Why I Let My Daughter Say the F-Word

Last year, while my sweet twin girls were still in preschool, one of them got fixated on a most forbidden word. The dreaded F-Word. 

I won't say which darling girl-child it was, in case she's mortified in the future... and I won't say where she learned the word cough her Daddy cough cough... suffice to say there was a time when a four-letter word was the most hotly debated thing in our home.
Obviously, we didn't want our little girl dropping the F-bomb all over the place. Especially not in public. So, we did what all responsible parents do - we tried to get her to stop. (Well, we may have had a little giggle first...kids cursing is pretty funny)

We tried the 'We don't say that word' method first, adding it to the list of those other 'bad' words like 'hate' and 'stupid'. She understood clearly that this was not a word that people liked to hear but somehow, that made it all the more intriguing and did not lessen her urge to say it in any way.

Next, we decided to be firm about it. We told her that she was absolutely forbidden to use the word and that there would be consequences if we heard her saying it. I can't remember what exactly we threatened but it probably involved no dessert or taking away something equally important to a 4-year old. Yes... she was only FOUR.

F is for Four. F is also for Fuck.
Anyway, the threats didn't work either. She just became more and more infatuated with it. Finally, when the preschool teacher mentioned one day that she'd been saying fuck in school we were, naturally, horrified and very, very cross with her.

"I can't help it," she said. " It comes into my head and I can't make it go away.

I could see how conflicted about it she was. She wanted so badly to say the word but knew it was not acceptable. So, she tried to bottle it up and do the right thing. The problem was that she ended up getting frustrated and upset.

She would come to me and whisper in my ear that she wanted to say the f-word and, of course, I'd tell her not to... and she'd try to be obedient... but eventually, by the end of the day, there'd be a crying-lashing-out-meltdown to deal with. Usually over something completely unrelated.

After a while I realised that her increasing meltdowns were connected to her pent-up frustration. I decided that the consequences of not letting her say fuck were actually becoming worse than just letting her say the damn word.

So we made an agreement.

She could say the F-word as much as she wanted - as long as she didn't say it to anyone or about anyone.
I promised her that if she felt the urge to curse, she could go off by herself, get it out of her system, come back and there would be nothing more said about it.

It was a huuuge relief, for all of us, to have ended the battle. But I wasn't entirely sure it would work.

In the beginning she 'disappeared' quite a lot. "I feel the F-word in my mouth," she'd whisper, and I'd remind her of the rule. She'd head off to her room, or to a quiet corner of the playground and turn the air blue. Then she'd come back and we'd get on with our day as if it had never happened.

She was happier in herself having had the release and I was happier knowing that she wouldn't say it in places where it might get her into trouble.

After a short while, she stopped doing it altogether. Giving her permission to say it seemed to have taken all the power out of the word and it lost its allure fairly rapidly.

Today, for the first time in a long, long time, she whispered that same little whisper in my ear.
"You know what to do," I said. She smiled, nodded and ran ahead of me up the street until we were just out of earshot. She did what she had to do and by the time I caught up with her she was ready to grab my hand and continue our conversation. No battle. No one got offended. No big fucking deal.

11 comments

  1. What a brilliant way you dealt with it!
    (and agree, kids cursing is pretty funny :) )

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    1. Thanks! And it is hilarious... but don't tell them I said that ;)

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  2. Great strategy, sounds like it is working really well!

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    1. Thanks! We'd tried everything but allow it. Reverse psychology at its best ;)

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  3. I'm so glad that worked. What a great way to help her through it. Kids swearing is really hilarious. We went through a phase with Roz...still kind of going through it. She says 'mummy you know what's a bad word? Fucking hell' but it's bad language isn't it' and we casually say yes it is and get on with our day. Works for us too.

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    1. I think it's the thrill of the illicit that makes it so attractive. When you don't worry about it it totally loses its power. Thanks for commenting!

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  4. Loved this. My daughters range from ages 5 to 11 years. I'll keep this in my pocket for an emergency some day lol

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  5. Very smooth, Sadhbh. As someone who can't go 10 minutes without swearing, I feel S's/L's pain. A couple years ago I tried giving up swearing for lent (in no way religiously, just to see if I could). I failed quite spectacularly.

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  6. Awesome. I LOVE it when kids drop the F bomb but yes, in public it's not as funny.

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