So the hot topic of discussion in my seven-year-old’s PTM recently was about bad words. One parent explained that his son had been using few unsuitable words off late and discussed the approach that he was taking. Soon all of us were talking of the same thing – the S word, the I word, the F word – that seemed to have made their presence felt in our children’s lives, despite all our best intentions.
Where do our children, mostly between 6 to 8 years old, pick these words up? Television is one of the most obvious and reviled culprits but very often objectionable words creep in even after you closely monitor what he/she’s watching. Moms who have gone through this and are honest enough to blame themselves think the trigger could be your own TV watching habits. “On weekends we watch movies on TV while my son is playing around and some of them do have swear words. If he repeats any word l tell him it isn’t the right word to use at his age and that we ourselves never use it.” The mother wishes to remain unnamed. They’re a joint family, she says, and it’s difficult to get everyone on the same page as far as children and TV viewing are concerned so the cure works better than prevention in her case.
Mother of two and freelance web designer Lina M lives by four rules of thumb when it comes to her children, 9 and 13, using bad words. “One is IGNORE if possible. Especially if the child in question is 5 or 6. They’re just testing waters and waiting for a reaction from you. No reaction usually means no repetition with some kids. Two is never losing your cool, even if it’s the dreaded F word. I used to tell them later what I heard and be very firm that it could not be repeated. If it was still done then there was some sort of punishment either in cancellation of TV hour or playtime. Three is clean your own mouth! If by chance swear words pop out in front of children, say sorry. And the last is to understand that given the exposure these days this is an inevitable part of growing up and they will grow out of it. So unless it’s very bad, being used repeatedly or being purposely said to hurt or embarrass someone, I think it’s ok to let go.”
It can of course be rather alarming to see your kids grow up. One fine day they are adorably lisping ‘Mumma,’ ‘Dadda’ and suchlike and suddenly before you realise it, they’ve grown up enough to reach a stage where you need to refine their language.
Mohit, father of eight-year-old twins, is practical about his cleanup process: “The definition of ‘bad words’ is different in every family. I make it a point to tell them it’s not alright to use certain words but ignore with some. Chiding them constantly is not the solution. It provokes them to use it more.”
It’s something I need to remind myself the next time I flare up and decide to spring clean the boy’s mouth.⊕