A Few Good Moms: Can you handle the truth about your potty mouth?

What the #*!* Why do kids repeat everything mom says?
What the #*!* Why do kids repeat everything mom says? Getty Images/iStockphoto

The mom adjusts the volume on the radio so she can better hear her mother-in-law’s story about the bridge group she hosted the week prior. They both watch the stoplight that seems to be stuck endlessly on red. Finally it changes – but the car in front of them hesitates. Suddenly a tiny voice rings out from the car seat in the row behind them, like one of the chipmunks singing back up for Alvin, and warbles, “Go, b*#@%!”

You want the truth about your potty mouth? I think you can handle it.

I am all about words. I like all kinds. I like when a descriptive or powerful word really fits a situation. So even though I know better, and I am from the manners-conscious south, and I was raised right . . . I have been known to let a cuss word escape my lips on occasion.

Here’s the thing: there is a time and a place for everything. I absolutely believe that in order to enjoy a respectable, well-adjusted life as an adult in the world, you must embrace that precept when it comes to swearing.

But kids have no sense about that sh . . . stuff. Whereas you can greatly appreciate the importance of not cursing in mixed company (generationally speaking), or at your place of worship, or at school, they just have no clue. In fact, young kids who are attempting to master the art of conversation chatter non-stop, and are happy to repeat any and every word they have ever heard (as well as pass along any amount of information that they know, regardless of its sensitive nature. Just FYI.)

Your first line of defense in this situation is to try to impress upon the young ones that there are different rules for parents and for kids. (Some may argue that your first line of defense is just to not use bad language, but you are a parent. You will be compelled to use it from time to time. Ironically, for this you may thank your sweet children). You may point out that you have a later bedtime, that you pay bills and run a household, and all the other ways you are large and in charge. Drive your point home: Do as I say, not as I do.

Hold up . . . actually, scratch that. Don’t do as I say. Or at least don’t say as I say. Just . . . no talking! Because I said so. (See, large and in charge!)

The potty mouth situation is surely made worse by the reality that for many of us, it can be shocking, and embarrassing, and unfortunate when a kid says a naughty word . . . but it can also be pretty funny. (Surely I am not alone in this opinion, right? Hasn’t South Park won, like, five Emmys?)

When my son was a toddler we had a pretty memorable episode with this issue. While on vacation with friends our little guy toddled over to the TV. Suddenly, we heard him say, very distinctly, “Ohhhh sheeeeat.” We cracked up but bit our lips thinking it was a random outburst that just sounded like the real deal. But no, he continued on, changing his inflection to be more and more perfectly accurate . . . if you are an adorable lunatic cussing out your TV set. “Oh, sheeat!” he squealed, smacking the screen and smiling widely. “Oh sheeat, oh sheeat, oh sheeat!”

Of course, we were completely dumbfounded, but once we came to our senses we did what any responsible parent would do; that is, we scrambled around until we found the video camera and recorded his profane frenzy while crying with laughter.

We stopped laughing when he let it rip as he was dropped off at the church nursery. By his grandparents.

If I could offer any advice on this issue I would say: Proceed with caution . . . but proceed. Some might argue that it’s terrible for someone with a masters degree in communication to have a potty mouth, even just occasionally – but perhaps that actually demonstrates my proclivity for finding the perfect word for every situation. Truly expressing yourself during the fairly repressive parenting years may be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it; the truth is, happy moms everywhere swear by it.

Want to get a better handle on your potty mouth? Feel vindicated if you have a tendency to curse with this defense of swearing from, laugh at Lily’s loose lips on Modern Family, and consider the other side of this issue with these reasons not to curse.