"Bad" Words

One of my daughter's Auntie's has a new favorite story about her.  A couple of months back, The Nugget was spending the day with her Aunt Beth.  Apparently, they were watching Sponge Bob together when The Nugget had to excuse herself for a bathroom break.  Upon her return, she exclaimed, "Oh, shit!  Sponge Bob is over."

I admit it.  My two year old has a potty mouth.  She pretty much uses the words "shit" or "dammit" every day.  And I won't even try to say she learned it from day care or friends or some other outside force; it's from The Mister and me.  And, here's the thing: we don't care.

I've never been much for conformity.  I'm not sure why lots of different rules exist or why they need to apply to me or my family.  This whole concept of "bad" words is just another example of this.  I just can't get into the notion that there is really even such a thing as a "bad" word.  Words, I think, can be used badly.  Words can be used to hurt and cripple others.  Words can be used to draw lines in the world between people.  Words can push people to do terrible, inhuman things.  But the words themselves, they aren't bad.

It's a notion that, admittedly, is difficult to teach to a small child.  Perhaps it would be easier to create a category of words, as many parents do, which are off-limits for her to say.  We have chosen to approach the situation a bit differently.  I have explained to her that some people will not like it when she says "shit" or "dammit".  I have not told her she cannot say these things.  Instead, we have tried to focus on how words make people feel.  For instance, she has said, "shutup" before.  When that happened, I tried to explain to her how that is a hurtful thing to say and that we shouldn't use that word toward people we care about because it makes them feel bad.

We are invested in raising a good citizen of the world.  We want a daughter who is kind and thoughtful, who respects herself and others.  I think we can help her understand on a global level how to use words to express her beliefs and opinions without mowing down the beliefs, opinions or rights of others.  And I am confident that she can learn that saying, "dammit" when she drops her cup on the floor is significantly different than calling someone a cruel name.

I know the risks.  It is possible that I will be at someplace like the pediatrician or the museum and my child will yell out a word like "shit" and I will be embarrassed (I would).  Still, we prefer to take the educational approach to language and encourage her to use her words to express herself however she likes as long as it respects the boundaries of others.  And, yes, if she yelled it out loudly in a public place we would talk to her about how that is not appropriate because of the volume and that some people might not like it.  But I wouldn't tell her she couldn't say it.  I'd just ask her to say it a little more quietly, please.


  1. I like where you are going with this, but I have a question. What will you do when she gets in trouble at school for saying "bad" words?

  2. @ Bridget: well, we discuss even now the fact that some people don't like it when you say certain words. I'm not 100% sure that formal school is in her future yet, but, if it is, we will discuss this even more and no doubt she will do some experiential learning on this matter:)

  3. I hope this doesn't offend you but I giggled when I read the thing about Spongebob.

    I'll admit, I bet I would melt the first time I heard it. *hangs head*

  4. What an interesting perspective. I like the concept that words can hurt, not that they have intrinsic good or bad traits. It's definitely true.

  5. @ Kayla - nope, I think it's pretty funny sometimes too!

    @ Natalie - thanks. I try hard to take an educational approach when I can. It's not always the easier route, but we like it best.


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