Our children have become fond of talking about how “stupid” other things and people are, and often feel compelled to describe how much they “hate” something. I’d like for them to use different words, less so for politeness and healthy worldview than creative vocabulary, which is a must. But even a laissez-faire language parent like me finds continued use of coarse language by children to be tiresome.
Jane felt the same way and actually came up with a plan: Each time one of them said “stupid” or “hate”, they had to put a quarter in the Stupid Hate Jar. Although I generally support the Stupid Hate Jar, I’m a bit torn about its likely success. On the one hand, money is still largely an abstract concept, especially for Lily. Linus knows and values money, but his life hasn’t reached a point where he’s thinking about uses for his money ahead of time, so he’s never all that concerned with acquiring more or giving up some that he already has.
And, I’ve never been one for language regulation in parents. I mean, yes, kids and adults alike need to understand there is a difference between public and private language, but is an authoritarian ban really the best way to make that happen? Spalding Gray once wrote a terrific piece about the absurdity of the idea of banned language, and whether it was OK for his 12 year-old to say the word “shit”. He concluded it was, then several years later jumped from the ferry into the NY Harbor and killed himself after taking that same son earlier in the day to see the movie “Big Fish”. True story, and I think the meaning is clear: Spalding Gray is dead.
I suppose it’s OK because we haven’t “banned” the language, and thus turned a taboo into a temptation. We’re merely setting up an economic incentive program for little people who don’t participate in the economy, but describing it in grave tones with intonations of shame and possible karmic doom that might capture their attention for 45 seconds.
Immediately after it appeared Linus and Lily started calling it the Stupid Hate Jar, which to be fair is the name Jane and I gave it, so they get a pass for using the words to actually refer to the jar. It is a Stupid Hate Jar. They spit the words out, full of contempt and spit. “Oh, there’s the Stupid Hate Jar.” So there’s a cathartic release for them which may or may not actually work. Our friend Rhonda operates on that theory, giving her kids one swear word per day, within what I would call network TV limits minus “Bitch!”, for obvious reasons. I don’t know what her kids choose, but whenever Linus is there he picks “hell”. “Oh hell, this soup is hot!”
I guess I’m ambivalent about the rule. While I haven’t crossed into actively promoting the use of vulgarity by my children, I’ve long said kids will use bad language anyway. Let my children be the ones who wield these verbal rapiers with discretion and precision alike.