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ASK RENE: SWEARING – AND A SEVEN YEAR OLD!

Hi Rene!

We recently had a large family gathering at a park. Many of the cousins were playing on the playground when one of the older kids spotted the dreaded f-bomb comprehensibly (shockingly!) etched on the swing set! My 7-year-old daughter, who now reads, mispronounced it but her cousin (thanks for nothin’) corrected her. Now she can’t let it go…and I am sick about it. She’s only 7!

I have been one to drop a bomb, but have refrained from doing so in front of the kids-miraculously. I know it may not be such a big deal but I am sick about it. My first born…my baby. I thought we had a few more years. She does NOT know what it means, and trying not to give it too much power, we have told her it’s one of those bad words we don’t ever talk about. She later asked if she could tell her friend and we said NO! So it’s taking up a portion of her brain. “Stupid”, “shut-up”, “dammit”, “sh…” I could handle, but the bomb has me riddled. What is the best way to handle this?


Hi Rene!


We recently had a large family gathering at a park. Many of the cousins were playing on the playground when one of the older kids spotted the dreaded f-bomb comprehensibly (shockingly!) etched on the swing set! My 7-year-old daughter, who now reads, mispronounced it but her cousin (thanks for nothin’) corrected her. Now she can’t let it go…and I am sick about it. She’s only 7!


I have been one to drop a bomb, but have refrained from doing so in front of the kids-miraculously. I know it may not be such a big deal but I am sick about it. My first born…my baby. I thought we had a few more years. She does NOT know what it means, and trying not to give it too much power, we have told her it’s one of those bad words we don’t ever talk about. She later asked if she could tell her friend and we said NO! So it’s taking up a portion of her brain. “Stupid”, “shut-up”, “dammit”, “sh…” I could handle, but the bomb has me riddled. What is the best way to handle this?

Thanks

Clarissa

Dear Clarisssa:

Okay deep breath here, we’re gonna get through this together J.

I know exactly how you feel, remember my story of Cole and the x-rated text?  I, too, thought he was too young to be dropping those words and that I had a little more time. But thanks to TV, friends, even helpful (ha) cousins, our kids are exposed to a lot, much of it sooner than we would like. The difference between Cole and your daughter is that Cole knew EXACTLY what the word was, what it meant and that it was bad. Not so for your girl.

There are a couple of ways you can go here. The first is to ignore it altogether. As I have said in this space before, the reason people do stuff is because they get a reaction from their behavior. If you didn’t flinch or bat an eye or even correct her when she started using the salty sailor talk, it would ultimately go away. But I can imagine that might be tough as she shouts the expletive over her Cheerios. Therefore I am going to recommend a different approach.

  • SIT DOWN AND EXPLAIN WHY THIS IS OFFENSIVE: As much as you don’t want to admit, the genie is out of the bottle and she ain’t going back in. The trick is to quash any curiosity she may have about it and in order to do that you have to be up front. I would say something like “this is a bad word used by adults ONLY. It is slang and it does not make you look good when you say it.” I’m not sure how much you have talked to her about sex but if it were me talking to my kids (and remember I have been talking to my kids about sex since forever) I would very directly explain that this was a bad word associated with sex and that it is completely unacceptable for them to use it.
  • EXPLAIN THE CONSEQUENCES OF USING THE WORD: After you have told her what the word is and why it is unacceptable, lay out a course of action. Identify what is your daughter’s most favorite thing in the world, her friends, toys, computer, TV time and then hold that over her head if she disobeys you and continues to drop F-bombs. Lay out a contract in writing, explaining the offense, what will happen if she breaches the contract and then both of you sign it. Give her a copy and place a copy on the refrigerator (yes everyone will see it but this is serious stuff and everyone needs to be aware. The public accountability might even help).
  • STICK TO YOUR GUNS: If you want this to be successful, you are definitely going to have to follow through. You daughter is only going to understand how serious this infraction is if you stay true to your word. This is a big deal to you; it needs to be a big deal to her as well. To that end, the punishment should incorporate enough pain or discomfort that she will remember it the next time she is tempted to launch into the playground profanity.

In the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t too big a deal. You are going to lay down the ground rules and she will follow. The bigger issue is for you is to understand that you are not a failure as a parent because your daughter was smart enough to sound out something she saw written on a playground. Our kids are going to see and hear a lot of things as they grow up; it’s imperative that we as parents provide the context.

Don’t worry, mommy, you’ll be great!  Good luck!

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5 Comments

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  2. Auntie Lisa

    October 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    If all else fails, I suggest the old-fashioned washing-the-kid’s-mouth-out-with-soap technique. (See “A Christmas Story” movie.) That’s if you already made it clear that using said language is unacceptable, and they do it anyway.

  3. M.E. Johnson

    October 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I’m sorry. I know this is serious to the writer but I couldn’t help flashing back (waaaay back) to when I was a kid. My mom said, “Don’t let me catch you doing that again!” As I tearfully said “Yes maam”, I was thinking: “Okaaay, I won’t let you catch me.”

    Auntie Lisa, you sound like you might know what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

  4. clarissa

    October 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Thank you Rene!!! And to clarify (I should have been more clear but my question was getting long!) She has never said the word outloud- it is just tatooed on her innocent little brain. This is so helpful!

  5. Rene Syler

    October 21, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    You’re welcome.. I know we mourn the loss of innocence 🙁 she’ll be great and yo will be too

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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