Handing Your Kid the F-Bomb

bush_finger_flipBaxter’s moving on to what I think of as “big kid” topics lately.

For one thing, the third graders have spring fever and love is certainly in the air.  I hear the kids talking about who they like in the car pool and watch them flirt like crazy on the playground after school.  The boys capture the girls, they spy on each other, and generally show off, making crazy fools of themselves.  I have heard of at least three girls who have crushes on my bespectacled boy, but he’s not spilling the beans yet on himself.

Tonight he discovered a section on “girl advice” in his Dangerous Book for Boys.  He pointed this out to Matt gleefully, but hasn’t cracked that chapter open yet; he’s too busy reading the section on how to train your dog, because I guess he figures that maybe he’ll get to do that next year and the girl stuff is a little farther off.  Or maybe he’s anal retentive and has to read the book in order.  That’s actually more likely.

When I laid down next to him at bedtime tonight, he said with a grin, “I wonder if there’s ‘boy advice’ in the Daring Book for Girls?”  I reminded him that I was once a girl, so he has a live one he can ask if he has any questions, and of course Matt had just said the same thing upstairs, save the part about having been a girl.  He wasn’t, you know.  Really, I swear.  My husband was not a girl.  Not that it would be a problem for me if he was, you know.  Dammit, this is how rumors get started. I can’t believe you’re keeping after me like this.

Apparently, telling him that his father was once a girl I’d answer any questions about anything at all opened the door once again for him to ask, “What’s the f-word?”


Those of you unlucky enough to follow my random insanity on Facebook and/or Twitter know that Baxter brought this up a few weeks ago and I put him off until a time when his little brother wasn’t around; he seemed to forget and I did a little whirling, twirling dance of relief.  But, no.  This time he was more persistent.  He also wants to know what the “a-word” and the “h-word” is (and what is the h-word?  hell? ho? someone help me out here), and insists that he’s the only one in his class who doesn’t know how to cuss like a sailor and that he essentially looks like a blithering idiot when kids refer to them and he finds himself saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and then looks around and thinks he’s the only one who doesn’t get it.  Which cannot possibly be true, but I do feel his pain, having been a dork myself.  (Like how I slipped in the past tense there?)  I can’t trick him on this, he’s too old and he knows they are words not already in his vocabulary.

Matt is insistent that one’s education about these words ought not come from one’s parents.  But quite honestly, I struggle with this because weren’t we the ones who just said he could ask us anything at all?  At the same time, I’m not all that keen on sitting him down and rattling off words I don’t want him using.  I’m considering writing them down for him; somehow I think I can handle that.  I think when it comes down to it, he’s such a good kid that he’ll know better than to use foul language like his mother does – he does seem to get the point that it’s pretty out-of-bounds.

So, okay, Interwebs, here’s the thing: I told him we’d think about it and get back to him tomorrow.  And by “we”, I meant you all.  Discuss!


13 responses to “Handing Your Kid the F-Bomb

  1. Well, first of all, TH has probably actually heard me say that. He is like his father and naturally recoils from “bad” words, so he himself does not repeat such language. If he were to ask me what the f-word is, I’d tell him that it’s a word he’s not allowed to use until he’s 21 (I always say things like that, kidding–maybe), so he doesn’t need to really know it. Any other word–the s word, a word, whatever–I’d just tell him. But with a kid like yours or mine, how do you say what the f-word is and then deal with the inevitable follow-up question? That’s where I’d get stuck. I could say, “It’s just a really ugly word that people say when they’re pissed off–oops, sorry–mad about something, and you shouldn’t say it,” but he’d very likely ask me what it means. And I’m not about to introduce my son to the idea of sex or sexual reproduction using the word “fuck.” I don’t really use it that way, but that’s really what it means, so I ain’t going there.

    If some kid wants to explain to TH what the f-word is, or even what the f-word means, I can’t really stop that. But I shan’t be the conduit making that link. So, I guess, in a way, Matt is right on that. But I also say that if you respond, “It’s a word that no child your age should use or understand,” that’s answering his question.

  2. oh gee. see I don’t know. I’m a bad parent who says those words and whose kid just has to accept those are adult words…. IE my 10 yr old knows what they are and doesn’t say them…. and my 3 yr old stopped after we stopped sniggering every time she did… though it was usu the s word she said the most… the 6 yr old? well he doesn’t talk, so, if a curse word came out of his mouth we’d all be jumping for joy to tell you the truth…

    I’d maybe explain that those are disrespectful words. I doubt that his other friends know the original meaning of them but depending on how much their parents don’t shelter them, it’s quite possible they’ve heard them.

    and as far as I know the h word is hell. at least that’s what it was when I was little. but ho is another word people shouldn’t be saying…

  3. Just read Emily’s comment. I really don’t think you have to explain the original meaning… especially since really, it doesn’t mean that anymore out of context. and I doubt the kids at school are referring to it in that context. at least I know the 8 yr olds at my daughter’s school wouldn’t be…

    Actually in a linguistics course I took the F word was one of the only meaningless syllables in the English language that could be added to words like fanfingtastic. and the instructor demonstrated how we knew exactly where it went no matter what the word. wish I remembered what the term for it was. You tell the kid it’s disrespectful, because people take offense at it. end of story. People are offended by a lot of things that don’t make sense, and not everything has to have a reason. Kids can learn that just fine.

  4. oh, and writing down’s a good idea, I think.

  5. Thanks, Emily and Navi, this is helpful. I would agree that I’d get a little stuck on the meaning, but I like Navi’s suggestion about that.

    I forgot to say that when he complained that “everybody” knows all those words except him, I made the point that this is very unlikely but I also said that a lot of kids are watching adult movies and shows that Matt and I feel are inappropriate for 3rd graders and that’s where they learn the words. I was surprised to see that this helped or at least it’s when he gave up.

    And you are NOT a bad parent, Navi…I had almost 20 years of experience working with other people’s kids before I had my own so I was already in the long-standing habit of curbing my language in front of kids. What I say when they’re not around is another story.

  6. I would be okay with telling — well, like you, writing — the F word and explaining its common use as a curse (as in “F you” or “f-ing ___”. I would tell him that there are other meanings of the word (i.e. the sexual ones), but that you do not think he is old enough for that yet. And like others have said, I would emphasize that (a) it is a word that often offends and hurts people, and (b) it is a word used by adults that should not be used by children.

    It’s a matter of answering his question in an age-appropriate way. And for me it is the same as sex, drugs, and anything else that parents are typically uncomfortable talking to their kids about. Even though it may seem icky to be the source of their knowledge, ultimately wouldn’t you rather know that you at least got in that one, good explanation before their peers teach them all the rest of it? <— I would.

  7. I recommend just waiting until July, at which time Iris will inform him of anything he wishes to know.

    Sigh. This is why we have to homeschool.

  8. I’m guessing the questionable “h” word actually begins with a “wh” and refers to a woman of certain indescretions. But it’s just a guess.

    And as for telling him the “f” word, I think I’d just say it and say that it’s not a nice word and it’s disrespectful and people get offended by it and it’s insulting, etc.

    When he asks what it means, I’d fudge a bit here and say it means that someone is very very very angry and upset, but that they aren’t handling that anger in a good way. I’d stress it is NEVER okay to say it and that if he hears a kid say it, he should just walk away.

    That’s what I’d do. I think.

  9. Yikes, Jordan. I talked about this with Michael last night, and we also agreed that we would fumble over the the definition and where THAT set of questions would lead. We sort of came down on the “guess we would do it age-appropriately” – pretty much what Quirky Mom says above.

    BUT Daniel caught me saying “Damn it!!” ONE TIME, and now I catch him saying it when he “messes up” on the Wii. He knows it is not approprite, but I think he feels the same way about it as I do: oh, what a satisfying way of expressing yourself!! 🙂 So we are working on that (both of us!). I think if he started throwing the f-bomb around I would faint. Guess I better pad my house when he becomes a teen, right?

    I guess I would try to do what Quirky Mom suggested if I were in your shoes. But this is a tough one!

    Ugh! Sorry – not too helpful, I know.

  10. Can I just say that I love you for writing about this and sharing ideas? And then, I better bookmark this for when it comes up here. I like Kristen’s answer the best, unless he already knows what “sex” means, then you could say it is a really nasty word for “sex” but that it is mostly used as a really mean way to say someone is “stupid” or some other bad term.

    But then, I think I suck at this. Just the other day, Scott asked, “how exactly does the baby get out of the mommy’s belly?” and I weaseled out by saying, “well, I had a c-section, so you guys came out through a cut in my belly.”

  11. So I guess I feel like I’d just tell him what the word is. Or write it… ’cause, yeah, you did tell him to ask you anything, and he’s 8 and I’m not sure that I really would want his education about anything *limited* to his peers, though I understand wanting to not just hand him these powerful offensive tools. (and get calls from school when he says, “but my mom taught me…”) But Bax is a thoughtful fellow, and it seems like he would be receptive to the nuances of how language is used, by whom, to what end, and with what result. (I remember the conversation you had with him when the b-word showed up on his personal spelling list, was that last year?). The sticky wicket with the f-word is, of course, that it can simply mean SEX and that topic leads to hard conversations. But often it’s just a nasty word for stupid, as pointed out by some of the above. No matter what, I’m glad that we aren’t at the point where this conversation will come up yet – and doubly glad that you are sharing your thinking before we have to tackle it.

  12. I see that others have left you thoughtful suggestions on things to tell your children. So instead, I’ll give you this: send him on over to my house for a week, and I’ll teach him all about the bad words. Or you can read what I wrote on DC Metro Moms about it: http://svmomblog.typepad.com/dc_metro_moms/2009/03/why-i-curse-in-front-of-my-kids.html

    And now you’re going to think that I’m the worst parent in the world. But I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this post. Hilarious.

    Plus, tell your husband that it’s okay that he used to be a girl. We still accept and love him just the same.

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