My son was seven or eight years old when he asked me about the “S word.” My husband and I had decided early on that we wouldn’t curse around him, so he was genuinely unfamiliar with most, if not all, of the biggies. (Side note: This is what we believe infancy is for — it took us the first full year of his life to break the habit of swearing around him in our home.) When he asked, I glanced at my husband, shrugged my shoulders, and told him all about “shit.”
Although I still don’t want to curse around him, and I don’t want him cursing around me, I’d always rather be the one to educate him about such things — especially when he could just as easily ask a buddy if I refused to answer. Next, he asked about the “A word” and the “D word” and the “K word” — at which point I realised he was simply choosing random letters. But we went through them all, and then I laid out my rules for when he could and could not use them.
Every family is different when it comes to whether — or when — they curse and allow the kids to do the same. Some parents are fine with cursing inside the home but not out in public. Other parents allow kids to curse as a display of emotion (“Damn it, that hurt!”) but not as an insult (“You’re such an arsehole!”). While I didn’t particularly want him using these words during inappropriate moments, I also remember enough about being a kid that I recognised he would swear at some point.
So I devised a three-part rule for him that I’ll share with you in case you too expect your kids to swear at some point but prefer they don’t drop F-bombs around the grandparents:
1. You shouldn’t curse around adults until you are an adult.
2. You shouldn’t curse around kids younger than you. (You and your buddies want to let some swear words fly while you’re playing a rousing game of Splatoon 2? Fine. You don’t need to be the one to teach the kindergarteners bad words at recess, though.)
3. Don’t use these words to be mean. (See above rule for using swear words to express emotion, not to be insulting.)
So far, for our family, this shit seems to be working.