Children and Swearing

I trust this won’t apply to many of you with toddlers but for those of us with bigger kids, how do we deal with swearing?

I don’t do much swearing in front of the kids. I do come out with the occasional “bloody hell” and stuff and I once shouted “dickhead” at a young bloke in a car who was driving about 2 inches from my rear bumper. The girls now use “dickhead” on a daily basis. They smirk when they say it and then always glance at me to see if I am going to be hypocritical!

That however is not the issue:  Increasingly (and just recently) 14 y/o is now testing the water on both the frequency and rudeness of her swearing. And I would appreciate some advice on what to do with it. I appreciate however that this all forms part of the larger “testing the boundaries” thing which my eldest is going through just now and perhaps needs to be considered in that context.

To date, I have:

1. Ignored it.
2. Told her swearing isn’t very nice. (well in truth I actually told her swearing “isn’t very nice from girls” and I now cringe at my own sexism – so we won’t dwell on that)
3. Told her off and said she was not to say those things!

None feel quite right. Of course on Facebook etc, all kids use abbreviations for swearing – OMFG etc…so at one level the horse has bolted. 

Do I just ignore it or have you any better ideas? I would appreciate your thoughts…


About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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11 Responses to Children and Swearing

  1. At around 3yo my youngest son (now 15) was bouncing on my bed, lost his balance and as he flew towards the ground was heard to say “Oh! Bollocks!” which was funny: it still makes me laugh.

    We were subsequently hauled up by the primary school when my daughter (now 11) was apparently heard running around the playground, Samuel L Jackson style, calling her friends MoFos (un-abbreviated). I was mildly amused but more intrigued by that one. They were all doing it to each other, I might add.

    In the first instance, the term was one that my son will probably have heard at home, the second would not have been heard there (much as I love Tarantino)

    It seems reasonable to explain the levels at which language works but unreasonable to pretend people don’t swear.

    As a child I lived in a village with a street called CLINT LANE. I have no recollection of this sign being unadulterated. I am now quite old.

    As that time my grammar school English teacher used to hire 3rd formers to do manual labour at the weekends, he had a sideline building-business (1970s). One weekend a school-boy worker dropped a brick on the teacher-employer’s foot. The teacher, already a legend, entered into the hall of fame with his outburst,


  2. Mmm.. I ask myself the same question. My problem is that my oldest kept telling me not to swear when he was about 8 or 9 (he’s 13 now).. plus occasionally I have some bad swearing outbursts (like when I had forgotten about a cake in the oven and said ‘fuck, fuck. fuck’ all the way down the stairs and found my 3 boys staring at me in amazement when I arrived in the kitchen.)

    I think my policy is to ask them to keep it down a bit and not be offensive to others.

  3. Rosanne says:

    It seems most people swear these days and f*** seems very common.

    I was brought up not to use this word and still dont, but my sister does and I know my children do but if they say it on front of me they usually apologise.

    It is heard everywhere these days. Out shopping with the 4 year old grandson last week he interupted a conversation I was having with someone to say ‘Nana that man just said f***’ I didnt reply, foolishly thinking to ignore it was the thing to do. So of course child repeated this louder… and louder… three times in all finishing with ‘nana its not really very nice to say f*** is it?’ in a very loud voice. Needless to say everyone else in the shop was in fits of laughter.

    So ignoring doesnt always work!

    I do think it is a case of them respecting your values and they dont use swear words in front of you and then of course you mustn’t slip up either 🙂

    • onlydads says:

      The best thing about raising this subject has been the comments…

      …and the story of your grandson in the supermarket is an absolute gem 🙂

      Thank you. Bob x

  4. Will says:

    Well M’lord the case for the defense is this:
    It is increasingly difficult for a youth not to include swearing, words referring to male and female genitalia, acronyms and abbreviations pertaining to offensive language and various toilet functions when the adults around them have allowed society at large to include such language as part of everyday culture.
    While maintaining suitable boundaries at home between what is and is not acceptable, successive generations of adults have not expressed sufficiently stern objections to the creeping vernacular that now invades all our communication.
    From Mrs Slocombe’s “Pussy” to the inclusion of the Playboy bunny in the latest Disney movie “Hop”, and many other references in popular media, the adult population has turned successive blind eyes, and deaf ears, to the inclusion of offensive language in our daily offering of serial dramas, pop music and news media.
    Censorship only serves to heighten interest. May I enter in to evidence the deleting or overdubbing offensive words from popular music. This has only served to increase the demand for the “uncut” version for those who cannot lip-read the words from the accompanying video release.
    M’lud, My clients do not deny the charge of including offensive language in a public place (and in the presence of an adult with a sensitive nature) but insist that the boundaries between right and wrong have become somewhat blurred.
    Education is the key and in the worst cases my younger clients are prepared to accept a short custodial sentence on the naughty step to consider their wrong doing and the older defendants confined to their rooms.
    In all cases however, education must form part of the rehabilitation. My clients expect the adults around them to behave firmly and consistently with the application of the rules right from the first offence. Also, it would appear that allowing the media to supply the demand for ever more liberal content is inconsistent with maintaining stringent rules of behaviour among young people.
    The defence rests.

    Seriously: tell children what is wrong and why. They will understand (even the youngest). Apologise if you break the rules (as I have done on many occasion) because you have offended them and, because it is hard to filter what they see and hear, give them the tools to be more discerning in the language they use. Teach them a vocabulary.

  5. TheBoyandMe says:

    You say parents with toddlers wouldn’t have this problem & they shouldn’t. I’m now having to take steps to enaure it doesn’t happen again! 6 months ago, I dropped something on the floor and said ‘b*ll*cks’. The (16 month old) Boy said ‘bol, bol, bol’ and my heart froze with realisation that he was starting to copy. Last week, I said ‘Jesus!’ and he said ‘Christ!’. I think now is the time I have to go cold turkey. My vocabulary will soon see ‘butter’, ‘fudge’ and ‘jeepers’ being used more and more!

    • onlydads says:

      “bol bol bol” – makes me laugh 🙂

      so next time you drop something you’ll be saying “jeepers”…

      …and littleun will follow up with creepers!

  6. My thoughts are that you should try to bite your tongue a bit more or come up with a nonsense word you could substitute. However with the kids, talk to them. Don’t ignore it or they will keep pushing and pushing until you respond. Tell them that even though you slip up sometimes it is not good, that you want them to be better than you. If you talk to them, you can teach them. You can always fall back on the ol Because I’m The Dad. Good luck and never give up.
    -The dadfather

  7. Pippy says:

    I wonder, have you asked your daughter what she thinks and for her input into a workable solution?

    I don’t mean ask in a father to daughter way. I mean ask in an adult to adult way. Perhaps even look up transactional analysis and speak Adult to Adult and ask for her thoughts and her solutions, perhaps even explain your concerns and fears and acknowledge your prejudices around the issue so she is fully aware of your views. Maybe even say what YOUR ‘perfect world’ scenario is and that perhaps it isn’t achievable (but it might be at certain times – different rules for different places?)

    If you decided to ask her, give her time to think about it. Arrange a time for her to come back with her considered thoughts and listen without, yes…. buts, to her answer. Thank her, even if you don’t agree and tell her you’ve got to think about it now before you come back with your thoughts/requirements/would likes/work in progress. You’ll be aware of her position with regard to your dilemma, as she will be of yours. It’s a starting point if nothing else.

    Your daughter, from the little you’ve told me is one smart cookie. I bet between you you can come up with a perfectly workable solution.

    The only other thing I would add, is make sure you’re both aware of what the other considers a ‘swear’ word. Maybe both of you should make a list (with true or assumed meanings along side). I use words, which I think are perfectly fine, it’s just the rest of the world that shudders (until I’m told of my inappropriateness and then I blush when I’m told the real meaning of these words)


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