My Toddler Can Curse, But She Can't Tell Me to Shut Up


don't sayMy family was having dinner with a friend who is not a parent the other day. He was telling a funny story, we were all laughing, and as he gave the final bit of info, he said the S-word. He stopped and glanced at Kiddo. His hand immediately shot to his mouth covering it and began apologizing as if he had just dropped our pet gerbil by accident.

Both my husband and I said not to worry about it, she hears curse words more often than she should, but, as they say, s$#*% happens.

But, to tell you the truth, I really don't care if she says a bad word. Why? In our home, there are much worse words to say.

I don't go around dropping f-bombs as Kiddo and I talk about ballet class. If the need arises, we have the usual substitute: Bugger! Frak! Drat! Poopola! But, if my husband or I forget about the little ears that may be listening, we just don't make a big deal out of it. According to the experts, that is what we are supposed to do when one of us slips up or even if she repeats an expletive after we say it.

What is a big deal? We have two other words -- well, a word and a phrase -- that we think are much worse to say than the f-word: shut up and stupid. Those two are not allowed in our home. My husband and I had these rules in place long before Kiddo came along. We started teaching her this rule early. We don't even joke around or tease using those words, not with each other or with anybody.

Why? When you tell someone to shut up, it's a form of verbal abuse. No, not the worse abuse ever, but when you say "shut up" to someone, you are de-valuing what that person has to say, what her thought is, what her feelings are. When you call someone stupid, you are belittling her thoughts, you are attacking her capabilities. Saying, "You're stupid!" or "That was a stupid idea!" is hurtful, it is harmful, and the effect lingers in a person's memory way longer than a bad word.

Of course I don't want Kiddo talking as if she needs to be bleeped every third word. But those swear words only carry power when you give them power. Shut up and stupid do so much more damage than any curse word ever could. No question about it -- in our family, those are the worse f%&*@!? words you could say.

Do you think saying "shut up" is worse than swearing?

Image via renaissancechambara/Flickr

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I think that it is definitely important to teach kids to speak with respect, and that includes not using foul language that might offend people... but I do see your point that using abusive phrases is definitely not a good thing and an occasional "shit!" when a finger gets smashed is bound to happen.  lol

my2.5... my2.5boys

My kids are allowed to use any words they choose, so long as they are speaking with respect. Swear words do occasionally make their way out of their mouths, but it is rare. Like you, I am far more concerned with them being disrespectful with what they say, rather than the specific words they use. Shut up, and stupid are two of my biggest battles. My older son is constantly belittling his little brother with these phrases, and I just can't seem to get him to understand how hurtful they are. But we are working on it. 

emmas... emmasmama2007

Yes, DD picked up "shut up" from my brother. I've explained to her that it's a big nono, just like being disrespectful to adults, talking back, and screaming. She said it twice. I've accidentaly said Sh** or frick for the f word, but since her pronunciation is not 100%, I said frick and she actually said Fu@&, go figure. but she doesn't associate it w/anything, or as a "bad word". She hasn't said it since. 

Oh, and she picked up the word stupid from cinderella, so she hasn't watched it since. 

Speaking of which, this reminds me of when i was in like 6th grade and i had a friend who said "stupid" a lot, my mom did not like me hanging out with her because of it. 

nonmember avatar Anon

My kids are 4 and I'm not as worried about "shut up" and "stupid" as you are. I don't like "shut up" and I'll say "that's not nice," but I don't make a huge deal out of it. As for "stupid," their teacher has them so scared of the word, my daughter's eyes bug out in shock every time I say it. I don't use it as an insult, but it is a valid word for some purposes. "Some people do stupid things that they regret later." "I am feeling kinda stupid for making that mistake." The kids have heard F- a few times but they know it's not for them to repeat (and they know I only use it when I'm really upset - so they always ask for my reason, LOL). I think being respectful is not so much about words as about, well, respect. You know it when you see it. ... My kids love the soundtrack of West Side Story and there are a few things on it that aren't repeatable in school. I let them sing it along with the song but they know it's not OK for polite company.

Shanin22 Shanin22

There aren't any "bad" words in my house. I allow my children to say whatever words they want. The only word rules are to not say a few certain words like "damn" and "sh*t" at school or grandmas.... and to not use their words in a hurtful way against someone else (which includes telling someone to shut up). We really don't make a big deal about specific words and my children rarely use them (guess they lose their fun when you don't get a reaction). For me it's all about teaching them respect and in what situations it's respectful to not use certain words.

sodapple sodapple

They are equally bad in my home.

yayhe... yayheadstart

I have the exact same rules in my house! My friends think it is weird when by kids say damn, but get in trouble for saying shut up, but is a big issue of offensiveness and respect.

popta... poptart0325

My DD has said shit, ass and most recently piss. She's only two, she doesn't know they're not "appropriate" words. She hears my husband drop them every now and then. I am not going to freak out if my daughter curses, it's not the end of the world. We tell her that's a bad word and just because we say it doesn't mean she can.

popta... poptart0325

I meant my husband and I not just my husband. Haha.

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