Guest Post From Sheena of Not a Punk Rocker, on the Art of Teaching Kids to Curse


photo credit: Jaymis via photopin cc
photo credit: Jaymis via photopin cc

Dorks, we stick together.

You’ve seen us at the same table at lunch. With the Star Wars lunch boxes and Pac-man T-shirts. We’re not outcasts. Ours is the cool table. You might not not have known that.

We embrace the dorkiness.

Today’s guest poster says she lives the life of a dork. And by dork, she means artistic, expressive, and quirky. Sheena writes the blog Not a Punk Rocker, where she chronicles a life embarrassing her child and blogging the hell out of it.

She writes about eating disorders, parenthood and even fields questions from readers. Today, she brings her cool writing style to the CD to talk about one of my favorite subjects – kid swearing.

Let’s give Sheena a warm welcome, and be sure to check out her stuff.

# # #

“Is that a gasser, Mom?”

photo credit: Looking Glass via photopin cc
photo credit: Looking Glass via photopin cc

That is the inquiry I got from the kid, aged 4, from his spot in the backseat of the car. The question came after I had just hit the brakes and the horn at a driver who had apparently forgotten the rules of the road since his original foray into the DMV one hundred years ago. I had no idea what the kid was talking about and asked him to repeat his question.

“A gasser,” he tried to explain in his sweet little voice, “when you get mad and say ‘you gasser’ at cars.”

Oh dear. Oh no. Oh my. Oh *bleep*.

My sweet, darling, baby boy was saying gasser, but he meant another word. One I used frequently on the road to vent my frustration.  A word that began with b, ended in d, and is a derogatory term for a person of who may not know who is responsible for their paternity.

Oops.

Saying certain words has been second nature to me for as long as I could remember, having grown up hearing my parents using such colorful language. Those words you wouldn’t normally repeat in front of your teacher or pastor got used as verbs, nouns, adjectives and interjections almost daily. My childhood was the “SchoolhouseRock!” of swearing. Luckily, I knew better than to use these words at school, church or where my parents could hear.

I thought I had been doing a good job about shielding the kid from my normal barrage of curses. He hadn’t pulled any of these words out of his vocabulary before. No reports from preschool or stares from the T-ball moms because he spoke like a member of the original “Bad News Bears.” “Do as I say and not as you hear” had worked so far, yet now I had to be more diligent. More importantly, I had to keep him from saying that again, especially around the grandparents.

I explained, calmly (I think), that was a grown-up word and that he shouldn’t say it.  Then I turned up the music so he could sing along to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (it was a song without cursing, I promise). Well handled. I gave myself a pat on the back. Good job on the momming.

filthyOf course, trying to temper my language didn’t last long. I didn’t go out of my way to curse for the hell of it (Ha!  See what I did there!) but things still slipped out, especially with stress and frustration. For years after the “gasser” incident, he would correct me if he heard me say something “bad.” He also didn’t use those words, not even for shock value. I guess if he had we would have talked about it, but there was only so much punishment I could dole out for cursing. I have been told by my ex-husband that I curse more than his shipmates in the Navy. While I am the parent and have to help mold the kid, who was I to judge some salty language here and there?

Now, the kid is 17. He is gentle with animals, volunteers on weekends, is a gentleman with his girlfriend and gives me a hug every morning when I leave for work and at night before bed. Yet, when he gets on that magic xBox, all bets are off. The kid will let out a litany of words I have never thought to string together, whether he is building things in MineCraft or shooting zombies in some other game. He is likely to leave home soon, so I choose to ignore most of the words that come out of his mouth in this setting (though there have been a few times I have asked him “really?” over a particularly creative remark). He won’t swear at school or offline, doesn’t curse or backtalk me (other than mild sarcasm…where does he get that from?). Overall, I think the battle is one not worth fighting.

photo credit: moriza via photopin cc
photo credit: moriza via photopin cc

Who knows…maybe he will end up working as a stand-up comedian or a longshoreman*. Then his colorful language will come in handy and it can all tie back to how I raised him. Yay! Off to give myself another pat on the back!

*No offense to any stand-up comedians or longshoremen. I am sure you don’t all curse like sailors**.

**No offense to sailors either.

# # #

Perfection Pending
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95 Comments Add yours

  1. JackieP says:

    Sheena! Fancy seeing you here! Great post too. You must have done something right with the kid lady as he sounds like a pretty good one. I swear too much too, but since I never had to worry about kids I just go for it. haha! I found it hard to swear in front of my dad though. It was strange.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      My oldest curses in front of me all the time – I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.

      1. JackieP says:

        I’m not sure either, but we are of a different era, when swearing in front of parents was a big no no.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        we’d get walloped.

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Hi Jackie! Good to see you here!

      My issue is making sure I don’t swear at work. I think people are surprised when they find out what I can really let out with in the moment.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        It’s sometimes a hidden talent, isn’t it?

      2. JackieP says:

        Yeah, I had the problem too. lol

  2. Wait, the dork table is the cool table? I thought the coolest kids hung out at the nerd table. You know, the table where everyone has their nose in a book. That’s where I spent my formative years.

    We have to be very careful with our language, especially in the car. Our four y/o is quick to reprimand us when we say ‘stupid’ so I imagine more colorful terms of the four-letter variety would cause a major uproar. And our 2 y/o would be likely to repeat them. Over and over. And then again in front of grandparents, teachers, and other disapproving listeners!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      One day, you’ll long for the days that ‘stupid’ was the worst bad word in the world.

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Dork, nerd, geek…my school was small enough that we all sat at the same table. We were like the Island of Misfit Toys among the lunch tables.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        The ones who fit are the misfits, I say.

  3. 1jaded1 says:

    This is great! Kids pick up on so much even if they don’t pronounce it. I have a horrible potty mouth. I censor it at work and amongst the nieces and nephews. When a word slips, they say, “that’s ok. Dad says it all the time.”

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I feel it’s a dad’s duty to help expand the vocabulary.

      1. 1jaded1 says:

        I agree. I’m the aunt though and I don’t want to be accused of contributing to the delinquency!

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Don’t undervalue the key word in that last sentence – ‘contributing.’

      3. 1jaded1 says:

        *nods* The BIL and I don’t get along. Outwardly, I let a chuckle escape. Inwardly, I was peeing my pants with laughter.

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Dad’s teaching them right, gets rid of the shock value if they hear it from someone else first 🙂

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        It’s been that way since the cro-magnons.

      2. 1jaded1 says:

        Agreed! My nephew is a chip off his dad. When nephew was five, he let s-head loose. BIL says, “we don’t use that word.” Nephew retorts, “lying is bad, dad!”

      3. Eli Pacheco says:

        The justice system has nothing on a kid with a decent memory.

  4. Louise says:

    Yeah – we’ve entered “watch our language” stage at home. A few weeks ago we were in the gym parking lot and another car (quite clearly) took the spot I was aiming for. A 4-year-old voice sympathetically informed me from the backseat that “that man’s a hole mommy!” True. But we had a chat similar to your “adult words” one described above.

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Did you go into shock or start laughing when they said it? Looking back I find it funny but not so much in the moment. 🙂

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        we still quote the most memorable kid curse sentences in our family.

      2. Louise says:

        I think I kept my poker face – but I felt this mixture of shame (because she obviously got the word from me) and pride/laughter over the correct use. ‘Cause she was totally right.

      3. Eli Pacheco says:

        There’s nothing more embarrassing than a elementary school kid using a curse word wrong. Well, there might be other things more embarrassing, but … you know.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      There’s a sense of pride when your child uses a bad word grammatically correct, though.

      1. Louise says:

        Yeah. I fought the urge to high five her at first.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Some day, 273 years from now, those words might just wind up on the vocab list.

  5. LOL, my son fully believes that those that use foul language as their everyday go-to should go read a dictionary and learn new vocabulary words. 🙂 I love that!! And then he gets on xbox,,, and yes, the rules change!

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Well, because the world of xBox is DIFFERENT. Seriously, Mom. 😉

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Video games also promote creative use of bad word verbs as nouns, and nouns as verbs.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      I lose all decorum in a simple game of Duck Hunt.

  6. Haha. Classic do as I say, not as I do. I’m very guilty here too. And I loved your reference to the XBox. I hear my 16 year old cursing upstairs when he’s on it…words that I never hear him say in public. Sometimes I yell up and he yells down sorry. It might stop for a little bit but then it comes right back. Pick your battles, right?

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Exactly! I concede on hair style, music volume and xbox vocabulary and fight as needed on other things (mostly grades, thank goodness).

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Plus, xBox cursing prepares them for when they drive.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Zombies are asking for it, Michelle.

  7. El Guapo says:

    I don’t have kids.
    Which leaves me free to teach all those words to other people’s kids.

    hehehe

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      You are the cool “uncle”, aren’t you Guap? 🙂

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      It takes a village, Guapo.

  8. I’m a swearer but I have perfected the “right time and place” aspect of it because of the kids and my patients at work. However, rarely I have been known to let a few bombs drop on occasion. Usually it is met with great hilarity by my lucky audience. Great post.

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Right, I have my professional vocabulary and my off-duty vocabulary. I’m tempted to respond back in kind when someone goes off in my office but I usually manage to get through.

      Usually.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        The times you usually don’t? They should be in a blog post.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Sheena knocked it out, didn’t she?

      1. NotAPunkRocker says:

        Aw, thanks, but it helps to have a good prompt to work from, so thank you for that 🙂

  9. Tamara says:

    People keep saying it over and over:

    “The street is no place for kids!”

    Now we know why. That’s where they learn the language we don’t want them to speak. To make matters worse, they learn it from us… Yes, I’m guilty, too, I can’t help myself. There’s just too many idiots on the road. May I say “idiot” on your blog?

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      I’ll let CD take the lead on what can be said here, but feel free to say whatever you want on mine LOL.

      Now I know why cars with built in DVD players and headphones are popular now, to keep the kids occupied while we deal with crazy drivers.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Problem is, the kids are probably listening to music with the very words we’re screaming in traffic.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      “Idiot” is a safe word here, yes, Tamara.

  10. djmatticus says:

    I think the first time the Little Prince repeats a curse word he has heard in my presence I will be so mortified that I will cease cursing altogether. So, I give it another 6 months, tops. With that in mind, I’m taking full advantage of my remaining cursing days. None shall be wasted.

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Oh, that is a very good plan. Let me know how that works out 😉

      1. djmatticus says:

        Oh, don’t worry. You’ll hear all about it for sure. He almost said “bye-bye” last night while waving to one of his grandmas via skype. I almost died. So freaking cute.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      When Little Prince becomes a teenager, you’ll lament the time you lost exchanging such colorful language.

      1. djmatticus says:

        At which point I may relent and begin cursing again.
        At some points my parents tried to institute a per swear monetary penalty with my brother and I. We argued they should be part of the punishment too as they cursed more than we did… after only a couple months, with my brother and my wallet a bit fatter, my parents decided it wasn’t worth it.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        If the Senate and Congress had this rule, we might be able to balance the budget with the fines.

      3. djmatticus says:

        It would probably cost more to try and enforce it than it would actually generate in revenue.

      4. Eli Pacheco says:

        i wonder how many times that’s said on Capitol Hill!

      5. djmatticus says:

        Far too often, or not enough…

      6. Eli Pacheco says:

        Probably either, and always the wrong choice.

  11. bethteliho says:

    Oh Sheena, I so can relate! My 9yo has a “cuss jar” for me, and he’s got crazy vampire hearing. I can mouth a cuss word and he’ll yell, “that’s a dollar!” On a good note, it’ll probably pay for his college. I also remember a time when my husband and 6yo were talking about tools in the garage, and my 6yo said, “that’s what mom calls bad drivers.”

    *sigh*

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      If tool is the worst thing you say … you’re doing all right, Beth!

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Yeah, I would be in big trouble with a cuss jar for sure. Hopefully my kid takes post-dated checks…

      Too funny about the “tools”. 🙂

  12. tamaralikecamera says:

    I remember my mom telling her friends that she walked into my bedroom when I was playing Mario Kart, and I was saying, “f***, s***, f***, s***.” Oops!
    My payback came recently when Scarlet got in trouble with her grandmother for saying the word “stupid.” And Scarlet said to her grandmother, “Yeah.. but Mama says “stupid s***” to other cars!”

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I feel like “stupid s***” shouldn’t be graded as harshly as just “stupid,” because of creativity and alliteration.

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      I truly believe Mario Kart cursing is just practice for when we finally do learn to drive. I would rather deal with koopa shells than lack of turn signals!

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        I wish I could make my car big and run over other cars. And also bounce my car off huge mushrooms, there’s that.

  13. ksbeth says:

    hilarious! yeh, kids say the darndest things, don’t know where they get it from? )

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Not a clue… *attempts to look innocent*

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        we should change what we teach our kids from “always tell the truth” to “tell the truth, unless the truth would implicate or otherwise embarrass your parents.”

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      you also apparently cannot use spanish bad words in jest around kids because they’ll use them too.

  14. stephrufa says:

    Oh my goodness, this post and the comments are making me laugh. I, too, have horrible language. I’ve tried to curtail it and end up saying things like: Jeez Louise, Jiminy Christmas, Fluffernutter, Holy Crackers and other random goofy stuff. More often than not, though, the f*bombs are there. My oldest has always “used swears” with his friends and I know this because his brother and sister tell on him. But despite being exposed to the exact same language (please note that it’s not a constant barrage, don’t hate me) neither of them swear. They just don’t. Which leads me to the conclusion that whether or not we expose our kids…some will swear and some won’t. It’s their nature not nurture. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’d rather my kids learn the blue language from me, than well, cable TV or middle schoolers.

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      I am pretty sure mine is a barrage. Not intentional, just me not thinking. So, no judgement here. 🙂

      I will second what CD says about better to learn from me than TV and peers.

      Actually, when he started middle school and gym class, he learned a lot of other terms that, while not technically cursing, were definitely not things to repeat at grandma’s house on Sunday.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Please offer an example.

  15. Rabia Lieber says:

    I’ve been known to let loose a few choice words when my kids are around. My daughter has not tried them out, but my son has. He uses them correctly, but not in proper settings (which at age six would be…NONE!) I’ll take partial credit for it.

    1. NotAPunkRocker says:

      I finally had to resort to “I’m a grownup and you’re not, so there!” explanation.

      OK, not exactly that phrasing, but I think you get the drift 🙂

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Playing the parent card – it’s 34% of why we want to become parents.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      You can take only 50% of the 50% that is nurture – tops.

  16. Rorybore says:

    I worked in a male prison. You don’t even want to know.
    I am not even sure what some of them mean. some are just hand signs.
    what word could be so awful that even a tatted up badge wearing biker would not utter it?
    I shudder.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      At first I thought that was “mail” prison, which would have had to be explained in a post. I do want to know about that one.

      So, bad words as hand signs? Do you Canadians do something different than we do here south of the border? Wow. Now I want to know what this demon among curse words is.

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Wait a second, I worked in a male prison too! I was the commissary clerk, selling murderers and such Little Debbies and cigarettes. I really need to write about that one day soon…

      Sorry, got distracted for a minute there. 🙂

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        I’ve never worked in a male prison, but I have eaten school lunch.

  17. jaklumen says:

    I have been told by my ex-husband that I curse more than his shipmates in the Navy

    Cimmy and I have a friend that was in the Navy and I dropped a combination bomb that she said she’d never heard before. Whoops.

    Seriously, though, I had a talk with our daughter some time back about profanity. I listed a number of strong, strong 4-letter words. I told her what they meant. I said I wanted her to use them only in the manner they were meant to be used, because I don’t believe in the notion that Anglo-Saxon Germanic words are profanity yet Latin-based equivalents are fine– i.e., fornicate, feces, mammaries, etc. I also said I didn’t want her to use them in polite company. One exception, though, I didn’t want her to ever use the four-letter C word.
    She chooses not to swear at all, despite my very bad example.

    However, she’s 11 now, going on 13, going on 18– and a lot of her favorite YouTube videos are of people playing Minecraft– and they drop a lot of profanity. I caught “motherf***er” once and I yelled, “Damnit, the only person I want to hear saying ‘f***’ around here is me!” It’s still a struggle, and we’ve had to vet her video choices a lot harder, especially as her 6-year old brother with autism will repeat stuff at school and the last incident was NOT profanity but school is not the place to chuckle about kids mispelling “rapping” (subtract a p and you’ll get what I mean).

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I feel like you could turn that 4-letter-word lesson into a valuable ebook for all parents to download.

      1. jaklumen says:

        I will definitely keep that thought in mind, and I will let you know if I follow through on it. (Another project for the back burner, for now… got a lot of those)

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        this one might make you rich, though.

      3. jaklumen says:

        I have chronic pain, Eli, with sciatica. And that’s just one of my health problems. Many times I’m just struggling to get through the day. Not that the prospect of income isn’t tempting, it’s just that I have obstacles to cross before starting such a project.

    2. NotAPunkRocker says:

      Funny you mention actual terms vs. “slang”. One of the times I did get the kid to dull down his language is when he used the very proper words to tell someone where to fornicate and what to use. He claims the other kid had no idea what he said, but that was definitely over the top vs random “I got shot by a zombie” cursing.

      1. jaklumen says:

        It’s a tricky balance.

        Most people, including kids, get that words considered profane carry shock value and get a certain reaction. I think that’s why they use them… my observation, however, is that kids use them precisely to shock others, but often with little to no idea what they actually mean.

        I could explain it further than this– there’s stereotypes that the poor and lesser educated use such words, but again, I think that’s with Anglo-Saxon/French/Latin divide. It’s also been suggested that it’s cultural, hence the trucker, military, etc. stereotypes.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        I think someone could write a blog entirely dedicated to bad words. It could be “the @#%! blog.”

      3. Eli Pacheco says:

        Peel it all away, and it boils down to good grammar. God bless America.

  18. Rose says:

    Gasser. I love that and it literally made me LOL. I’m going to start trying to substitute it for the numerous times I day I say the B, ending with a D, word. 😀

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I used to use ‘shasta’ for the S word, but the first time someone offered the kids a soda of that name …

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