An Open Letter to Scarymommy

Our words matter, and there is no good excuse for using profanity around youngsters.

Scarymommy, your name suits the article you wrote:

5 Reasons I Don't Give a Eff About Swearing in Front of My Kids

It grieves me that you have put your perspective out there on 5 reasons why you “Don’t give an Eff about Swearing in Front of My Kids.”You are encouraging parents to speak unrestrained and without discernment in front of their kids. This kind of behavior was the topic of conversation between two other moms and myself as we discussed how the actions of other parents so deeply impact their children and in turn, others, and society.  Here I share a snippet of our dialogue that day. One is a teacher at an elementary school.

"He did what?" we asked in unison, our mouths gaping.
"He flipped me off and then proceeded to cuss me out, it was really shocking and disturbing" she replied.
"Did his parents do anything, are they aware?" I asked.
"Oh yes, his dad just stood there while he called me a 'bitch'" she said sadly.

She was telling us of a little boy who is in first grade, who was called off the playground for flipping off other children. When corrected, he snapped and began a cussing rampage. A first grader!

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My friend went on to say the father of this child deferred responsibility for his child's actions feigning cluelessness.

As this conversation was happening, I was thinking on your article and how you give five reason for permission to use profanity in front of your children, and probably also, in front of children who are not yours. It made me cringe.

ScaryMommy, your first reason for giving yourself permission to use profanity is that you are an adult. You say it is a true benefit to say whatever you want. I would put forth that MOST people say whatever they want and the mark of true maturity is in calculated words of discernment. Even "Dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart." -The Message. You may not be grounded, or put in a time-out for cussing, but there are consequences none-the-less.  Consequences that may even show up on an elementary school playground.

“Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless…”

- Oscar Wilde

Your second reason: they are kids. Children are the great mimickers of society. They are not stupid, the whole concept of “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work on them, they can smell hypocrisy a mile away. And yet, as they are still children they mimic without fully realizing all they do. “Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless…” Oscar Wilde. In cussing in front of your child you are indirectly giving them permission to use the same cruel words on others. For they will repeat what you say.

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I do agree to an extent with your third reason, that babytalk is over done! One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of helping them learn to communicate their needs and wants affectively. My husband and I do that by using adult language, i.e. we would call his bottle a “bottle” and not a “ba-ba.” But, where is the correlation between babytalk and cursing? Your perspective is that instead of telling your eight year old that he is acting like a little "doodie" you would prefer to ask him to stop being a "little shit." Are these the words that you want to resonate inside of him as he begins to define himself?

Your fourth and fifth reasons for cursing in front of a young audience seem related. I know full well the challenges that come with this territory, cursing in front of or at my children, because "life is hard" and your selfishness is being confronted are not a good enough reasons to use profanity. Rudyard Kipling said that “words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. Not only do words infect, egotize, narcotize, and paralyze, but they enter into and colour the minutest cells of the brain..." in short, your "big girl" words do not simply affect you, but they affect deeply the souls of all those around you. Words matter.

So when a child is cussing out his teacher and calling her a "bitch", is he just being real and should be praised for his pragmatic maturity, or is he planting the seeds for a path of self-destruction filled with broken relationships, victim thinking, and an inability to control himself? 

Scarymommy, your feelings matter, and so do your words. There is a time and a place for profanity and strong language. And yes, you can express your feelings with all the explicates you want, in the right setting and in the right context. But, you are an adult. Not a teenager, not a tween, not a child, an adult. And that means you have responsibility to the ones under your care, and to society as a whole.  You have an opportunity to give your child incredible life tools by demonstrating discretion, discernment, wisdom, and self-restraint, while being very real at the same time.

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Your actions reflect a deeper set of beliefs about life. Ultimately, we will disrespect our children and ourselves until we confront our self-centeredness and come to grips with the simple fact that we will struggle in life.

This is what parenting does, if we allow it. It will refine us as it brutally exposes our deep lack and shortcomings. And we as moms can either rage against the war on self-centeredness or we can lean into the fire and be transformed. If we lean in, our children who are watching, also will learn how to deal with life’s difficulties in a healthy way. But if we rage, our children will rage and find the bitterness and depression that follows.

Lena Vogelgesang

Lena Vogelgesang

Lena likes to define herself by the Seven C’s: Christ, Chris, Children, Comrades, Coffee, Cheese, & Cardio. Due to her love of coffee and cheese, she must also have a relationship with increasing her heart rate. The Lord has given her a wonderful husband in Chris and they have two young boys.

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