Cussin’ in the presence of your child…

I caught a bit of the banter on Fox this am about a phrase Alec Baldwin used towards his 11 year old daughter.  Rosie O’D has jumped in the fire and admitted to using curse words around her children.

I would guess that almost every parent has lost her/his temper with their child….even me. While I have rarely used swear words, I can testify to the fact that once you’ve said it, the child will remember, throw it in your face and you can never take it back.

I do not remember the specifics, but I do remember the shock when my son reminded me that I had said “it.” The tone of his voice communicated that my cuss word had been quite impressionable. I remember regretting that I had uttered the word. It seems rather mild now days when compared to the blitz of the F & B words. However, I wish I had not ever used it in his presence.

The biggest question I have in regards to swearing in the presence of children and teens is this: is one swearing in their presence, or swearing at their children? Does it have the same effect? While neither is good, I believe one lends to greater psychological damage. Swearing at one’s child is similar to name calling. Words do have power… they leave an impression, they give a message. And in these situations, the messages are negative and destructive to self esteem.

I was in my late twenties when someone first used the F word toward me. I was shocked and it was very upsetting. I still remember how it made me feel.

Is cussin’ that big of a deal or not? Why has it become such an acceptable way to communicate in our culture?

dr pers ©2007

5 thoughts on “Cussin’ in the presence of your child…

  1. cturpen

    I have a pretty foul mouth, admittedly, but I still giggle when I hear my dad say “DAMN” which happens very rarely. My parents didn’t swear in front of me (so I don’t know how I got my sailor mouth but nonetheless…) Is it a big deal? Good question. I guess it depends on whether the parents MAKE it a big deal. I am careful not to drop F bombs around my parents but I admit that I let one slip occasionally. When they get all riled up about it, I’m more likely to do it again. (GUILTY AS CHARGED.) Then again, swearing is part of the culture these days, especially in schools.

  2. pluckymama

    I don’t want to make swearing out to be a big deal to my kids. If you drop an F bomb when you hurt yourself I don’t really care. Of course name calling is different and even if they call someone a poo poo head as opposed to a $#!T head, they’ll have the same consequence. I think swearing is mainly a problem if someone around you will be offended or if it’s directed at somebody. I hope to teach my kids the difference.

  3. Brian

    I find myself using rude language more than I should, but normally around the guys at work. It seems more acceptable in that environment and most of them do it. It’s still childish, but sometimes it’s just the only word that fits, you know?

    Language is a very complex thing. There are so many substitute words that are acceptable but mean the exact same thing. Shoot, crap, fudge, freakin’, etc. Why is it okay to say one but not the other?

    There are certain people that I never curse in front of – my mom, my boss, some family members. I don’t have children, but if I did, I would try my best to not use those words in front of them.

    I do think that letting one slip in front of a child is okay, but not if it’s directed at the child in a derogatory or hateful manner.

    Alec Baldwin acted irresponsibly in his tirade, but I just try to imagine how it might be to be in his shoes. He’s been going through a custody battle for 6 years and that must be hell. That’s no excuse for his behavior, though.

    I actually thought it was very brave of Rosie to admit her shortcomings as a parent. 😉

  4. Kerry

    I grew up as the youngest of five children. In our home, NO “verbal unpleasantries” as mother called them, went unpunished. Mother was a sharp shooter with her slipper. She could hit a bulls eye at a hundred paces….and make it stick. .no sweating, just the sound of the theme from the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. You never saw it coming and as fast as “bad words” were out of your mouth, the slipper was drawn, and in blinding flight, on its way towards the back of your head. The “pain calculation” depended on which pair she was wearing that day. It usually wasn’t that bad, but more shocking than anything and we’d often break out laughing and get the other one too…for that.

    Ah the memories. There should have been a reality show for something that… maybe “From the Arms of Mother’s”, measuring talent through speed and accuracy. WE’D have made it rich with mother’s keen skills…as we were relatively poor. Hey, it could have become an Olympic event…”the slipper throw”! All five of us, and dad, with life time front row seats to the Olympic Games….all because of mother. And yes, she went into full combat if she heard things like stupid, shut up, idiot etc. I’m convinced she’d have had a full blown coronary, and we’d have buried her long ago if one of us had ever said the F word. That would have warranted the “soap in the mouth”. Well, not that I ever had “soap in the mouth”, but my brothers did. (batting my little peepers). I’m not saying that we didn’t say those things…..oh yes ,we most certainly did. We just learned do a quick shoulder scan around the room to make sure “the sniper” wasn’t in her perch…sort of a self preservation if you know what I mean. We learned very young, to monitor what we were saying.

    I see young offenders in my office every week day from 3:00 to 4:30. I do notice a lot of what seems to be a comfortable freedom in using profanity. It’s as if there is no filter for appropriateness. Oh do I have stories….and I will share this one with you.

    This past week I had a twelve year old in for an intake appointment. As I begin all of my intakes from city police, I asked him, “so tell me what happened?” He looks at me with this little “Opie Tailor” face, feet barely reaching the floor from my big green chair , shrugs his shoulder and lifts his little palms up in the air…. saying nothing. Oh my! Again I ask him to tell me what happened. This time he kicks it up a notch and gives me the old”kitten eyes” and says, like he’s asking me a question, “I told Mr. Iaco to F___ Off miss?” ( I hate being called miss by the way, but whatever…) I asked him what happened next and he said he got suspended for three days. He was so angry about this that he wrote some graffitti on the school walls and is being charged with destruction of school property. That’s how police came to be involved. Now, dad accompanied little junior to the office that day, so without blinking, I ever so slowly rolled my head and eyes over to dad, my arms open wide, inviting him to come join the choir and tell me that little Opie has consequences at home. I hoped he’d tell me that he and mom do not approve of this behaviour. I asked dad, “what happend at home as a result of what’s happened here?” Dad TOTALLY bails on me and says, “frankly miss, I don’t know what the big F—ing deal is!” NICE!

    So, I agree that profanity, for some, has become a part of every day language. It sure is difficult for me at times to maintain my composure when a neighbourhood kid tells me to “shut up you old bat”, when I ask them to keep it down at 2:00 a.m. because they’re skate boarding out there.

    As for mother, we tease her to this day about her slipper throwing skills, and she laughs with us. She’s semi-retired the slipper, however she still has it in her, only now she’s shooting at squirells trying to get at her bird food on the balcony of her condo. If she could hear the swearing that is being used regularly, I think it would really make her sad. She has 80 % hearing loss and does not like wearing her hearing aids. Perhaps it’s best mom. Anything we want and need to tell you, we’ll make sure you hear.

    And that all I have to say about that!

  5. downrightpersonal Post author

    Turpen, Plucky, Brian, good comments.
    Kerry, you’re a great storyteller. I think your point is made about the father and son.

    What bothers me about profanity is this:
    1) I don’t like to have my mind constantly bombarded with the negative, graphic images that are conveyed by swearing.
    2) Profanity is usually expressed out of anger, hurt or frustration. Why do so many of us feel that we have to audibly express anger for others to hear? Yes, I am hurt or frustrated, but why I do I have to express that in the presence of others? If you think about how many times we hear profanity in a normal day, it seems like we have become such an angry culture made up of angry individuals.
    Kind of sad or scary?


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