From NPR: Why Kids Curse

Posted by Kendall Harmon

No one expects a 3-year-old who loves to dress like a princess to swear like a sailor.

But early exposure is not so uncommon. Who's to blame? Well, there's a pretty apt quote from a 1970 Pogo cartoon: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

The "us" are parents. A few weeks ago, I put a question out to hundreds of mothers on a local list-serv asking for anecdotes about the first time they heard their children use inappropriate words.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & Family

4 Comments
Posted March 28, 2008 at 7:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. dpchalk+ wrote:

Nothing cleaned up my vocabulary better than having a child. And now that they are teens I am even more cautious. The wonderful distinction made about respect vs etymological assumption was helpful. I also have taught my children that bodily functions, &c;., are not the same as abusing God’s Name. While consequences to the first are cultural, the other is eternal.

March 28, 8:46 am | [comment link]
2. Harvey wrote:

Here I go again to years past.  My sister and I were not allowed to use curse words.  After one or two times of learning the reason why we learned fast.  I also learned many nasty words in the Navy. But you did not use them as a personal reference to officers (deck court = lost liberty time).  And if by some memory loss you used an explicit term in implying that a shipmate of yours was a mentally incompetent son of a female canine you could be made to put on the gloves and defend yourself.

March 28, 12:16 pm | [comment link]
3. R. Eric Sawyer wrote:

I remember hearing my son use an unseemly term referencing a bodily function while in middle school.
I set him a paper to write.
The focus was that words are not mere sounds, but have specific, concrete meaning, and must be used appropriately. His fault was not that he used the word he did, but that he used it carelessly. His task was to list all possible words for that function, describing the different shades of meaning of each; tell how and when each would be appropriate and the likely meaning understood by the audience. Make some attempt at discovering the etymology of each term. We fought about that paper for many days, but he finally did something.
I think that destroyed the shock value of the word, without making it common. I never had to assign him another paper, he kept a clean vocabulary (at least around us!) and to this day is concerned about precise expression!
R. Eric Sawyer

March 28, 3:44 pm | [comment link]
4. CharlesB wrote:

Kids do what they hear, especialy from parents.  There was no profanity in my house when growing up.  The first profane word I heard was in the 2nd grade at school.  It was a pretty hilarious dinner that night, when I asked my dad what sh#t meant.  Now all they have to do is turn on the TV.

March 29, 11:01 am | [comment link]
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