This is 3: On Kids & Swearing

Stella, we do not say that word, okay? It is not a nice word, and it is not okay for kids to say that word, do you understand me?

It is 8am, and I have just heard a pretty shocking word come out of my child’s mouth. My husband has been harping on me for years to not swear in front of her, and though I’ve stopped swearing for the most part, the occasional word does slip out – like when Harvey face planted off our deck on Wednesday and started gushing blood! We also have a few friends who let 4-letter words drop from time to time in front of the kids, so I refuse to take full responsibility for it! 🙂 That being said, I’m usually of the opinion that she’s going to hear words that are inappropriate from time to time, and she needs to learn context and when it is and is not okay for her to use those words. My husband prefers to keep her in a bubble. So far, we aren’t sure who is right. Ha! 


Stella: Mamaaaa, I puked all over my jammies!

[I come around the corner, and sure enough, the combo of cottage cheese + milk for breakfast was not a good idea. Dammit, I know better than to feed her that.]

Me: It’s okay hon, let’s get you cleaned up. You’re okay.

[I strip her down, clean her up, and turn to clean up the chair and floor.]

Stella: But Mama, I have PUKE on my foot. FUCK!

[Points for context?]


The day before the puke incident, this was the text conversation between my husband and I…

C: Your daughter is making cookies [with her Nana – Charlie’s mom] and said oh shit. Wonder who she heard that from?

Me: Definitely Ryan

[Ryan is our good buddy who spends a lot of time at our house and whose first kid is due in June, thus he has no swear filter yet. I truly don’t care that he swears in front of the kids on accident from time to time, and Charlie knows it. Two minutes later I haven’t gotten a response from Charlie…]

Me: No laugh? 🙂

C: Was on the phone. Pretty funny, but def you.


I’m not going to lie, I definitely don’t want my kids to have potty mouths and I don’t think it’s okay for kids to swear, but I still think it’s just another thing we need to teach them, and they will have slip ups, just like us. What do you think? Are you someone who uses the occasional swear word? Do you think it should never happen in front of kids? Or do you think we should be teaching them that there are some words that aren’t okay for kids to use, just like there are drinks they can’t have and activities they can’t do until they’re grown ups?

To be clear, I try really hard to never swear in front of other people’s kids. This is in regards to my own kids in my own home. No hard feelings either way. I have IRL friends who feel both ways on this – I’m just curious how you all feel!



  1. Hahaha, she definitely gets points for context! I don’t know exactly how I feel about this one. Both my husband and I still occasionally swear in front of Lettie. She hasn’t repeated anything yet, so we’re being kind of careless with it. I obviously don’t want her to be swearing up a storm in daycare and I don’t want her to be a potty mouth, but I kind of feel like words are just words and what’s the big deal? I feel like everyone makes a huuuuuge deal about swear words, but why? I don’t know. I need to think it through. My mom used to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to swear anywhere but in the attic. So I would to go up there and curse like a sailor. Although i’m a potty mouth now, so maybe that backfired haha. Eh, this is kind of a long rambling way to say that I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter haha.

    1. Yeah, I kind of feel like we are giving certain words more power than need be. That’s why I feel like we just teach them that words are words and some are inappropriate to say at certain ages / in certain contexts / at certain times. I dunno… it’s a hard one though because I know that not all parents agree with me on this one!

  2. JJ and I still cuss in front of the kids, but are trying not to do it as much. It doesn’t seem to phase Chloe (at least yet) and if I say shit, Drake will sometimes repeat it and I think it’s the funniest thing, so then he does it again and again. It sounds like sit. The one word that has stuck with Chloe for months and months as bad is “stupid.” I don’t even know how it started but we told her she shouldn’t say it and now any time it comes out of our mouths or on tv, the radio, whatever, she’ll stop and say “XXX said stupid!” Seriously, that word is worse to her than any four letter word ever thought about being. If it starts becoming an issue with our kids, then we’ll probably need to step it up and not do it at all in front of them, but for now it’s not an issue. And yes, I am much more careful around other people’s kids.

    1. Yeah, stupid and retarded and words like that are way more offensive to me than if Stella said shit in a contextual manner. Hm….

  3. When we were in Norway a few years ago, I remember being startled by how often the F word was used in casual conversation. It definitely did not carry the same weight as it does here in Minnesota! It was more like saying “damn!”. So ya, it’s a strange thing, the power we give some words. Very much a cultural thing. But that being said, it IS our culture, so we just can’t have our children running around swearing and expect there to not be a consequence in how they are viewed by others. So out of respect for society at large, we need to be aware of that…but it’s sure not the biggest deal in the world!

  4. I try really hard not to swear in front of the kids, but said fuck in front of Lyla the other day out of frustration in the midst of 4,567 days of everyone being sick. Of course, she repeated 8 billion times right in a row :/

    Kind of the opposite of you, I have an issue with regular words being changed to super no-no words all of a sudden. For example, I don’t care if my kid says something is stupid (I would care if they called a person stupid). I think the word fat has become completely blown out of proportion. I won’t let the girls think it’s ok to call a person fat bc it has such a horrible context now, but I just don’t think the context is appropriate. Some people are bigger than others, and kids are, of course, just like adults, going to notice that. I know that it’s wrong to verbalize that physical aspect, it’s just stupid (see what I did there 😉 ) that being bigger around than some other people is bad. I’ve had insane conversations with Gracie about how it’s ok to call someone big if she’s talking about their height, but not their weight. It’s so arbitrary, it’s no wonder she has all those questions. Also, her teacher had to email me outside of class to discuss the “issue” she was having at school of using the word hate about things (never people.) The first time she said it, they were doing some evaluation thing (basically like a quiz) and she said she hated it. Yeah, no shit! She’s 3 years old taking a test.

    Aaaaaaaanyway, all kinds of words are given more importance than I think is necessary, and it drives me bonkers that I have to teach the girls about it. For you, it’s swear words; for me, it’s normal words that are no longer “normal” at all.

    In the words of Stella, FUCK! 🙂

    1. Hm…I should have thought about this more before posting. I actually really agree with you, and I think as they kids get older, I’ll have think about this more in regards to “normal” words that have so many different connotations in different situations now days. Lots to think about…

  5. It makes it so hard when they use it correctly!! You know you have to tell them no but at the same time you want to give them a high five for using it right!!! I don’t really cuss but my husband has the mouth of a sailor.. He has gotten better though!! When my 6 year old was about 2.5 years old he went through a phase of saying ‘oh daaaaaamn!!!’ about everything!! Then after that broke he went through a phase of saying ‘holy $h!t!’ anytime something surprised him!!!

  6. My kids swear, because I swear and my husband swears and everyone swears! I just try to tell them to tell me it isn’t nice if I say it and I will do the same if they say it. My almost 4 year old son is quite good at it and says “fuck means we are hurting” his own very astute assessment, whoops!

  7. We try to keep it to a minimum, but recognize that living in a large, urban area that it will just be part of what he hears moving through the world. We’ve started to talk about it a bit, and I hope to teach our kid that the power of words is dependent on the intention behind them. Similar to what was said above, calling someone fat will be hurtful if your intention is to do harm. That said, we’ve already had to spell out which words are ADULT WORDS and not to be used by grouchy 3 year olds.

    1. PS- Bruno Mars is not helping our cause, as my kid is obsessed with uptown funk and regularly walks around exclaiming HOT DAMN!

  8. I’m about the same…I try not to, but I have also yelled OW FUCK! today after getting a head butt across the nose so…. yeah. (Though, when HGB went through a phase of telling me to fuck off all the time, that was awwweesssommmmmmme.)

    I am much more concerned about the power of words (and when/if they are to be used appropriately) versus the words themselves.

    Remember that Dooce post you sent me awhile ago? What was it? “Cover your precious ears” or something? Pearl-clutchers gonna clutch, man.

  9. Logan has repeated both of those words already. We too thought that was pretty funny and at least he used it correctly. So hard to stop swearing.

  10. To me, swear words are just like certain drinks, activities, cupboards and doors, etc – meaning some of those things are meant just for adults and not for kids. Matthew knows the difference, and when I swear and he repeats it, I say, “that word is only for grown ups. Please don’t say it.”. And he responds, “not for little kids, OK!”. And that’s the end of it. I’m all about context and not making a big fucking deal of it.

  11. RDog'sMom · · Reply

    Going through this with our 3 year old right now. Apparently, I say “damn it” more then I realized, because he said it, with a stern talking to, he knows now it’s a bad word… so now he tells me every. single. time. I say it “BAD WORD MAMA!”
    That being said, went to the park where another kid his age was repeatedly saying “Fuck!” and the dad mildly scolded him and we ended up having to leave because it was excessive.

  12. It is so funny you posted this because Ava has been saying dammit lately. Ben basically called me out like Charlie did you. I know I need to watch myself but in the heat of the moment I lose control and she is mimicking everything right now. Time to watch my words a little better.

  13. I really don’t swear IRL except in extreme situations (like when I crashed my car into our neighbor’s house… I was yelling FUCK, JESUS CHRIST, FUUUUUUUUUUCK) the entire time. fortunately my kids were too young to pick up on that back then (and probably terrified out of their minds too). anyway, T has learned both fuck and asshole from his cousin. I tried to let it go for a long time, figuring he’d get bored of them and just stop using them if I didn’t say anything but one day I couldn’t take it and explained what the F word meant and why it’s not a word we use. Well. That was a BIG mistake. because then it was “forbidden” and so much more fun to say! I have to laugh though, he originally thought the word was “fuckid” I guess because C was saying “fuck it”. then it morphed into “the F word” and now it’s the “F W word”.

    Although the other day he was trying out his skis in our back yard and having some issues and DH heard him through the window, “I hate these fucking skis” – again, points for context 🙂 Anyway… I don’t like my kids using those words, and I am especially afraid that they will teach them to some other kid whose parents will then hate us LOL. but especially as they get older they will hear them more and more… so really, whatever. I think as long as they are not using them in situations where they are NOT appropriate, and that we’ve taught them the difference, it’s ok?

    (I often giggle to myself because my kids have taken to saying “LOL” when something is funny and I always want to respond “LMAO” but don’t bc then I’d have to explain…)

  14. “Fuck!” was one of my daughter’s first words. We’d be out walking and a horn would honk and she’d yell, “Fuck!” (Points for context?)

    Once I stubbed my toe really hard in the bathroom when she was playing in the tub. I yelled, “Goddamnit!” super loud and she yelled, “There’s so much traffic!”

    I think it’s clear when I do my most memorable swearing. 😉

    1. “There’s so much traffic!”
      This is hilarious!!!

  15. By some miracle, Sebastian has not yet repeated anything from my potty mouth. This is seriously a MIRACLE. I await the day.

  16. I definitely use the occasional swear word and my daughter says, “What the hell,” and “Oh shit,” and uses them correctly. I tell her, “Zoe, that is not a good word for you to say, ” and she says, “ok Mommy” and we move on until the next time.

  17. We call them grown up words and kids are not allowed to use grown up words, even if in proper context! I had a friend bragging her two year old could write her name. All I could think was, well, my kid can start a combine and put it in gear and uses all her swear words properly. Thankfully (?), her first were alllllll Grandpa’s! And how do you not grin when showing a 2 year old the difference between a phillips and flat head screw driver and she looks up and says, “I’ll be damned.”

  18. kaseypowers · · Reply

    I have a terrible mouth. I blame the stress of school. I sometimes wonder if it also has to do with the fact that my parent don’t swear. Ever. Very very occasionally I will hear an expletive from them now, but it’s rare and never in conversation. Me on the other hand… Simon has picked up on it, and uses Damn it and Fuck quite well in context. Never at school – he will come home and tell us if kids get in trouble for “bad” words. We have started cracking down on the casual use of cursing while playing Mario Kart because it’s getting excessive. But mostly I think it doesn’t bother me so much. I’m more concerned with the power of words as mentioned in a few other comments. I don’t want him to be mean or a bully, and those things can happen with or without swearing.

  19. Swearing is one of my vices and I loooooove embellishing my vocabulary with well-placed fucks and shits. That being said, we do try not to swear around V and it seems to be working, she even said “Oh shoot” when something dropped on the floor the other day, which almost shocked me more than an “Oh shit” because it means I’ve been successfully censoring myself! Andy and I have always said that we wouldn’t discourage swearing as long as it’s in the proper context and not gratuitous.

    I also don’t really like “shut up”, “stupid”, definitely not “retarded”, and a few other words that just sound crass to me.

    And god help me if she ever says “moist” or “juicy”, my two gross buzz words. Ugh, I shudder.

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