I cuss enough to make a sailor blush. So here are the rules I lay down about cussin’ with the kids at my house:
~ you do not own words, any words -whether foul or not- if you do not know how to pronounce them, know what they mean, and can’t correctly use them in a sentence. Having an Oxford English Dictionary (the biggie, not a dinky desk size) is really helpful in enforcing which words members of your household may own. This advice came in handy when the ePrince, at 4 years old, called me a bitch. He heard his grandmother (of the outlaws fame) calling me that word and decided that using it on me was a good idea. After I raced my hubby to get to the ePrince before he did (to lay down a good old fashioned butt-whoopin’ for being disrespectful), we all had a little chat about language and the meaning of words. Then we broke out the big ‘ole dictionary and looked up the meaning of “bitch” and the history of it’s usage. My little guy decided it didn’t really suit me all that well. At least in that moment. So we can all credit the evil outlaws (aka: the ex-inlaws) for the naming of this blog – because how else could I have taken back the word and cleverly co-opted the hostility directed at me to put to such good use?!
~ I am the only Bitch In the House at our domain and there will be no degrading women amongst the menfolk in my sanctuary – we respect women here. I have an advanced degree in the study of Women. I work very hard to teach my boys the necessary skill of respecting others – and not just women, but all kinds of Others. When the boys bring their friends around, the two rules we lay down here are that: a) Mama’s in charge, and b) we respect the Mama. When I say that there are no bitches and whores here, there are also no faggots or niggers or kikes or any other derogatory namecalling. I’d much rather hear “fucker” fall from a kid’s lips than just about any other slur. This makes me unpopular amongst the playdate crowd, but it is a strongly held belief I have in the power and meaning of words. “Fucker” really just means someone who fucks, and can’t we all sing ‘hallelujahs’ for the fine art of a good lay?; but the Othering of someone through namecalling is a skill in dehumanization and it is one I just cannot easily abide.
3) You get in trouble at school, you get in trouble at home. If you break the rules about language where someone else’s rules supersede mama’s, you are in trouble. At school ya gotta follow their rules.
~ Kids need to know that there are different rules in different venues. Appropriate deportment requires an internal flexibility and external understanding of the world. Nascar races require different skills than that of attending an opera. Providing all kinds of opportunities for kids to learn about the world also means allowing for all kinds of mistakes from kids – but if you are with them and guide them, they generally know what to do. Also, even where the rules are known, the enforcement of those rules have a wide latitude. In some parts of this fine state I can drive several miles over the speed limit without an officer of the law blinking an eye at me while in other parts I must drive exactly the speed limit or risk getting a ticket. There are all kinds of circumstances where rules are strictly enforced and where they are not. My kids have never been in trouble for using foul language in inappropriate settings and they are generally comfortable in a variety of circumstances precisely because we give ’em advance warning (when we can) about the code of conduct for the environment they are about to experience.
Overall, the general thought about language in our home also drives the philosophy about parenting too. Kids should have boundaries. Within the confines of boundaries, children should have opportunities to learn about the world and grow into responsible adults with those lessons. With the guidance of active/involved/communicative parenting, they should get to make mistakes and figure out natural consequences for their actions/words. This takes a lot of work on my part, it’s much easier to be the kind of parent who lays down the law and demand strict adherence without understanding, but I don’t think that will teach my kids to be flexible and open in new situations.