All I’m gonna say about my evening at Patricia’s – I’m home now, it’s 11 pm – is that it was a cavalcade of cheese. Quite literally – some of the finest cheeses for sale in Vancouver were there.  Om nom nom.  To bed, alone, sigh.

Oh almost forgot Buy me a Beer must be reshot.  Now thinking caps of on-ish-ness are put.

Teaching the children to swear

Jeff says he likes it when I rant.  Not in person, of course, that’s yucky, but the written rants are okay.

Today I’d like to rant about teaching children to swear.

Now, in traditional child rearing, parents don’t swear and so…. children don’t swear.  If they do swear, they get paddled, or grounded, or whatever the traditional punishment method is.  Paul and I were not so much with the traditional child rearing, except those parts that are kinda apple pie, like getting them immunized and taking them to school and feeding, clothing and housing them adequately. But we did a lot of non traditional stuff, like nursing until they could talk and cosleeping.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, we both swear.  Paul is less pungent than I on most occasions, but he can certainly let out a beaut from time to time, and so, we had a dilemma.

The child rearing books frown most creasingly at hypocrisy on the part of parents.  We were essentially left with two options; scold the children for imitating us, or – and this was not an easy decision – TRAINING them how to swear.  On the face of it, this is nuts, but this is how it works.

About the time the kids start swearing – usually around four but you could probably profitably do it until the kid is about eight – you sit them down with all of the words, and you go through them all.  FIRST.  Do not assume that children know what the words mean.  Make sure they know.  This took almost an hour, because the kids got right into the swing of things, and also there were many side trips… kike, paki, chink and nigger took a long while to explain especially to kids who were in racially balanced daycare from the time they were tiny, and went to equally racially balanced schools.  SECOND.  Having defined the words, EXPLAIN WHY THEY HURT.  The blasphemy words hurt people who are religious, the bodily function words hurt people who are squeamish, the slurs hurt real people ‘Fag” being an example, even if partly recovered by Dan Savage – anyway, you get the idea.  You don’t tell kids that the words are bad, you tell them that they have varying effects on different people, and that some people would rather be slapped than listen to foul language.  THIRD.  You tell them – and this is really important – that there is not a single word on that list that they can’t say, in or out of context, at home.  You also give them a list of adults they may swear in front of.  In other words, you kinda sorta keep a secret – that there are people who know, and people who don’t know.  There are people on the inside, and people on the outside. There isn’t a four year old on the planet who isn’t familiar with this level of mild social hypocrisy but you’re also providing a safety valve in case the kids need to talk about something important with a family intimate – who isn’t you – thank you Jan and Soon and Catherine.  FOURTH  You give them the Canonical List of people NOT TO SWEAR IN FRONT OF.

  1. Grandparents, font of all prezzies.  Why?  Because when little kids swear, it’s not their fault, it’s the parents’ fault, and you don’t want the grands to think we’re bad parents, right?  I know you aren’t going to believe this, but this is precisely the kind of reasoning you can use on a child that age.  Then you casually mention the prezzies again.  Kids aren’t stupid.  Also, we mentioned older folks, as having a higher standard of behaviour than the rest of us.
  2. Babysitters and babysitters’ children.  Why?  Because babysitters can hire and fire us, and if we make life difficult for them or are ‘bad influences’ on their kids, out the door we will go.  Kids got that one in a real hurry.
  3. Schoolteachers and schoolmates.  Why?  It’s not worth the hassle.
  4. Anything in a uniform.  It can be a busdriver or an escalator repair mechanic, but if you get out of the habit of swearing in front of uniformed individuals, you will be in good shape later.

At the end of our dialogue – imagine keeping the attention of a four year old girl and a six year old boy for two hours, which we did, and many times Paul and I were blown away by the observational skills and emotional savvy both kids demonstrated that day  – the kids had a working knowledge of swearing and they didn’t break training until Katie was 11. After that I didn’t really care – nobody was expecting me & Paul to have ‘control’ over their behaviour at that point anyway.

YMMV. Blessed be!