As a parent you need to pick your battles.
This was one I missed. Didn’t nip it in the bud quick enough. I lost control. I made a mistake.
A couple of rude words here and there. I told them to stop. It’s rude. I don’t want to hear that kind of language in my house. I didn’t persist…..insist.
Now our house is like a gangster movie.
“Yo muthafucka pass me the tomato sauce”
“You’re a bitch, when I catch you I’m gonna kill you”
“Fuck off that hurts”
This swearing is a regular thing between our 2 boys. 9 and 7.5 years old. It’s F-this and F-that. Bitch-this and bitch-that. Bloody-this and bloody-that.
What should I do?
Send them to their room? Ground them? Put them outside? Smack then? Remove the Ipod, Ipad, Xbox etc. Wash their mouth out with soap?
Well I’ve tried most of them. Except the soap.
It was my last resort.
I have asked others about their kids swearing. Most say they hear the occasional word. Some say they don’t care it’s only words. Others are taken aback when I tell them I’ve got a white Samuel L. Jackson in my house.
I ask how they stop it. Some say they just never tolerated it. Stamped it out from day one. Others say they never had the problem. Some put up with it.
Playing with matches. Forks in the power socket. Brother’s head being held under water in the bath. Jumping off the car roof. Stealing. Bullying. General thuggery and random acts of violence. That I stamped out immediately.
Swearing. Well it just didn’t seem that bad compared to the rest.
The problem is that fuck, shit and bloody are part of the everyday vernacular.
Australian drink drive ads finish with “Drink. Drive. You’re a bloody idiot.”
Triple M footy broadcasts have the slogan “Shut up, footy’s on the radio”
“Where the bloody hell are you” was Lara Bingles message in the Visit Australia international TV adverts.
Bill Maher recently dropped it on his show in America.
Ex-Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett let it slip on 3AW a few weeks ago.
Ed Sheeran didn’t realise he was saying it on the Jonathan Ross show a few days ago.
Sports players say it all the time. It is one of the few words you can see them mouthing on the pitch. You can’t hear but you know exactly what they said.
“Dad….he just said the F word”
Its impact is less now than it ever used to be.
I had to have a conversation with Max and Zak. I sat them down and tried to ration with them. I explained there is nothing impressive about swearing. It’s a sign of weakness. Anyone can swear. There is nothing cool or funny about it.
I thought I was being clever. I decided to try and take the sting out.
“Give me your best words” I say
I get a string of expletives – all in the same vein. Fuck off. Shit. Bloody. Motherfucking. And combinations of all 4. They are laughing so hard. Thinking this is the best thing in the world. Then all 3 of us are saying the words. Surely if we say it enough they will get bored and stop saying it.
The word cut through the air. Instant silence. You could hear a pin drop.
“Em…..what did you say?” I asked lifting my jaw from the floor
Zak looks puzzled. He hasn’t heard that one before.
Max repeats. He says it with a smile.
“That’s an interesting word. Where did you hear that one”.
“My friend told me.”
“Do you know what it means?”
So we have another conversation about the C-word. We talk about respecting others, hurting feelings, how words can impact people etc etc. I’m a new age dad I tell myself – everything is on the table. This can only be a good thing. We are making progress. Hiding nothing. It’s educational. They seem to be absorbing. Learning.
“Dad, say Fat China 10 times really fast.”
Max and Zak are once again on the floor laughing.
I finish by saying that I hope they now understand why I just don’t want to hear that kind of language in the house anymore.
I leave them. Impressed with myself.
I may as well have been talking to a brick wall. It got progressively worse.
Which brings us to the soap episode.
“Right that’s it” I say storming into the room right after one of them calls the other a “fucking bitch”
“The next person that swears is getting his mouth washed out with soap. Do. You. Understand?”
“Yes.” they both repeat. Cheeky little grins on their faces
“Right tell me what I said. Because when it happens I want you to know that I have warned you.”
In unison: “The next person that swears is getting his mouth washed with soap.”
10mins later I hear Zak say the F-word.
Here we go.
I calmly walk in. He realises what he has said. Covers his mouth and says, “Oh sorry. I’m really sorry I forgot”
I am stony cold. He knows it’s coming. I beckon him to the bathroom. I am scary calm. Like Hannibal Lecter.
“Oh no. Please dad. No. Please”
The crocodile tears flow. They are wasted on me.
“How many times do you need to be told? I even asked you to repeat the punishment to me.”
“I promise I will never do it again. Please dad. Please. I really promise.” He is begging
“Oh. It’s way too late for that.” I say dead pan with a hint of a welsh accent. A fresh bar of Imperial Leather in my hand. “Stick out your tongue”.
“No. Dad. Please. You can’t”
“What did you just call me?”
“I said I can’t”
“Oh……Stick your tongue out”
I want to make him chew through this till he starts foaming.
His mouth opens. His little pink tongue rolls out.
More tears. Sobbing.
I touch the end of the bar of soap to the tip of his tongue….I give it a little rub. Enough for a taste. I’m too soft to do any more than that.
You would be forgiven for thinking I had just made him drink his own urine.
His face screws up. He fake gags. Spits in the sink. Licks a hand towel to death and grimaces.
“Oh Dad” he whines
“That was fucking awful”