Most of us learn from a pretty young age that there are good words and bad words. The “bad words” might be hidden from us at first, but eventually someone slips. Probably while driving. Or maybe a big kid shares them at school. Eventually they come out from the shadows, and parents freak out. Or at least, it seems like most parents do. I don’t.
Frankly, I don’t swear very much myself. But I know that other people do, and I don’t expect that I can keep such words hidden from my daughter for long. Well, in all honesty, I haven’t even tried to keep them from her. I shrug when my child-free friends apologize for dropping a “bad word” in front of my six-year-old. Sometimes I’ll even say I’m less concerned about those words than I am the words that hurt people’s feelings. If any words are bad, it’s the hurtful ones.
Maybe that sounds like some kind of hippie-tastic idealism, but this article echoes my opinion on it pretty well, and I have no doubt that my daughter, a word lover from a very young age, will continue to expand her vocabulary to include all sorts of words, inappropriate and otherwise. From the article:
“Obviously, Shawn and I don’t want Gracie to walk up to her kindergarten teacher and ask where the bleep she can put her bleeping backpack. But we’re unconvinced that, say, when she gets to high school, she should get grounded for describing a bad day to us with words that help her to express herself.
Hopefully, Shawn and I will instill an expansive vocabulary and love of words in our daughter so that she won’t often need to resort to swearing.”
Turns out, there’s a picture book for this very situation (Isn’t there always?): The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin. When Michael learns a new word on the school bus–never used in the book–he loves using it. He loves words in general, and this one seems especially good. How does his teacher handle the situation when the word gets around the classroom? Some kind of punishment? Washing his mouth out with soap? Nope. She send him to the library to find more words.
In the end, it was just one word among many. That’s all. No one was hurt in the speaking of the word.
There’s a more detailed write up about the book at Kirkus, and there’s a book trailer here. No matter how you decide to approach curse words in your family, give this book a chance. It’s an opportunity to explore why words have the power they do in a way that doesn’t talk down to kids. And that’s important no matter what words you’ve decided to use or not use.