Why I curbed cursing in front of my kids

Vivian Manning-Schaffel is learning to stop cursing around her children.

Story highlights

  • As the author's children and stress levels grew, she started cursing
  • "Do as I say, not as I do?" The author's child to call her a hypocrite
  • Verbally creative children don't need to rely on the flash of curse words

I have a penchant for prurient language. I grew up in and around Boston, where most folks use swear words as adjectives, nouns and pronouns. It doesn't matter if you're 10 or 100: In Boston, the F- and S-words are always preferred when describing positive things or events ("I just gawt a kick-ahhhs f***ing pahking spawt!") or negative people or situations ("That f***ing piece of s**t took my pahking spawt!"). In my experience, anyway.

So, I grew into a writer who gets a kick out of using curse words. It's my profession to play with language, and sometimes, no other term can drive a point home as efficiently.

However, when my kids were born, I went mellow. At that time, it wasn't much of a conscious decision. Aside from the time I dropped a can of formula on my foot, there wasn't much reason to curse at or around a baby. But as my kids (and stress levels) grew, certain words began to slip out almost unbeknownst to me, like air out of a slow-leaking tire.

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I decided to curb the cursing around my kids because...

I'd rather rule my roost by example

When I grew up, "Do as I say, not as I do" was a common parenting crutch. Back then, parents said and did whatever they wanted and their offspring were expected to just respect the adage and fall in line, just because. As a kid, I found this free pass for hypocritical behavior quite annoying. But when I became a parent, I finally saw the value in it. Kids need limits. They can't drink or get a credit card either, can they? Just because I curse doesn't mean they can or should. That philosophy worked pretty well... until the day my kid called me a hypocrite. So I let go of the crutch.

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You can't rely on reverse psychology

As any parent will tell you, the Murphy's Law of parenting states that whatever principles you endorse may, at some point, inspire and incite your children to do just the opposite. In my life, this law pertains to cursing. My dad was always real uptight about swearing, which greatly contributed to my becoming a potty mouth to rival any known clichés about potty mouths. But who knows if my kids would, as I did, eventually position their sensibilities in direct opposition to mine? It's a (pardon the pun) crapshoot, at best.

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I want my kids to be verbally creative

I'd like my kids to have more colorful descriptors under their belts than just "F" this and "S" that. As I'm raising my family in New York -- a city that is just as committed to colorful language as my hometown -- I figure there'll be plenty of time for them to perfect their cursing skills.

For now, the challenge lies in editing my vocabulary while encouraging theirs to grow.

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