SFP 163: Reflections on Bad Language + Potty Talk

It happens. All kids will use less-than-desirable language as they are growing up. Whether its potty words or outright profanity, we all deal with this as parents. Today I’m reflecting on how we’ve been managing it in our house–including what is working and what is not working.

Hi, there it's episode 163. And today we're talking about kids using bad words and not just necessarily profanity, but just undesirable words.

You are listening to the Simple Families podcast, the Q and A style show that brings you solutions for living well with family. Here's your host Denae Barahona.

Hi there. It's Denaye here. It's episode 163. And today we're talking about our kids using words that we don't love. We've been dealing with some of this in our house in recent weeks, and I want to share how we've been approaching it for better or worse. And I also have a few questions from audience members on Instagram, who also are dealing with this topic as well. Now, if your kids are listening, I'm not going to be using any profanity today, but I might be using a few words that you don't particularly love or want them repeating. So keep that in mind. So I had that for this summer. I'm going to be offering the mental unload, which is the seven-day program to lighten your mental load and decrease overwhelm and improve your partnership. That's going to start the week of July 25th. And for those of you who are waiting for the next masterclass to get started, that's going to start at the beginning of September.

So file those dates away in the back of your brain. And as long as you're on the email list, you will get updates. If you go to simplefamilies.com, you can leave your email address there to get updates, and you can also get a free mini course as well. Before we get into this episode, here is a quick word from the sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is Prep Dish, and you all know that I love my Prep Dish. Now, if you're not familiar with Prep Dish, it's a meal planning service, and each week they send you a menu of meals to cook. They have a paleo option, a gluten free option, and now a keto option. Now you might be thinking what I was thinking, which is why am I going to pay for someone to send me recipes when I can get a million free recipes on Pinterest?

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Now you probably know if you've tuned into the podcast before that each week, I try to share a listener spotlight. And in this Lister spotlight, I highlight some of the kind words that are sent to me from you all. And this week is coming in the form of a podcast review from Karen Mayer. And she wrote, I found this podcast when my son was six months old and it's proven to be my favorite tool and helping me stay grounded to the kind of family equilibrium that my husband and I strive to create in a world that tries so hard to convince you that you need hours of educational classes, full schedules, and all the gadgets today's perspective has been so refreshing and affirmative. She brings the best guests to her show. So every episode is full of informative insights and the reassurance I need that we are on the path that works for our family.

This podcast, along with some of the classes I've taken with today have helped me to stay grounded, not only as a mom and wife, but in all the other roles I play in life. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I love to hear that simple families has played such a pivotal role in your early parenting experience. So let's go ahead and move on to today's episode. So we're talking about when our kids use inappropriate language and now inappropriate language can mean a whole variety of different things for different families. Now don't think for a minute that I'm judging you, I'm judging your family by the type of language that you're using. It's completely and utterly personal to you. If you swear a lot, if you like to drop a lot of F bombs in your family and that's okay with you, then that's totally okay.

Okay with me. So swear words or cuss words or profanity, that's one type of language that our kids can use. And generally speaking, they are going to be hearing this from somebody else in their life, whether it be you another parent, an older sibling, a grandparent, whatever it is, okays mainly from the television. But I think we can generally pinpoint more or less where profanity comes from. It's often the more subtle language that gives us problems that we can't really avoid in our house. We've had a lot of misusing the body parts, especially in public. So screaming penis on the train or both of my kids, for some reason, mispronounced the word vagina and say Pagina, which is kind of a blessing and a curse. Because if they're shouting, pagina people may or may not. Okay. Yeah. They probably know what they're trying to say.

They also think it's hilarious to say, but like B U T T, and I sometimes say, butt when I'm talking about the body part, if I had to pinpoint something that is the biggest struggle right now, it's the word stupid. Both of my kids have been saying stupid a lot. This is stupid. That is stupid. This toy is stupid. This game is stupid. You are stupid. Now of my current awareness, I don't use the word stupid that often, but maybe I actually do. And I don't even realize it. I think that that can be the case more than we know that we use some of these words that aren't bad words, but they're not lovely, amazing words. Either. Another example of this is hate. If you're fine, your kid is saying hate a lot. I hate this. I hate that they may or may not be picking up on it from, you could be from kids at school, that sort of thing.

So I'm calling this episode reflections on bad words and bad language, because I don't necessarily have a great solution for you, but I do want to reflect on why this happens and to develop a little bit of empathy around it. And maybe even some ways to redirect it. If I had all the answers, then my kids wouldn't be screaming penis on the train, which has happened. So it brings me to my first point about what do you do when it happens, when you're out in public. So being out in public is different than when you're at home for lots of different reasons, but I like to try to play it cool as much as possible in general, when I'm intervening with any type of behavior in public, I always make sure that I am causing less of a scene than my child is causing. Now take a minute and reflect on this.

A lot of times as caregivers, when we're trying to fix behavior in public and really feeling insecure about the way that our kids are behaving, we actually make a scene and cause more of a ruckus than our children have caused. So here's an example of this. My kids did a free four week session of yoga at the library recently. And there were probably like eight to 10 kids in the class. And one of the little girls was not necessarily following directions instead of doing what the teacher asked her to do. She was just kind of rolling around mumbling and humming a little bit on her mat, but she was fine. She was like two years old in no way was she disrupting anybody? At least in my opinion, but her caregiver on the other hand was definitely disrupting. She kept giving her directions, stand up, Emma, Emma, stand up, Emma, listen to directions.

Emma, you need to stand up. Emma, watch what you're doing. Emma, you're not listening. So it went from this small, barely noticeable innocuous child behavior to being like kind of a thing. So whenever you're intervening with a behavior in public, make sure that you're not causing a bigger scene than your child is causing. So basically that means play it cool. So if your kid is using a word that you don't like them to be using, trying to change the subject, try to redirect them, try to move them away and to do something else. It's really not the time or place to be disciplining or lecturing. The goal is really to just diffuse. This is not the time to prove to the parent next to you that, you know, you got this, you're handling it. You're disciplining, which is sometimes something that we can put pressure on ourselves to feel like we're doing when others are watching.

So diffuse and move on. Now, generally speaking, if a another child is involved or another person outside of our family, like if my kid has called another kid's stupid, then I will very simply bring attention to the fact that no thank you. That is not kind. And then diffuse move on. Possibly even moving out of the room or in another direction. If my child is really continuing to use that type of language. Now, dealing with this type of language in public is different than dealing with it in private. When you're at home. Now I'll say when you're at home or when you're in public, wherever it is that you really need to lead by example. So if you use a lot of profanity or inappropriate language, your kids are going to do the same thing. Now, if you're okay with your kids using the same words, then please carry on.

But if you do want your kids to change their language and you want your kids to speak in a certain way, then you have to model that you have to lead by example, you can really only expect from them what you are capable of yourself. So like if you slip out a little SHIT, every time you're driving and someone pulls out in front of you or you fall and hurt your toe, whatever it is, your kids are also going to slip that out in those situations. So passively using these words is one thing. Now actively name calling is another thing. So name calling has no place in our home in any way, shape or form. So I don't name call anyone whether it's calling my husband a jerk or calling the kids brats. There's just no name calling. I think as adults, when we vow to have zero name calling in our house, that we're really setting this baseline expectations for how we treat one another.

And I have to say that my kids generally don't name call each other. They will use some inappropriate words, but it's generally not in a directive sense. Sometimes it is, but it's really not that old often now, not a fan of the idea of washing kids, mouths out with soap. If you choose to do it, it probably will work. But the reason that it works is because you are instilling fear in your children. You're making them afraid of you. And personally, I choose not to parent like that. I don't want my kids to be afraid of me. I want them to look to me for advice and to look to me for love and to, for support. I don't ever want them to be afraid of me. So I don't think that washing your kid's mouth out with soap is going to physically hurt them or make them ill.

I mean, it might, depending on how much soap you use, it's not something that I would recommend. And it's certainly not something that we do in our house, but will it work? Yeah, probably. Okay. So a little bit about how I've been handling it and some things that I've been doing that I think I've been working and some things that I don't think are working. So first of all, we have a potty words belong in the bathroom type rule. So anytime that you want to use any word associated with the bathroom, you have to say it in the bathroom. So a lot of young kids go through these obsessions with saying like poop and pee pee, and do-do phase, that sort of thing. And they think it's hilarious. It's all pretty age appropriate, but it's also not something that you want be happening all the time in your house.

If you try to tell your kids, stop doing it, stop doing it. They seem to have this innate need to do it. So sending them to the bathroom and saying potty talk belongs in the bathroom and letting them go in there and just say it until their heart's content has been a really amazing solution for us. My kids will go in there together and just like laugh their faces off. And they're also allowed to say body part words in there, like booty and penis and vagina and you name it. I feel like it gives them a little bit of power back. It lets them feel like they have a space to get this out of their system because they do seem like they really need to get it out of their system. Sometimes I also think it starts to introduce this idea that there are certain times and places that using words are okay.

So some of the things we say at home might not be okay to say in public or vice versa, that sort of thing. So potty talk in the bathroom has been really helpful for us now when it comes to body parts, which I don't know if any of you have a problem with this, but I definitely get a lot of body part usage inappropriately. Anytime my kid says penis, and they're not actually talking about their penis or the body part, making a reference to the body part. I remind them, we only use the name of the body part when we're actually talking about the body part. We don't make jokes about it because I do want them to feel free to talk about the body parts, in appropriate ways. There are times when you need to use the word penis. There are times when you need to use the word vagina when you're actually talking about those body parts.

But when you're making a joke and you're giggling and laughing about it, that's when you need to do it in the bathroom. Now, one of the ways that I model this is I will openly use those words in ways that are appropriate. So like when I'm bathing them, for example, I will always use those words intentionally. I'll say, okay, it's time to wash your penis. Okay. It's time to wash your vagina so that they can hear me using those words and know that those aren't bad words, but those words need to be used in certain types of contexts. So I've already mentioned that I try to play it cool. And that's something that I try to do across the board, because I think that using inappropriate language, it starts out of curiosity because kids hear these words, they try them out and they use them a couple of times here and there, mostly based on curiosity, but they continue for attention.

When they find out that these words are going to get them a lot of attention, they're going to continue to use them. Now that's, what's happened with the word stupid in our house. My kids know that I don't like the word stupid and they use it a lot. And it is basically just to get under my skin. So I, 100% try to play it. Cool. And don't let them know that it bothers me, but they can see right through me because they keep using it. And I know it's for attention and they do know no matter how much I try to hide it, that it still drives me crazy. But I don't in any way, overreact. I don't yell and I don't scream and I don't make a scene of it. And I do not forbid it. There aren't very things that I forbid because I find whenever I forbid something that it takes away a lot of power from me.

So if I say, I forbid you to say stupid. And then my kid looks at me and says, stupid. You know, what am I going to do? Okay. Feeling pretty powerless at that point, unless I'm going to slap my kid or spank them or use some sort of fear based strategy like that. I'm just staring at a kid. Who's doing something exactly the opposite of what I asked them to do. So I try not to forbid things like this, particularly things like this that aren't necessarily hurting anyone. They're not a safety risk. So I'm playing it. Cool. And my kids still see right through me and they know that the word stupid gets to me. So I start with telling them how it makes me feel. So I tell them, it makes me sad when you use the word stupid. It hurts my ears. I really don't like it.

When you talk like that, I find the word stupid, hurtful. It's not kind. And if the word is directed towards the sibling, I'll ask for the sibling to do some reflecting and say, how does that make you feel when she calls you stupid? And he'll say, that makes me sad when she calls me stupid. So by telling them how it makes me feel, I'm connecting my feelings to this, and I'm relating that your words have an impact on other people. Now I'm not expecting perfection. I'm not expecting those words to never be used again, but I'm planting the seeds for them to grow the understanding that they are powerful in the sense that they can choose words that impact the people around them. When they choose to use words like stupid and they call their friends stupid. And that sort of thing, those friends aren't going to want to hang out with them anymore.

There are repercussions to using inappropriate language, natural consequences. Like when you're using this language, some people aren't going to want to be around you. So instead of just completely trying to hide how I'm feeling and playing it totally cool. I am connecting my feelings to the words and letting them know how it makes me feel. So for some reason, I've been recently going to this kindness rationale and telling my kids, it's not kind to say stupid, please be kind, please use kindness when you're talking to me or please use kindness. When you're talking to your sister, be kind, I've like really been harping over this kindness thing. So until the other day, I heard my son saying stupid in the bathroom with my husband. And I think my husband was asking him to brush his teeth or something. And he was like, that's stupid. I don't wanna brush my stupid teeth.

I don't want that stupid toothpaste. Just kind of negative talk using a lot of the word stupid repeatedly. And I heard my husband say to him, please be kind saying stupid is not kind. And you know, it's kind of like, sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees. You don't really see it until you're on the outside of it. But when I observed this interaction, I realized he's not trying to be kind. He doesn't want to be kind. The reason that he's using these words is he's not feeling particularly kind. So by telling him to be kind, use kind words as a little counterproductive, because it's not going to let him achieve the communication that he's trying to achieve right now, he's trying to communicate that he's irritated and he's upset. And he's frustrated. The reason that it's coming out like this with the word stupid is he has a very limited repertoire of words to express distaste and discussed an irritation.

Fortunately, for us, he has a limited repertoire of nasty or undesirable words. And stupid is just his go-to word for that right now, right? When he's irritated and he's frustrated, he doesn't want to deal with something it's just all stupid, stupid, stupid. So I realized that instead of asking for kindness and telling him to be kind, we need to give him some new ways to communicate that frustration and that your ability. So instead of asking for kindness and cuing my kids to be kind, when they're not feeling particularly kind, I'm offering them alternative words and alternative ways to express themselves. And I usually do that through paraphrasing. So if my daughter says to me, that's stupid, or you're stupid, I'll respond to her with, it sounds like you're really upset. You're really frustrated. It makes you really frustrated. When I ask you to brush your teeth, you're feeling really angry when I ask you to go potty, putting some other words to those feelings, not asking my kids to repeat after me, but just kind of planting those seeds for other ways, to communicate that frustration and irritation and giving our kids the space to have those feelings, we all get frustrated and we all get irritable and we're all going to need to express how we feel when they're young.

It's just not going to look exactly like we'd like it to look, but let's be honest when we're all grown up, we don't always communicate the best ways either. We still get into arguments with our partners or our siblings or parents when we're grown up. And we say things that we didn't mean or say things that we wish we hadn't said or used words that we regret. So we can't expect perfection out of our kids when it comes to this, they're going to do all those things too. They're going to slip up and they're going to make mistakes. And they're going to say things that they don't mean or say things that could probably be said in a much better way. And this is not exclusive to kids. This is adults too. So those are just a few of my thoughts and reflections on using bad language.

And like I said, I don't have any miracle quick fixes for you. And I don't really think that's what this is about. I think it's about progress over perfection and recognizing that using bad language is kind of a part of learning how to communicate. And it's not about squashing the behavior outright, but it's about teaching our kids the impact of that language and that type of communication and teaching them how it makes other people feel and giving them alternatives and ways to face say things in a new way. So I hope you found this helpful if you have, I would love to hear from you. The best way to get in touch is you can go to the show notes at simplefamilies.com/episode163, or you can reach out via Instagram. You can screenshot this as you're listening to it and leave a couple of comments for me there. And tag me. I want to thank you again for your support for my book, Simple Happy Parenting. It's been out just about two weeks and it's been going so, so well. And I appreciate everything that you all did to help make that a success for me. Thank you for tuning in and as always have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.