I know, what gives? What’s with the title? What happened to no profanity? Well, sometimes profanity happens. That’s a lesson my sister Cara learned when she was a young mother.
Cara’s youngest, Aaron, was about five I think–I’ve remained deliberately vague so she can fill things in when she comments–and he was hanging with one of the neighborhood kids, who had a grandmother who liked to say “God dammit.”
Well, little pitchers and all of that, Aaron soon came to like saying it too.
I was never around Cara much to see how she parented–either that or, since I didn’t see myself ever doing that, just never paid much attention–but I know my sister; she’s an every rock turned over type of gal, so when she says she had done everything she could think of to get him to stop saying it I believe it. I know there were conversations with my mother, but, no offense to my mother, I can’t imagine she had any great advice; she’d been my mother, after all, and I was one of the most profane little scutters out there running the streets.
I don’t think there’s much a parent can do in such a situation that’s going to have immediate results. Whatever a parent does, admonishing, punishment, threats, bartering, it probably helps in the long run, but the kid is typically going to end up doing whatever it is that he or she is doing until the desired effect of the action has passed. Cara found this to be true.
Finally, she was at her wit’s end. She and Aaron were kicking around the house one day, which makes me think now that he was pre-kindergarten age. He was in the living room playing while she was in the kitchen working, and she was listening closely. It was probably the most pressing concern of the family at that time, so you can just bet she had her ears on.
It wasn’t long until he said it, so she walked in and told him that if he said it one more time she was going to wash his mouth out with soap. She had no intention of doing this, of course, but she’d said about everything, and she still felt she had to say something. Turn over that rock and see what’s there.
She goes back to her chores, and it isn’t long before he says it again, so she walks into the living room with purpose and takes him by the hand and marches him into bathroom. She has no notion of washing his mouth out with soap, but she knows she can’t just threaten him with it and not do it, a parent’s credibility and all, so she has him rinse his mouth out with water and stick out his tongue, and she takes a little sliver of soap and swipes it across his tongue. “There, little man, how does that taste?” she asks, or something to that effect.
He screws his face up and takes in the taste in his mouth, so as to answer her question. Then, when he has tasted it enough to get a good enough impression to answer her question, he does so.
And what did he say? If you answered that he said, “God dammit, that tastes awful,” you are correct.
See, and there’s a moment. And I guess that was the point when Cara figured out that she was just going to have to wait it out on that whole deal.
And she did, and he got through it. Kids do. I speak to Aaron fairly regularly. He’s now 26; he has a guitar and a fiancé and no matter how long we talk, he never says “God dammit.”
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