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I’m no Mary Whitehouse, but not in front of the kids, please.

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swearing, bad language, children, Mary Whitehouse
The one and only Mary Whitehouse

I can probably say with some authority that we all swear. I’m also going to assume, because I have a lot of faith in my readers, that you do your utmost to make sure it doesn’t happen in front of your children.

Even so, none of us is perfect. Even the most right thinking individual accidentally mutters invective when injured and in pain or when forced to brake hard because a foolish motorist has pulled off a life-endangering stunt. This type of thing happens and I don’t think anyone should feel too guilty on the rare occasion when it does.

The other day, however, my eldest, Helen, was at a swimming lesson. A swimming instructor (not Helen’s) was chatting with another parent when she let slip and used a rude word. There were two kids, probably about five years of age, stood directly in front of her and my daughter and I were only a metre or so away.

I could tell she was talking about something quite distressing. Someone she knew had either died or fallen very seriously ill, but I wasn’t impressed. At that point in time she was about to give a lesson to a group of young children, there were children around her and she was an authority figure. I wasn’t happy at all.

I find public transport can also be a very bad place for the kids to hear bad language. Either it’s used incredibly casually by other passengers with little concern for who may hear it or I’ve witnessed parents screaming at their children using horrible language.

I don’t wish to be judgemental, but I always find it an incredibly sad thing to witness. It makes me wonder what happens in their home life.

I’m not a prude. I swear, my wife swears, we all swear. In fact one of the best things about being married to a Scot is hearing Mrs Adams’ creative invective, something I think they excel at north of Haidrian’s Wall.

This, however is my point. There’s a time and there’s a place. That time and that place is not when surrounded by children who are too young to understand in what circumstances such language is and is not acceptable.

What is your experience? How do you feel when people swear around your children? What would you have done if you had been around when that swimming instructor swore?

7 thoughts on “I’m no Mary Whitehouse, but not in front of the kids, please.”

  1. I try really hard to not swear around my kids, and when they aren’t around, to not swear around other people’s kids. That said, I am very reticent to say anything to others. When my daughter and I are on the streets of NYC, we hear a lot and I try to just move her past it, hoping she hasn’t noticed. If and when she starts using real bad words (as opposed to words like “butt”), we’ll have that discussion. That said, if I were around the swim coach, I probably would have said something. He knows that there are kids present and probably listening. If it’s that serious a conversation, it should probably not be happening in the middle of the meet anyway. Go outside and talk in private, where you can be unguarded about the words that you use.

    1. Yup, I have no problem with the language or people having these discussions but do it somewhere approrpiate. I’m with you Justin.

  2. I’m afraid in the real world I’ve actually sworn at my kids and had them swear back at me. You think this will never happen but I’m afraid when they become teenagers the arguments have to be more dramatic to win a point on both sides and yes we shouldn’t be point scoring but I digress.

    I don’t agree with adults in a professionally capacity swearing around kids especially in the work place and I would have called the coach out for this after the session. There is little we can do about the general public other than use it as an exercise to educate our kids in the ways of the world and the difference between using swear words, whether in conversation or as a direct form of abuse.

    My biggest pet peeve though is people talking about ‘grown up’ issues with or without swear words in front of other peoples small kids

    1. I can but imagine what it is like when dealing with teenagers and I suspect I wil be exactly the same! It’s a grey area, but it is different. A young child will stroll into the playground and repeat every word they’ve said. A teenager will know that language should only be used in certain circumstances.

      As for people talking about grown up issues, I once witnessed the most horrible argument while on a tram between a couple and (her) young children (he was obviously not the father). He was clearly going for the shock value and the passengers including the young children were left in no doubt as to what sexual activity the couple had got up to the previous night. It was actually quite distressing. It was several years ago and now I’m a father I may well have waded in.

  3. Fiona @ Free Range Chick

    My mother-in-law is Glaswegian – I hear you…

    Yes, we all do sometimes cock up and let a swear-word slip out. I’m usually incredibly careful, as is my husband, which is miraculous as we both have the worst ever language amongst each other.

    That situation with the swimming instructor would have riled me no end. That situation did not call for bad language. No excuse. I don’t know what I would have done – I’m pretty outspoken and am not worried about telling people things. But there was absolutely no need for that woman to swear in that situation. We are rarely on public transport, thankfully, but I know it is full of idiots who don’t have the presence of mind to rein in their language.

    I guess that it takes all sorts, and although it sucks that there are so many inconsiderate people out there, in reality, there is only a limit to what we can do about it, other than turning to our blogs to have a good old rant (discussion) about it. That fact in itself annoys me.

    1. In the home, you can do nothing but be careful. ALas, we cannot stop our kids from hearing htings out on the street.C’est la vie.

  4. It’s easier said than done sometimes not to swear in front of your children, but a rare occurance when it does happen. We try out upmost not to around our children but they also know when they have heard us swear on occasion it is not to be repeated. Our next door neighbour is a problem for it. A single mother with 4 children, it must be difficult for her. Our walls are very thin and sometimes hear swear words used when she is raised voice discipline one of her kids.

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