I swear by it

Pas devant les enfants, as they say in France. Merde, as they also say in France. Yes, today’s topic is swearing in front of the children. We’ve all done it.

A colleague today said that her son repeated her “shit!” the other day when she let that slip, but of course he never repeats anything his father says. E, on the other hand, won’t often hear her father swear but happily repeated my curses at the back gate that had stuck in the rain the other day. “Fuck’s sake!” she repeated cheerfully. Oh dear.

In my defence, it was raining, I had to put her down, struck my shoulder on the pushchair as I did so and needed two hands to wrench the gate open in order for us to leave. We’re always in a hurry in the mornings.

She’s still perhaps a little too young to know what she should and shouldn’t be saying but I reckon it’s only a short amount of time before she knows exactly the difference between the good and bad things to say. So I need to rein in my language. I do try. I’m quite good most of the time.

The other thing is that of course right now we can get away with laughing this off. In a few year’s time I could be called into school to discuss E being a bad influence by swearing in the playground. How do you discourage children from swearing? Surely ignoring them is only going to get you so far.

I realise that swearing is more common these days – in media, in the street – than it used to be. Yet I do still feel that it isn’t old fashioned to ask that children don’t do it, or realise that they could cause offence. There are situations when there’s nothing for it than a loud “FUCK!” but the rest of the time you can, if you try, give it a bit of thought before speaking. I had a manager once who only swore in the presence of senior staff at manager’s meetings – I always assumed it was to try and make him feel more secure and in authority. Completely unnecessary.

So I guess for now the only thing to do is to rein in my curses, and sit E down when she does start saying these words and telling her that she shouldn’t give free voice to them either. Without sounding like a boring prude.

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