Four Letter Words

Can we talk a moment about swearing / cursing / cussing / obscenities / vulgarities? (And be warned, this post contains some of the aforementioned, so feel free to leave now if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.) Lately Bowie’s taken a shining to it.

We thought we were so cool when he was younger, not really curbing our own swearing much around him, thinking we didn’t care if he swore or not.

Of course, he started to repeat a word or two, here and there. And we’d all laugh. Isn’t that funny, when he repeats our vulgar words? Hardy har har.

We curbed it a bit when he started preschool, for obvious reasons. And for a while he didn’t use those words at all.

Now, he’s 4. And he tends to have a hard time dealing with anger and frustration. I mean, don’t we all, especially when we are 4? But, because of his sensory issues, he goes from zero to COMPLETELY PISSED OFF OMG I HATE EVERYTHING in about 3 seconds.

And somewhere along the line, he learned that swear words have POWER. Swear words have GRAVITY. Swear words make people LOOK AT YOU IN HORROR. What better way to react to the injustices of preschooler-dom (like being denied a third cup of juice or being told not to throw toys) than to scream, “You shit mama!”

Still thinking we’re cool, we opt to try to teach a 4 year old that some words can be said at home, but only at home. Those words are not meant for school. Which he hears as, “Go ahead, say those words at school.” Which he has done. A fair number of times. And once he totally laid into one of the working dads, with a whole diatribe of inappropriate words.

SMACK. That was me, hitting my forehead with the palm of my hand.

Then yesterday at the park, he was playing with some kids we didn’t know, generally having an ok time. I was puppy-sitting for a friend, and we had the dog with us who was, well, being a puppy about all the other dogs that were around. I turned away from Bowie for like 5 seconds to calm the dog, and when I turned back, he was hitting, throwing sand and swearing his mother flipping head off.

The other parents looked and me in complete shock and horror. I wanted to bury myself in the sand and never come out. And I know it seems ridiculous, but the hitting and the throwing sand, at least that I can explain to them. At least it’s a fairly regular occurrence whenever a couple of kids get together.

But the swearing? This is not normal preschooler fare. And the (correct) assumption is that the child has been regularly exposed to those words. Worse yet, there’s the (incorrect, in our case) assumption that those words are being hurled at that child in a parent’s moment of anger or frustration.

Honestly, what do you do¬†when your 4 year old yells at the top of his lungs, “You shit fuck!” to another young child they’ve never met before, for accidentally bumping into him at the top of the slide? There is no manual for this, no parenting articles, no chapter in any of the What to Expect books. Because only horrible, awful, terrible, neglectful parents would make the mistake of allowing these words to enter their child’s vocabulary.

That’s how I feel lately. Like we have completely and utterly failed him in a big way, because this is going to be a huge hurdle for him as far as making friends, keeping friends and socializing like a normal kid. I know eventually it will work itself out, like the word “hate” did (oh if only I knew back then how much worse it would get). But, when? And how? I’ve even started allowing him to say “stupid” to people, which I totally hate, simply because it’s not a swear word!

Oh you guys. I don’t know if I’m looking for help here, or just someone to prop my emotions back up and tell me it’s going to be ok, and that he’s not the first kid to go through this. Please tell me you knew a kid like this, and you weren’t totally offended and judging those parents into the ground for it.


2 comments on “Four Letter Words

  1. If I heard “You shit fuck!” fly out of a four year old’s mouth I’d certainly be taken aback, but I’m not sure my first inclination would be to blame the parent/caretaker. I’d probably just assume that the child heard it and latched onto it. I don’t know.

    Have you talked to his teachers? What has their experience been with kids who swear? Because, I mean, Bowie is no way the first one to do it. He just can’t be.

    Please don’t worry about this.

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