Teaching Your Children How To Curse

I grew up in a home where curse words were avoided like West Nile-laden mosquitoes. My parents took extreme and heroic measures to keep us far from these disease-carrying bloodsuckers.  We were coated with every spiritual bug spray you can imagine:

  • Listening to the radio was forbidden.
  • Hanging out with kids who didn’t go to church was also forbidden.
  • And using replacement players like darn-it, shoot, and heck were forbidden even harder.

My parents were ever vigilant, but nothing took us to DEFCON 1 like television and movies. The Roberts family stood defiantly on high alert anytime Hollywood reached into our living room. Even PG movies were edited for content.

I still have a slow-motion visual of my panicked mother sprinting for the remote control to censor that foul-mouthed Inigo Montoya. In my house The Princess Bride ended the same way every time: “I want my father back, you son of a (mute)!”

Not only were we protected from the evils of cursing, we were expected to carry on the family paranoia. Dare we stray from our verbal moral code, consequences ranged from public face slaps to copying Scripture verses about unwholesome talk. (Nothing attracts a preteen to the Bible like having to write Ephesians 4:29 one hundred times with a dull No. 2 pencil.)

So, that was my childhood.

Needless to say, Heather and I have taken a different approach with our children when it comes to swearing.

We don’t panic or shake our heads disapprovingly when a devil word is used. Instead, we pause the television or pull our kids aside and offer instruction:

  • This is what that word means
  • This is why people say it
  • This is why others laughed (or cringed)
  • This is why we don’t want you to use that word
  • This is the reason why Mom and Dad don’t use that word either

In our house we believe that knowledge is powerful, grace is essential, and Jesus loves current culture. So, we simply use cursing as a teaching moment.

The result has been refreshing. My kids can tell you what most curse words mean, but they don’t use them. Since the myth has been debunked, curse words carry very little allure. Michael and Sydney know that sometimes cursing is funny, usually cursing is offensive, and almost always, cursing is done out of ignorance.

For our family it’s about following the example of Jesus. Jesus didn’t hide from the sin in his culture; quite the opposite. He recruited the rough-and-tumble, exonerated the condemned, and dined with the sinners. Instead of fleeing the darkness, Jesus took a different approach: He illuminated it.

I don’t know how our little parental experiment will fare—it’s risky, I guess. My little darlings might end up spewing curse words like Eminem before they even reach puberty. This is a real possibility.

But if we’re right, something special might happen.

We might raise children who actually believe Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. We might raise children who see the brokenness in this world but aren’t afraid of it. And we just might raise children who know what it means to speak light into darkness.

That’s a risk we’re willing to take.

About Bryan Roberts

A former church planter and lead pastor, Bryan currently works as a writer, helping ministries communicate the Gospel. His passions are his family, writing, communicating grace, building the local church, and the Texas Rangers. He is a graduate of Elim Bible Institute, a veteran of fifteen years in full-time ministry, and a volunteer at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. Bryan and his wife, Heather, have two children (Michael and Sydney) who they insist will one day change the world.
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2 Responses to Teaching Your Children How To Curse

  1. Heath Goodson says:

    Good stuff. My parents went so far as to purchase “curse free tv”. A little device you hook up and it works in tandem with close captioning. When a cuss word was coming up, it would give it a replacement word. Such as “toe” for “ass” etc. sometimes it backfired though and we would die of laughter. Case in point. Watching Barney was always fun. They assumed “balls” would always be offensive. So, when Barney and his friends would sing “I love balls, you love balls, it’s fun to play with my ball” it would replace it with guts which was far more macabre. Unfortunately I cuss like a sailor but fortunately I very much love Jesus and learn to surrender more and more everyday. However, I still refer to Johnny Knoxville and Steve-o’s antics as “Jacktoe”.

  2. Gael says:

    As a parent of three grown children, I’d say you and your wife are definitely on the right track. Good job!

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