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.