Keeping it Clean for the Kids

I don’t swear in front of my kids. I am exceptionally good at modifying my speech to fit my audience. It’s a gift, really. If someone cuts me off in traffic and I’ve got a kid in the car, you’ll hear nothing but appropriate language. If I’m by myself, well, as long as the windows are rolled up, no one will ever know.

At this point in my life I feel like I have earned the right to let a few fly. In fact, I have spent so much of my lifetime around children that when I don’t have a young person in the room I will swear just because I can.

I’m working on it.

It’s not that I use bad language on a regular basis. After all, I am well educated and have a wide vocabulary at my disposal. I can be creative without being crass. I can judge my audience and realize if it is in my best interest to modify my speech or not. But I will admit that I have become a little more relaxed in my standards regarding word choice.

On the other hand, I still have a few elementary school kids at home. I would prefer that such language does not reach their ears. But even if I’m being cautious with my word choice, my kids are getting exposed to all sorts of language ranging from obscenities to certain phrases that are definitely questionable.

Put them on the school bus and a new word or song is learned. Over the years my kids have come home with some interesting word choices. We discuss what that word means, why we don’t use it (or how it could hurt people) and why it’s not appropriate.

My eight year old was recently talking about a beaver “dam” having a pretty good idea that it had nothing to do with a beaver or that kind of dam. He was testing the waters, so to speak. So… not appropriate. He’ll be getting soap in his mouth if he says it again.

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The school bus – where a different kind of education takes place

Appropriate is a phrase I use quite a bit in my house. Because there are situations in which language is okay while some words are to be never, ever said. Using words to put people down or to insult them are forbidden. Words to describe how you feel? Well, what’s your audience? Is it appropriate?

I have two high school boys and a middle schooler. Don’t tell me that they don’t know a few colorful phrases. But they know better than to come home and say those words in front of the younger brothers. They certainly know better than to say certain words in front of their grandparents, teachers or people from church.

Because it’s not appropriate.

They’ve learned from the master (me) about when it’s okay and when it’s not.

Sports is one area in which I give my older boys a free pass. I figure if you are pushing yourself hard at practice and at meets you can say whatever you want while competing. At the end of most cross country meets this fall I would ask them, one on one, how the race went. More often than not, something not meant for young ears would come out in response. I appreciated their honest words and that they felt comfortable telling me what they REALLY felt instead of editing what they wanted to say.

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Look at that face – why wouldn’t he let a few fly (at least in his head) Photo Credit: Gonzo Sanchez

At mile 23 of my last marathon I dropped the f-bomb. Yep I’ll admit it. Speaking of appropriate, sometimes it IS appropriate to drop one when you’ve been running for HOURS and you just want that race to be OVER. I’m pretty sure my fellow runners were not offended and quite possibly in agreement of such an utterance.

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Not a marathon but below freezing at 5:45am. There may have been a few choice phrases that morning but since what is said on the run stays on the run I’ll never say for sure.

I am not a saint (nor am I raising such) but I want my boys to be respectful in their speech and character. Littering their phrases with expletives is a habit that will leave them with the reputation of being low on vocabulary and respect. On the other hand, life is not nearly as much fun if you can’t express yourself fully from time to time.

Know your audience, know when you should keep your language clean and respectful and when you can let a few fly.

The power of the f-bomb: Know it and use it wisely.

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