Our plates were full. We had said the blessing, and our forks were busy. We were talking about our day, like we usually did around the dinner table, when my seven-year-old dropped an F-bomb in the middle of her sentence.
I swallowed my steamed broccoli without chewing.
The look on her face told me she knew she’d done something…questionable. “Hey sweetie, where’d you hear that word?”
As if she didn’t know!
I made myself say it as casually as possible.
She answered just as casually, “At school.”
Of course. (I could probably have guessed which child said it, but we won’t go into that here.) I glanced at our four-year-old, then back to the older child. “Do you know what it means?”
“Not really. Is it a bad word, like the s-word?” (By which, she meant stupid.)
Um, yes! We talked about the definition for a few minutes, treading lightly toward the level of detail her young mind needed. Then someone changed the subject—thankfully.
We could have shut her down, scolded her for saying such a terrible word, and refused to discuss it. But what good would that do? We would have created something dangerous, something worth trying again.
Instead, we demystified it. We made it not-a-big-deal by explaining the word and why we didn’t use it.
Before you start busting out Bible verses on me, let me assure you this is where we always end up:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. –Ephesians 4:29
That little girl is fifteen now. She’s learning to drive.
In the intervening eight years, we’ve had several other inappropriate and/or disgusting conversations at the dinner table, in the car, and on the couch. We’ll probably have more in the next few years, too. At least I hope we do.
Here’s why we chose to parent this way and what I want my kids to know.
- My children can ask me anything, and they won’t get in trouble for asking it. I want to be their source of information because I speak from a Christ-centered worldview in an unchristlike world. That’s means sometimes we say words I would never voice on my own and talk about topics I’d rather not discuss. They will discuss these things with someone. Better that it’s me than their peers or the internet.
- I was a kid/teenager once, too. I know all the filthy language, all the rude gestures, and most of the dirty jokes. They can’t shock or offend me. (Okay, sometimes these days, my oldest child explains slang terms to me. I’m okay with that.) Therefore, I’ve already made the choice not to talk this way, and I have good reasons, which I will gladly share.
- Language becomes offensive in how we use it, not in the combination of letters. The F-word, the B-word, and the S-word have a history. They actually meant something in the past, but our culture has corrupted them. Other aspects of culture are corrupted as well. We can step back and talk about those things with our children, recognizing what glorifies God and what doesn’t, or we can create barriers to their understanding.
In the end, whether it’s bad words or dirty jokes, our standard is biblical. When we (and our children) know why certain words are off-limits, we can all make better choices about the language we use. When we make good choices about language, we’re already making good choices about our thoughts, and we’re on our way to making good choices about our actions.
That time my 7y.o. dropped the F-bomb at our dinner table and what I’ve been doing ever since. #IntentionalParenting sometimes means delving into #offensivelanguage, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)
Have your kids even busted out a “bad word” at an inappropriate time? Most have. We’d love to hear/read your funny story! Don’t forget to include how you handled it.
Do you have any good advice on helping our children understand and control their language? Please share in the comments below.