Growing Indifference of Childhood Use of Profanity

As  a young child, if I said shut up to anyone, my mother’s hand would have went hard across my mouth.  In my immediate family culture, adults could say those words, but it was disrespectful and inappropriate for a child to use them. I can remember my mother telling me around kindergarten age that she better not ever hear me saying shut up to anyone.  I grew up in a household that if you responded with ‘what’ to your parents, that was considered disrespectful and I did receive that hand across my mouth on occasion.

During my years working in child care classrooms, preschoolers would come to me telling on another child for saying a bad word. Many times, that bad word was shut up.  Later on in my child care years, the preschoolers would tell on each other for saying a bad word and it was not shut up. It would be the “d” word, “sh” word or the ‘f’ word.  I have heard a preschooler call  a teacher a”f” ing “b” for not letting him be the first to choose  an activity.  I have worked in child cares that were predominantly black, Hispanic, and one that was interracial with a variety of other ethnicities; thus in my experience, the child use of profanity has spanned across races and ethnicities.

Automatically, parents get the blame for their child’s us of profanity. Some parents do admit that they curse and feel as an adult that it is their right while forbidding their children to say any curse words.  In some cases, it is not the parent using profanity, but  allowing the child to hear it from TV and music being played in the home. There is also the outer environment. Some children lived in neighborhoods where they hear profanity from people on their block and/or through paper-thin walls of next door neighbors. There are those who objected to young child use of profanity, but do not get too upset, because they feel the child does not understand what he/she is saying.

By the time I went into child care administration, I came across parents who thought it was cute that their child used profanity and did not get too upset about it. Now that is beyond appalling. It is bad enough that adults use profane language which is an indicator of a lacking vocabulary, especially  when it comes to the proper expression of emotional anger. Child use of profanity continues to deepen. Now, there is concern about toddlers cursing!

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