When I was little, I mimicked a saying I overheard from my Dad about a tiger biting off somebody’s balls. The tiger-and-balls sentence happens to rhyme in Polish, which made it hilarious to both my Dad and me (we were at about the same maturity level). When I repeated it to my Grandpa, I expected hysterical laughter. Instead, he was aghast, and proceeded to express his strong views about the dangers of hippie childrearing.
Maybe I’m just getting too old for this, or maybe things have really gotten worse, because I’ve been aghast myself at some recent examples of foul language being directed at kids. First, there was the video of a swearing toddler in Omaha, Nebraska. In the video, a child still in diapers is both getting cursed at and encouraged to repeat cursewords and obscene phrases by the “adults” in his life. Then, Madonna got in hot water for using the n-word to refer to her son on Instagram (she claims this was a “term of endearment”).
Now, we’re definitely in apples and oranges territory here. Madonna’s use of the n-word obviously carries different racial connotations than the same word being used by the black family in the Nebraska video. On the other hand, the toddler in the video is younger and more vulnerable than Madonna’s teenage son. But I still come away from both situations with one thought–can we try to restrain our use of swearing and coarse language (not to mention racial slurs!) around our kids? Regardless of whether we’re a regular working family or a wealthy celebrity, let’s try to set a good example for our children, and raise them to be polite and classy people.
God help me–I’ve turned into my grandfather, and I’m okay with that.