Thursday, January 19, 2012

When Your Toddler Says Bad Words: A Mom's Admission

Last night, on "Modern Family" (which aired on ABC), yet another controversial topic was brought up. Call it swearing, saying bad words, profanity, potty mouth...and it's not just controversial in the parenting realm, it's also a topic of argument in the television industry, too. Little adorable Lily on Modern Family pushed all of the limits last night when she dropped the (obviously bleeped) "f-bomb" on "Modern Family".

Prior to the airing of this episode of "Modern Family", the Parents Television Council  had already given the show ratings across the board that state boldly, "the show contains adult-oriented themes and dialog that may be inappropriate for youngsters". Their rating scale breaks television shows according to four categories: sex, language, violence, and overall, marking each category with color-coded ratings similar to a traffic light. "Modern Family" has earned a yellow for all four categories.

I'm sure that last night's airing didn't help much to improve the Parents Television Council's opinion about the show. Television-wise, the controversy is between the organizations who speak out to keep our television experience PG-rated and "safe" for children and the groups and individuals who protest that this type of censorship completely disregards our First Amendment rights.

The controversy for parents is whether or not children should be saying curse words at all and how to handle the behavior. Many parents are absolutely mortified when their toddler very clearly spouts a "naughty" word for the first time, and even more humiliated when they do it in front of other people...Needless to say, baffled by the fact that these little people actually figure out how to use the word, let's just say, "correctly" in a sentence!

So, are we so-called "bad parents" if our children drop the f-bomb or some other explicative that is obviously a no-no for our little angels' tongues? Are they destined to become criminals and live in the dredges of society if they start spewing no-no, potty mouth words at the young age of two? Are we terrible, no-good parents who, in public, will be recognized as a "bad parent" who doesn't properly discipline our children?

According to "experts", it's normal for our toddlers to start spurting out curse words around the age of two, when they are working hard to expand and hone their language skills. Timothy Jay, a psychologist at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts who studies psycholinguistics and obscenities, states that, "Kids say swear words as soon as they talk."

Recently, I have been stunned to hear a specific "bad word" coming out of my very own Kodi-Bear's mouth. He's even quick to say, "Mom, don't say b----, it's a bad word," completely out of the blue and keep repeating the sentence until he gets a reaction from someone. The word, alone, has become one of his favorite things to say lately. My first reaction was probably a bit different than other parent's reaction to their own children spouting this type of verbatim, due to the fact that I've been through this phase with six children already.

The first time he enlightened me that, "B---- is a bad word", I responded with a calm, "Yes, it's a bad word and we're not going to say it." Immediately, I had to turn around to hide the giggle that I couldn't help. (Yeah, whatever! You have to admit, it was kinda funny.) Where did he get this from and how in the WORLD did he know that it was a bad word??? (The answer will soon be revealed...)

Jay, along with colleagues, have created a list of "bad words", dating back to the 1970's, that day care workers, teachers and other people who work with children have reported hearing from the mouths of children. He says that children pick up quickly and mimic words that they hear, even if they don't understand what they mean.

Now, obviously, my precious two-year-old Kodi-Bear knows that the word is bad and that he shouldn't be saying it. And, most toddlers can "pick up" that these words are no-no's. They're trying new things, learning about their environment, and quite often, feeling out the waters to see what kind of reaction they will get.

There are a few different ways to handle your toddler when he (or, in the case of "Modern Family", she) says a no-no, naughty bad word:

1) You can punish them. (This is not necessarily my choice reaction, but many parents will take this route.) Most experts will agree that this is not the best way to respond, either. They say that, although the child knows that it's a bad word, they don't understand the concept of bad words like we do, as adults, and they're simply playing with their language skills.

2) You can acknowledge that the word is "bad" and they shouldn't be saying it. (Duh!) There are even books written for children like "Elbert's Bad Word" and "The Berenstain Bears and the Big Blooper" to help parents explain bad words on a child's level in a constructive, but fun way.

3) You can ignore the behavior. Let's just say that this has been my #1 choice, for the most part. Although, I will admit it's difficult to do this when you have seven children and the older childrens' reactions to my toddler's potty mouth is to either announce loudly that "Kodi said a bad wooooooooooooord!" or giggle and belly laugh about the ironic cuteness of it all.

But, ultimately, what we really need to be doing is cleaning up our own language. Right? Okay, maybe they heard the word from their older siblings or grandparent or day care, but in my house, that's not the case. I admit, I dropped the B-word that my two-year-old picked up. No, I shouldn't say the no-no naughty words, and, yes, I do have a better vocabulary than that, but I make mistakes.

So, Kodi-Bear was actually right when he said it, "Mom, don't say b-----, it's a bad word." We can learn a lot from our children!

I found a cute place on called Bad Word Bloopers where other parents have posted their bad word stories about their children.

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