Why We Let Our Kids Cuss at the Dinner Table

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?”

“What 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Memorable Mealtimes (guest post)

I’m proud to welcome Meredith Mills to Intentional Parenting today! She has 
some great ideas to help us maintain and/or improve our family mealtime. 
You can read more about Meredith and get in touch with her at the bottom of 
this post.

“I’m glad we eat together as a family,” said my pre-teen daughter as she served up a second helping. Her comment warmed my heart. I, too, love our shared moments around the table.

Sometimes they’re rushed as we squeeze in a meal before Wednesday night AWANA or some other obligation. But most often, our dinners are times of sweet fellowship as we experience life together.

Mealtimes provide a regular opportunity for us to touch base and talk about what’s going on in our everyday lives. Relationships blossom as we listen to each other’s hearts and respond with acceptance and love.

As parents, we equip ourselves to provide protection for our kids when we discuss interactions with friends, observe attitudes, and listen to what’s important to them.

Here are some practical tips for creating memorable mealtimes:

  • Unplug

We are less distracted and more people-focused when our devices are turned off or stowed away from the table. Our family has a designated “phone basket” for use during meals.

  • Keep it relaxed

Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance around the dinner table. This is a fabulous time to discuss issues important to our family and model respect as each person explains his or her opinion. When God’s Word and His grace are central, these discussions can build up the faith of those gathered there.

  • Facilitate conversation

The internet abounds with “conversation starters” – questions we can ask to get the proverbial ball rolling. (We recently bought a pack of napkins which had discussion questions printed on each napkin!) The best questions require more than yes or no answers. They probe deeply into hearts, souls and imaginations; they strengthen the friendships we share.

  • Make room for fun

Our kids love to tell their newest jokes and riddles during dinner. Sometimes we also craft impromptu stories around the table. One person starts out the story and sets the scene, then “passes the baton” to the next person, who adds his or her own ideas to the plot. It’s our family’s version of a choose-your-own adventure story.

  • Model healthy habits

From portion control and eating our veggies, to providing an example of good listening skills, mealtimes enable us to model habits our kids need to lead healthy lives.

  • Find your own rhythm

For many families, busy evening schedules prevent daily dinners at home. However, this doesn’t make meals together impossible. Through prayer and some creativity, each of us can find a routine that works for our family. Here are some ideas to think through:

  1. Is it possible to shift dinner to later in the evening, allowing everyone time to get home?
  2. Could you pick one night of the week as “family dinner night” and protect it like any other appointment on your calendar?
  3. What about Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch together?

Prioritizing mealtime togetherness is a priceless gift we can give to our families. It takes intentionality, wisdom, and creativity, as well as some boundary-setting with our schedules, but the benefits certainly outweigh the effort.

How do you make room for family meals? What’s your favorite activity around the table? Please share some “best practices” in the comments below. We’d all love to hear from you.

Prioritizing family #mealtimes may take a little work, but it’s worth it! Some #IntentionalParenting tips via @DazzledByTheSon and @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

IP - Meredith Mills headshot

Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs at www.DazzledByTheSon.wordpress.com. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and/or Twitter.

 

 

 

Parenting Advice from the Other Side (guest post)

I relish the chance to get good parenting advice from someone a little ahead
of me on the parenting road, and these thoughts from my writer-friend, Kim, 
are right-on. If you're entering the teen years, write them down somewhere 
prominent so you can benefit from Kim's wisdom! (More about her at the end.)

“You better enjoy them while you can. They grow up too fast.”

“Yeah, right,” I thought to myself as I balanced my baby girl on my hip while I tried to wrangle my 2-year-old son. I knew the older women at my church meant well, but my sleep-deprived, potty-training, diaper-changing, laundry folding self didn’t get it. But, they were right. Boy, were they right.

Fast forward about 14 years. That is when the mourning began. Not true mourning but the mourning of the swift passing of time, the end of childhood. My son, my firstborn was in his sophomore year of high school. Conversations turned to graduation and colleges and what he really wanted to be when he grew up. I remember walking down the street one evening weeping. “God, where did the time go? How in the world did it go by so fast?” I knew how quickly the previous years had flown and that made me keenly aware that these last three years in high school, at home, would be no different.

So yes, time does fly and those sweet babies do grow up and leave the nest – sometimes before you’re ready.

I am like most of you reading this blog. We do the best we can in raising our kids. I am by no means an expert in parenting. My only credentials are that I, along with my husband, raised two independent, responsible, well-adjusted young adults. They aren’t perfect but then, who is?

I’ll share with you two things that worked for us and two things I wish I could go back and do over.

Things that worked

Be Authentic

This is true for any age child but it becomes crucial for teenagers. What they see is stronger than what you say. If you want your teens to be in church, you go to church. If you don’t want them to drink alcohol, you don’t drink it. If you want them to have integrity, you live with integrity. There is no guarantee that your teen will turn out the way you intended but when you combine a good example with a lot of prayer, it is more likely than not.

Be That House

Welcome your teen’s friends into your home. Be the hangout. It will be messy and loud and your grocery bill may be a little higher, especially if you have boys, but it will be worth it. We opened our home for everything from church youth group events to impromptu sleepovers. My daughter and her friends got ready for homecomings and proms at our house. When you welcome their friends into your home, you learn a lot about your kids. I still look forward to visits from their high school friends when my son and daughter come back home for the holidays.

Parenting advice from the other side: “Be that house, the one where all the kids hang out.”  (click to tweet)

Things I would change

Establish Good Communication

This became more of an issue when my son went away to college. We would talk every week or so but I soon discovered he would have more to say if he initiated the conversation than if we called him. Now that he is out of college and working full time, I find that we don’t talk as much as I would like. I realize it is partially because he is busy with his job but I miss hearing about his day to day life. In retrospect, I would have asked him to call home once a week in the hope that it would help establish the habit of regular communication. I will say, with boys there comes a time when they will have more to talk about with their dads than their moms.

Give Them Some Space

You have to find the right balance of involvement with your teens. My husband and I both volunteered in youth ministry in our church when our kids were in middle school and high school. We enjoyed working with youth and for the most part our kids did not mind us being involved. However, I made the mistake of being my daughter’s Sunday school teacher for too many years. At the time, the youth minister had the leaders move up with their groups from year to year. It was not so bad when she was in middle school but I probably should have stepped down after that. I was sad to learn, years later, that my daughter resented my over involvement. I wish I had had the insight to give her the space she needed.

Parenting advice from the other side: “Give your kids space to be themselves.” (click to tweet)

I hope this encourages you. Enjoy your teen – they really do grow up fast! Many thanks to Carole for inviting me to write this guest blog. If you are getting close to the empty nest, check out my blog: Feathering My Empty Nest.

Kim Wilbanks-headshotKim is a wife and a mother of two adult children who have flown the coop and left her with an almost empty nest. Her “baby” is a comical Welsh Corgi named Sir Higgins. A native Floridian, she enjoys frequent trips to the beach. Kim stays busy as a MOPS mentor mom, in Women’s Bible studies and writing a blog called Feathering My Empty Nest! Reading, traveling and crafting are favorite pastimes. Most importantly, Kim is a follower of Christ and a passionate student of God’s word. Follow Kim on twitter.