In our pretend parenting book there is no such thing as a bad word, it’s all about how you use it.
Swear words are a funny thing, accidentally utter one in front of Grandma and everyone shrinks back in horror like you have unleashed a real life weapon. But what harm does it actually cause on the real life disaster scale?
Swear words are just words, sounds that come out of your mouth, a collection of vowels and consonants organised in an attempt at communication. They are even culturally dependant, requiring everyone to agree on what is and isn’t offensive, before it can infact be offensive.
Swearing also apparently varies in severity as if some letters of the alphabet were somehow capable of causing more harm than others! New words are added to the list every year. For example did you now know that when using the word ‘ginger’ you are actually swearing. What if poor grandma loves a good packet of those terribly great tasting but now apparently offensive biscuits, that are perfect for dunking! Dont believe me… look it up on Ofcoms list of swear words ranked in order of offensiveness. Who goes around making these decisions?!
Swear words are not actually weapons, they don’t really have a pointy end. They are not capable of doing harm to anyone without the power of a harmful intention.
It’s not that I believe words can’t cause people harm, because they do, often more long lasting than most physical abuse. It’s more about feeling that any word can cause harm if you use it in an abusive way, even the ‘good’ words.
On the flip side swear words or ‘bad’ words can be used quite harmlessly… to describe an apparently lifeless object, muttering a word under our breath to express pain, informal bonding and humour or even an excited exclamation to the universe about the greatness of life!
It shouldn’t be about teaching the next generation to just stick to the ‘good’ word list and everything will be ok. Let’s talk to them about being conscious of their feelings and how they effect relationships or interactions with people. Think about different ways we all use language to communicate, in our families or with friends in positive and negative ways. Talk about it, ask questions and learn how we might improve. Be aware that ‘good’ words can cause hurt too if used aggressively or as an indirect threat.
I appreciate swearing might not be for everyone. However as adults we are both comfortable with swearing. So as parents we are both comfortable with our children using swear words. After all wouldn’t it kind of make us huge hippocrites if we weren’t??!
Its not that we actively encourage them to swear, we try our best to let them follow their own paths as much as possible! However if they do happen to hear adults using swear words in a non abusive manner and they choose to copy, we would never question the children as to why they do it. After all, they are going to learn it all anyway. What harm does it do anyone? Im not going to shame them for their choice in language. Trying to ban swear words for the sake of banning swear words is kind of like splitting teeny tiny pointless hairs when there is a much bigger and more worthwhile picture to consider. Lets help children to consider the impact that all words can have on others. Treat others as you would want to be treated.
I can’t remember the last time, if ever when someone used some generic swear words at me and I was genuinely offended. Suffering is more likely to linger from those moments when someone unleashes a personal attack using specific descriptive words to condemn your attributes or value as a human being.
The ethos in our family is try and treat all people with as much care, love and respect as you can. Other than that be free to dabble in whatever descriptive or expressive language feels right for you.