March 15, 2009

The Big Bad Word

Posted in Days of my life, Deep thoughts, Family life, Just thinking..., Mormon life, Parenting tagged , , , , , , at 9:38 PM by Robin

swear

An argument between Lily and Brianna yesterday over computer rights ended with a very distraught Lily pulling on Bri’s hair and saying,” Get out of that chair, you…you b@#$%! (expletive rhyming with a popular Halloween costume.)”  Andrew and I were both standing right there, and instantly we both looked at each other in surprise.

“Did she just say what I think she just said?” we asked each other almost at the same time. Yes, friends, our darling, sweet, innocent little four-year-old girl, had just mouthed a common obscenity.  Now, being a product of our somewhat liberal generation, I suppose, rather than being shocked and outraged, we both had a hard time not bursting out into laughter.  Not that we are trying to encourage our daughter to have a foul mouth, but it just sounds insanely funny to hear a little girl trying out her first swear word.  You could tell she knew that it was a bad name, but I’m sure she didn’t think it any worse than calling her sister an idiot or stupidhead or any of the other charming names my children like to call each other.

Of course, we immediately took her aside and told her that particular word was not a good thing to say and that she shouldn’t say it anymore.  We didn’t punish her or anything, because the concept of swear words is itself a new one for her.  I mean, this is my third verbal child and I know by now that they are just little parrots at this age. If my nine-year-old started spitting out obscenities, there would be a bit more a punishment involved, as he knows full well what words he isn’t supposed to say. My two older kids have of course said swear words before, but I really don’t remember either of them using one in context in that way (although I do remember babysitting one of the girls from my ward when she was about four and she went around the house one day for about two hours straight saying, “Damn you! Damn you!” over and over again. Another time I had a hard time not laughing).

The thing that is troubling about this incident, of course, is trying to figure out where Lily heard that word.  Andrew and I never swear in normal conversation, although a mild expletive has been known to escape both of our lips on rare occasions when we are frustrated.  But neither of us ever uses that word in that way.  I didn’t think we were letting Lily watch any adult shows that included such language, but it’s almost certain that she heard it from some TV show or movie at some time (unless her preschool teacher has a really nasty mouth).  I mention this incident not because I am worried about my children being verbally corrupted by watching TV, as I believe that they learn appropriate language from their parents’ example more than any other source, and even then, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think swearing is really high on the list of terrible sins, but because it really reminds me how even the most careful parent can’t completely protect their children from all negative wordly experiences.  It’s a little bit scary.

So, what it is a good parent to do?  Obviously, we can’t raise our children in a bubble. They will be exposed to negative influences, sooner or later, and inappropriate language is definitely not the worst of that sort of thing.  It c-young-soldiermakes me think that the best we can do is really teach and prepare our children to face the evils of the world.  Ignorance will not serve them well in the battle ahead.  If you are in a battle, you try to educate your soldiers about the enemy’s tactics and strategies.  Your armor is built to withstand the specific weapons of your opponent.  In the same way, as we put on the armor of God, we should educate our children about the most vulnerable areas that Satan will be aiming for, and how best to deflect those blows. We have to start young, because the enemy starts young.  It’s sad, but it’s true.

I wish I could raise my children in perfect innocence and not open their eyes to the evils of the world until they are more mature.  However, I don’t think this world will allow me that chance.  I am not afraid for them and the future they will face, but I do plan on preparing them and strengthening them for the battle ahead.   My kids are going to hear swear words, whether I want them to or not.  But I as a parent am the stronger influence on them, and my teachings and example are more likely to be what determines whether they will choose to follow the ways of the world or to rise above it.

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