Writer: Why kids should swear

WBUR (Boston) blogger Lindsay Goodwin is probably going to cause a dust-up in Puritan country (and elsewhere) with her blog post this morning on how to keep your kids from swearing in public. Let them swear around the house, she says.

She says she recently made the decision to let them swear. Her oldest kid is in kindergarten.

One big reason I’m confident that my children will not be dropping F-bombs at school is the way I was brought up. I was raised in an unusual family where swearing was an accepted, even encouraged part of how we related to one another. My mother, a petite, freethinking Midwesterner, swore frequently and gratuitously, although rarely in anger. With my father’s tacit consent, we three siblings followed suit, and at a young age we were able to discern that the language of home differed markedly from that of the outer world. Swearing in the wrong context — whether at school, at a friend’s house, or, God forbid, when my grandmother came to stay — would have been mortifying; it never happened.

And she reports that kids in the kindergarten are already dropping “F bombs.” Where would they learn such a thing?

Admittedly, there are some disadvantages to parenting this way. We’ve been hearing a lot from my youngest, for example, about how “Jeffrey,” a 3-year-old still in pull-ups, said “f—” at preschool. Our daughter insists that she didn’t introduce the word to him — but the frequency with which she brings it up and her poker face when she does so suggests otherwise. Interestingly, she refuses to repeat the swear when telling me the story out in public even if it’s just the two of us, already demonstrating an eagerness to master the “rules” about language. My mother shared a similar anecdote about my brother, struggling as a 4-year-old to navigate the context-driven terrain of swearing appropriately. Out shopping together, he loudly congratulated himself on his progress: “See, Mom?” he declared proudly. “I didn’t call that lady over there a f—ing ass—-.”

“By letting them choose their words freely, I trust that I’m helping them learn to shape, rather than be shaped by, their language,” she writes.

I love parents when they’re young.

  • MrE85


  • Chuck

    That is a hilarious story about the f—ing a–. We don’t swear much at our house, but swearing by others doesn’t bother us too much. Long ago I recognized that my kids were exposed to it all over the place, so we decided to treat it as no big deal, rather than disapproving of those who did so. We believe that it demonstrates a degree of inarticulateness that serves some people well but that we ourselves can find other ways to express. I will say, though, that there are occasions when someone gets off a really timely or well-thought out cuss that I admire and wouldn’t mind having come up with myself. Anyway, good luck to the woman who wrote the blog post. Different things work for different people, I guess.

  • Jeff C.

    A friend’s rule (that I agree with but didn’t create so I can’t take the credit) – Kids can swear when they are with their friends (only) and not at home and not at times when swearing is inappropriate. Why not at home? Because if you can’t control your word choices at home, that shows that you can’t control them in other situations when swearing is inappropriate.

  • Kirkistan

    Wonderful story!

  • Thomas Mercier

    “Bringing up Bebe”, which I was introduced to by a conversation on MPR, introduces this same concept. The short story goes that French children are allowed to say the equivalent of $h!t around home and playing with friends. This like other commenters says permits the learning of social norms as well as providing for acceptable outlets rather than creating a prohibition and the inherent rebellion against it.
    Makes sense to me.

  • mrsdanger

    “I love parents when they’re young” hahaha

  • John Peschken

    I grew up in a home where it was pounded into our head that these words were sure signs of the dull and uneducated. Consequently, I still don’t use them.

    However, when I really think about it, what’s in a word? Why is “f***” taboo, but “sex” is not? “Feces” is okay, but don’t say “Sh**”! The whole concept of dirty words is interesting and seems kind of silly when I think about it. Would a turd by any other name smell less foul?