How much swearing is too much in front of your kids?

 

How much do you swear in front of your kids? Actually, don't even bother answering because I know you're an expletive-laden liar if you say not much.

Sure, you're probably not dropping f-bombs with reckless abandon, but what about all of the incidental swearing you do around the house and in the car?

Like when someone cuts you off in the school drop off zone. Or when you're putting together a flatpack storage cube and the first thing you do is put your screwdriver through the plywood. (That definitely didn't happen to me last weekend and, even if it did, the swearing didn't count because the reaction was purely visceral.)

Children come into this world, believing that all swear words are sins. Still, even they can tell the difference between a parent's reactive swearing and swearing for the sheer joy of it. One is expressive and often not deliberate. The other is irresponsible and flamboyant.

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In our house, the kids barely flinch when Mummy and Daddy "use creative language" to "express spontaneous deep-seated emotions".

But the other day, when I dropped a purposeful f-bomb in our house, it caused quite the stir.

You’re probably not dropping f-bombs with reckless abandon, but what about all of the incidental swearing you do around the house and in the car. Picture: iStock
You’re probably not dropping f-bombs with reckless abandon, but what about all of the incidental swearing you do around the house and in the car. Picture: iStock

It happened when one of our daughters asked for a different dinner to the one I had just finished cooking - using fresh ingredients sourced from a Sunday farmer's market - at her request.

I don't know what came over me, but I blurted out, "Make your own fakakta dinner" - that's Yiddish for the word I'm not allowed to say.

You could see the colour drain from her face.

I felt bad about it for a second, but then I remembered that everything in life is a lesson, and perhaps the lesson here is teaching your kids that swearing is sometimes OK, especially when someone won't eat the meal you've just lovingly prepared for them.

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Think about how much swearing you do on an average day.

I work in media, so I'd guess my cussing quota is a lot higher than someone who works at the local church and slightly lower than someone that works on a building site. And for whatever reason, I've always enjoyed it. I have a distinct memory of my wonderful mum washing my mouth out with soap when I was a 10-year-old after I cussed her out.

Did it stop me sweating around her? Bloody oath. In the schoolyard? Nah. In adulthood? What do you bloody well think?

No one wants their kid to carpet f-bomb the kindergarten, but making a massive deal out of swearing can often have the opposite effect of what you’re hoping for. Picture: iStock
No one wants their kid to carpet f-bomb the kindergarten, but making a massive deal out of swearing can often have the opposite effect of what you’re hoping for. Picture: iStock

No one wants their kid to carpet f-bomb the kindergarten playground like Selina Meyer from Veep, but making a massive deal out of swearing in your house can often have the opposite effect of what you're hoping for.

What my mum didn't realise is that by making it a naughty thing to do, she turned it into something seriously cool.

Remember that kid from school who was banned from eating Maccas and how they'd gorge themselves on McNuggets at the birthday parties because they were never sure when their next hit was coming? That's what swearing is like.

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I'm not saying you should become one of those free-range parents that allow their kids to smoke pot "as long as it's in this house and we do it as a family", but normalising swearing could weirdly make your children swear less.

Because for better or worse, we live in a culture where colourful language is ingrained - from rap music to the footy, to the way everyday Aussies converse with each other daily on the street.

@darren_levin