Snot. Barf. Butt. These words were not used in the house where I grew up. They were crude words, and Mom was sure her children could rise above the level of their use.
Other words were banned: idiot, stupid, and dumb. No matter how mad I got at my sister, the highest caliber zinger I could throw at her was goofball.
As Christian adults, most of us have self-imposed limitations on the words we use. We resist using those words not only when children are present but also in our adults-only conversations.
Parents who use crude language when they believe their children aren’t listening need to know this: Children are always listening.
Children are listening because they test their parents to determine whether or not a word or phrase is off limits for them. Children hear friends and television characters use words they suspect, but are not certain, may be on their family’s banned-words list. As soon as children hear those words come from their parents’ mouths, they feel licensed to use the words too.
Your list of banned words may differ from mine, but surely all of us strictly avoid using some words. You know what they are.
In addition, I restrict myself from using holy names (God, Jesus) irreverently. This means, of course, I do not swear. It also means I don’t use those words when I bump my head or get cut off in traffic. I don’t use them to express shock or fear or amazement. I don’t use the acronym OMG in emails or texts. Because God and Jesus are holy, I limit myself to using their names only within holy contexts and when I pray.
I don’t use cruel words to denigrate people: Stupid, idiot, and loser. Added to this list of banned words are phrases like dumber than a box of rocks or uglier than a mud fence. Everyone knows words hurt.
Parents should teach their children acceptable words to use when referring to using the bathroom, having a runny nose, vomiting, etc. I won’t presume to tell you precisely what those words should be. I will tell you, though, you will do well to establish those terms yourself. Otherwise, your child will pick up the words used by daycare friends or cartoon characters, and those words may not be to your liking.
Do you know why I don’t use holy names irreverently and why crude language is not part of my vocabulary? Because some sixty years ago, godly parents made certain my language was in line with their standards. Those standards have served me well. Thus, I have never considered changing them.
Make sure you have established guidelines to govern your own speech. Then pass along those guidelines to your children. Remember: You will eventually hear your words coming out of your children’s mouths.