Teaching my boy to swear

My boy will be eight this summer.  He knows two swear words apparently (f*ck & f*ckers in case you’re wondering).  He has also learned to make two rude gestures with his hands… (both involving his fingers).

I’m proud that at seven and a half that’s as far as Ben’s knowledge of swear words goes… Although Dave & I both swear on occasion, we never (or almost never) do it in front of the kids.  After working with children for more than half my life, I have a fairly innate ability to keep my language appropriate around little ears.

However, as Ben gets older, I’m realising he’s reaching a point where he can’t really be sheltered from bad language anymore and that in fact he probably needs to know ‘rude words’ so that when he does hear them in songs, or the playground or anywhere else, that he knows what they mean and not to repeat them himself.

Being able to modify your language choices according to who you are talking to is an important speaking and listening skill – knowing that some words are slang and wouldn’t be used in your classroom or writing, or that you should speak differently to your headteacher in a different way to your mates at playtime is all part of the learning process.

Ben has had a fairly impressive grasp of the English language from the start – using and understanding sarcasm before he was even three and absorbing new, ‘grown up’ words like ‘penultimate’ like a sponge.

Of course I don’t want to add a massive list of profanities to his ever expanding vocabulary but tonight we chatted about how there’s a time and a place for swearing. That Grandad or Daddy might swear in the pub with their mates or that Mich swore when someone crashed into the car when we were going out for the day. But, that if you swear for no reason then those words lose their strength. They become pointless.

I still wince when I hear Chris Moyles use words like crap or arse on the radio and I remember debating with Dave over whether ‘knackered’ was ok to say in front of the kids. None of these are words I would accept in my classroom but are certainly far less offensive now than they were when we were kids.

I remember my Grandma being utterly horrified when me or Nic used the word ‘fart’ once, she told us it was ‘taboo’… I had to go and look up both words in the dictionary. I would have been about ten I think. Of course the word fart is now common place – just ask the Minions!

So, no I’m not teaching Ben to swear but I am going to make sure he has a good grasp of appropriate language.



  1. March 26, 2017 / 8:55 am

    I think this is really important, knowing what is and isn’t acceptable in different situations. I say knackered all the time – I don’t see that as a ‘bad’ word and yeah crap/arse on the radio/TV aren’t really good form – it’s just not professional more than anything else x

  2. March 28, 2017 / 8:40 pm

    I am very much a swearer but my kids know they can’t repeat it. That it is a not appropriate most of the time. I think I have handled it well as it is very rarely that i hear Chloe swear which considering she is 17 I am happy with.

  3. March 29, 2017 / 12:51 pm

    At 4 our son has been taught several swear words by a delightful friend of his. To say I am not amused is an understatement.

    • Colette
      March 29, 2017 / 12:56 pm

      Oh no! I must admit I think we’re lucky that Ben hasn’t learned more along the way. At the end of the day though we can’t protect them from these things forever and we have to teach them to make appropriate choices.

  4. April 1, 2017 / 9:34 am

    I think this is right. They have to learn about what they might and might not hear. I don’t swear much mainly at work and the kids know that it is not acceptable to use. But you do need to teach them before someone else does x

  5. June 24, 2017 / 8:37 am

    Thought provoking post! I’m still all so undecided about swearing. I’m a big swearer. I don’t think swear words are bad words. And if someone says they are a bad word and you ask them why, they only ever say ‘they just are’. Which is a piss poor justification really. Largely, it stems from religion and are largely words about sex or sex parts – and of course it coming from religion the female sex parts or connotations are the worst. As an atheist feminist, I’m clearly not going to allow old religion to hold much sway over me like that. So personally I don’t care if my kids swear to me. And I really like what you say about how them learning there is a time and a place is an important life and language lesson. That said, I appreciate that children swearing is very much frowned upon so if we do swear in front of the kids accidentally I tell them that Mammy/daddy used a grown up word because we were feeling angry and that’s not something they should repeat, especially to their friends or at school (or god forbid their grandparents)! Personally though, I’d rather my kid said shit then said something mean or hurtful to another child. We teach them that nothing is more important than being kind. I’m much more concerned about them saying words that convey a horrible meaning than words that are deemed horrible no matter how you use them ‘just because’.

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