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?


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