Ā Ā Ā Ā Ā My husband and I raise our children in the real world. Our parenting strategies are thoroughly āhumanā and full of mistakes made with the fervent hope that imperfection is the ideal climate for learning, growth, and self-discovery. We believe in the concepts of free and independent thought and appreciate the beauty and versatility of the English language as a basis for teaching the communication skills that will enrich the rest of our childrenās lives.
When you consider these beliefs and strategies, you may be inclined to assume that we allow our children to freely use slang as well. You would be wrong, and hereās why:
The Scientific Reasons
- The more kids are exposed to cursing, the more likely they are to use these words themselves. No problem, right? After all, we do it ourselvesā¦ that is, until your three-year-old drops the F bomb in the middle of Sunday church service.
- Children who are exposed to profanity regularly are more likely to be physically aggressive in the form of hitting, kicking, or punching. Yikes!
- Children who are exposed to profanity in the media or at home are more likely to be relationally aggressive meaning they are more likely to do things like purposely excluding others from group activities and initiating gossip with the purposeful intent to damage someoneās reputation.
- Even exposure to very mild curse words (excluding the 7 raunchiest curse words not allowed on TV) can cause children to have behavior problems and to be more aggressive.
To be fair, I should point out that the four points above are not universally agreed upon by scientists. They were derived from a relatively new Brigham Young University study [Published in Pediatrics: October 17, 2011 by Sarah M. Coyne, Laura A. Stockdale, David A. Nelson, and Ashley Fraser] and have not yet been corroborated by similar studies.
What scientists do agree upon is that cursing in front of children can change those children. Whether or not these changes are harmful is the major point of disagreement among scientists; so, it canāt be labeled yet as an official scientific no-no.
āWell of course the changes are harmfull,ā you say?Ā āJust look at the evidence!ā
Itās not that simple. In science, researchers are limited to using words with very specific definitions. It is considered unethical (thankfully) to attempt to āspinā those terms into meaning something other than was originally intended. In this case, the word that scientists are hung up on is āharm.ā
SCIENTIFICALLY this word is usually defined in terms of physical damage or religious/sexual corruption.
REALISTICALLY most parents (and most decent psychologists) understand that there are many measurable symptoms that a child has been harmed other than those covered by the limited scientific definition. Sleep disorders (nightmares, insomnia, sleeping too much) high anxiety, depression, aggression, and bed-wetting are only a few examples.
Since these very obvious symptoms of childhood distress are not included in the scientific definition ofĀ āharm,ā researchers are unable to agree on an official claim that exposing children to bad language harms them.
As a result, many parents will continue to accidently harm their children, mistakenly assuming that a lack of āscientificā evidence means that there is no evidence at all. Scary.
Fortunately, as parents we are only limited by our lack of confidence in our own common sense and instincts. And we can all master this lack of confidence today, and embrace our gut instincts, funny feelings, sixth senses, and parent-intuition. Let parents everywhere who just had a hunch that a cursing child was not a completely healthy child feel vindicated after reading the results of the Character Publishing poll below. After all, are there any better experts on child development than parents?
The Common Sense Reasons
- Using bad language limits your childās vocabulary. Donāt believe me? Go watch an episode of the Smurfs. Using the same word over and over for different meanings definitely stunts communication skills. J
- It could limit your childās opportunities in life. Even if you are not personally offended by your childās mimicked bad language (itās just a word, right?) the sad truth is, someone else may be. In fact, the ones who are offended may be the same people who have the power to judge or reject your child from employment, friendships, educational experiences, or loving relationships.
- Using bad language habitually increases the chances that you will use it in the heat of conflict. This elevates the seriousness, tension, and even fear-levels of children who witness (or are the direct recipient of) the conflict, needlessly heightening anxiety. This makes everyone involved more likely to react emotionally and less likely to actually solve the problem causing the conflict.
- It stresses kids out. Even if you are using bad language in a non-intimidating manner, the confusion it can cause kids (who know that they would get in huge trouble at school for using that same language) can cause them chronic confusion, anxiety, and even shame.
- It may undermine your credibility as a parent. Your children will recognize that your behavior is out of line with the norms of āpolite societyā (I know, I canāt believe I even wrote that phrase). But this contrast could actually cause your children to doubt the legitimacy of your authority.
Still not convinced? Need more evidence before you change an entire lifestyle? Me too. Thatās why I am adding the final reasonā¦
10. Ā When it comes to our children, isnāt it better to be safe than sorry? After all, you donāt have to be completely convinced of a scientific theory to play it safe. Here is an absurd analogy:
Imagine you read 10 convincing arguments that exposing children to wild animals could cause pain, death, dismemberment, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Granted, you have never actually witnessed a child being mangled by one, but you just have a hunch that there could be something to this theory.
However, imagine now that the scientific community as a whole could not support this claim. There is a huge, heated (imaginary, of course) discrepancy in the scientific population as to the exact meaning of the word āmemberā as it pertains to the term ādismemberment.ā The āanti-toeā community feels strongly that fingers and toes are merely digits on a memberā¦not entire members of their own accord. The āpro-toeā researchers are adamant that each toe is a peninsula, with free flowing air on three sides, making each clearly its own member.
Until this debate is settled, many researchers are simply unable to ethically sign off on the claim as a whole, since they are unable to scientifically define the claim in question.
Some parents catch wind of the fact that scientists donāt all agree that exposing children to wild animals could cause pain, death, dismemberment, or PTSD, and thatās good enough for them to:
- Make fun of the overprotective parents who try to shield their children from the world (obviously first-timers), and
- Take their unarmed children onto the plains of Africa for a little lion sightseeing.
Wanna know what happens next? Neither do I. I think you get the point.
Would scientists ever disagree on this issue because of a lack of consensus over the word āmember?ā Probably not.
If they did, would some careless, nonchalant parents judge those who followed their instincts? Definitely.
Would their judgment cause you to doubt your instinct? Definitely not! So you shouldnāt doubt it about cursing in front of your kids. Perfect logic, right? Well, perhaps not perfect. But better safe, than sorry.
To learn more about this subject (cursing, not dismemberment), visit the following sources and links:
Profanity in Media Associated With Attitudes and Behavior Regarding Profanity Use and Aggression
Teen Literature Heavy With Profanity
Children are Swearing More Often, At Earlier Age
Do Offensive Words Harm People?
Swearing Around Kids ā Is it Really That Bad?
Children Who Hear Swear Words on TV Are More Aggressive