if to prevent other parents from interpreting what she was saying.
That’s it? That was the big to-do? I was thinking he uttered the F-bomb for crying out loud. Something serious, mortifying, scaring and appalling all at once. My following expression dictated exactly what I thought next: what’s the big deal?
Some parents carefully monitor every single word that they say. That’s not me.
Even the most sheltered child is bound to hear a curse word at some point. Growing up, there was a lot of word heat in my house. My mom is prior military and undercover police officer. She would dress up like a prostitute, solicit for sex, and bust those wanting to buy. In order to do so successfully meant she had to dress the part and talk the part. Naturally it carried over at home.
Eventually, her words didn’t phase me. I learned the Earth wouldn’t open up and swallow me whole if I cursed myself. I also learned timing is everything.
Anyway, I don’t find the phrase “damn it” cringe worthy and I battle with the notion to consider it cursing. However, I do understand why my five-year-old cannot under any circumstances curse in, of all places, school. It’s just not acceptable. Whether someone else finds it amusing or appalling, the last thing I want is for my son to become offensive. Added to this, swearing can develop into a horrible habit. But, why did Titan do it? Why do kids swear in the first place? Truth is it can be for a number of reasons. If it’s a word they don’t hear often, they may not even realize it’s offensive. Or it may be in an effort to garner attention. Some swear sheerly out of amusement among peers.
So, the question remains, what does a parent do when our child starts cursing? First, don’t overreact. Making a big scene will just reinforce the behavior. Don’t laugh, either. Funny or not, this could cause a repeat occurrence because your child enjoys being funny. Third, many suggest avoiding confronting your child about cursing when they’re angry or upset. It will only add a poker in the proverbial fire. Discuss the bad language when they’re calm.
Also take your child’s age into consideration and the context your child cursed in. In Titan’s case, he dropped his book bag after a handful of attempts to throw it over his shoulder. He was really annoyed. Cursing directly at someone would have been a much more hurtful offense. The punishment must fit the crime.
Second to last, apologize right after you slip up and curse yourself. It will set a good example. Finally, help broaden their vocabulary. It will be a fun way to help your child develop into a creative enjoyable wordsmith. Swearing just isn’t necessary. Hearing, “what a silly taco” now when Titan drops something is music to my ears.
Tiffanie DiDonato has been featured on Good Morning America and People.com. She is a Marine wife, mom of two rambunctious boys, and functions best with hot Starbucks. She is the author of “Dwarf: How One Woman Fought For A Body — And a life — She was Never Supposed To Have” and also writes this weekly parenting column. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org