Dominican Swear Words
A few weeks ago, my husband, 20-month-old daughter and I were in the car when another vehicle swerved around us dangerously.
Shawn yelled out the driver's seat window in frustration, a response neither he nor I processed until we heard Gracie's echo from her car seat in the back.
"Fah you, " she said sweetly.
It was the moment friends had warned us was approaching with our chatty toddler, and now that it was here, Shawn and I tried hard not to laugh.
I told Shawn we would need to watch our language, cutting out curses and using the spell-it-out trick for other questionable language.
But Shawn — a Ph.D.-educated man whom I usually describe as a grown-up Boy Scout for his kind heart and good character — surprised me with another viewpoint.
"I don't really have a problem with her swearing, " he said.
At first I thought he was just trying to get himself off the hook for being the inspiration for our daughter's first f-bomb. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder why adults work so hard to keep our children from using words that so many of us use.
Really, what would be so wrong with allowing our children to cuss?
Again and again at the playground I hear fellow parents encouraging their toddlers to "use your words" instead of collapsing into a screaming meltdown.
And then there was that fascinating Slate article in February that tried to demystify the brain of a toddler. Some 10, 000 Facebook users shared the piece in which Alicia Lieberman, a professor of infant mental health at the University of California at San Francisco, likened the pain toddlers feel when a parent takes something away to the emotion we might feel if our spouse betrays or cheats on us.
So Gracie feels like her husband has cheated when we force her to come inside for dinner?
I'd say that definitely justifies a "damn."
There has been research on this topic. In a recent study of New England children whose language was monitored, analysts noted that children 1 to 2 years old were already familiar with 13 offensive words, ranging from "poopy" to the word Gracie echoed in the car.
Children 3 and 4 had almost four times that many bad words in their vocabularies, with "jerk, " "hate you" and "crap" being the ones we can publish in the newspaper.
"It's pretty clear that it's inevitable kids learn them, and they're going to learn them whether or not you try to stop them, " said Kristin Janscewitz, a professor of psychology at Marist College who co-wrote the study.
Janscewitz went on to note that swearing has never been linked to violent behavior in public. Rather, some studies have highlighted the benefits of swearing, like the ability to tolerate more pain, she said.
"In a way, I think too much attention is paid to the perceived harm of swearing, and it's a distraction from other social issues, " Janscewitz said. "I don't know why people get so hot under the collar about this stuff."
Kathy Heskin, a professor of theology at Dominican University, assures me that there's nothing in the Bible that covers swearing, so Shawn and I won't go straight to H-E-double hockey sticks for this perspective.
She went on to explain that, although she curses as much as the next person, she raised her children not to swear in front of her.
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