Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Freedom of Speech

Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

Yes, that is my son, Orion giving the finger to the camera. Why? He thinks it is funny and he has the freedom to do so! What does this image bring up in you? Does he look like an evil, bad kid? Kind of. This is because you were conditioned to feel this way.

The truth is, my kids swear, and they are very loving, kind people who have the freedoms that most children do not. Orion is being silly, not disrespectful in this photo, but the image feels differently to those of us who were raised thinking that giving the finger is "bad".

I admit, Joe and I swear. Not compulsively or anything. We just choose words that our culture labels as bad or sinful and use them as adjectives, nouns and verbs every once in a while.

I do not choose to live by the ole', "Do as I say, not as I do." mentality. I find it disturbing and disrespectful. Instead, I know that if I choose to swear my kids will too. I take full responsiblity for this fact. My kids have the freedom to swear, as I do.

It's interesting to note that we do talk about swearing and how it
offends a lot of people. Before new friends come over Devin and Tiff always ask me if it is okay to swear around them. Some families have kids who also have this freedom and some do not. We share openly about it and the kids always respect it. Sometimes a swear will come out and there will be a kind of "Ooops" look on my kids face if they forget around certain people. It doesn't happen often though.

It seems so hypocritical to punish a child for swearing if you do it yourself. They are only words and shouldn't we all have the freedom to choose what we say? Isn't it a basic human right? Why is it a double standard for children? More and more parents are relaxing around the issue of children and swearing. The list of "bad words" was enormous in my mothers day compared to today.

When researching before writing this blog entry, I came across this in Wikipedia about swearing:

Tape-recorded conversations find that roughly 80–90 spoken words each day — 0.5% to 0.7% of all words — are swear words, with usage varying from between 0% to 3.4%. In comparison, first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our) make up 1% of spoken words.[2]

Research looking at swearing in 1986, 1997, and 2006 in America found that the same top-ten words of a set of over 70 different swear words were used. The most-used swear words were fuck, shit,

hell, damn, goddamn, bitch, boner, and sucks. These eight made up roughly 80% of all profanities.[2] Two words, fuck and shit, accounted for one-third to one-half of them.[2] The phrase "Oh my God" accounts for 24% of American women's swearing.[3]

(I thought it was funny that "boner" was a swear. I don't think I've ever used that one!)

Children are historically punished for swearing. I know a few people who swear every other word. I feel it is result of being punished as a child for swearing. Once the person finally has freedom of speech and their autonomy they make up for all of that past control and swear so much more than someone normally would.

My children do not swear anymore than I do really. Sometime Ivy will get stuck on a certain swear and try it out for a while and combine it with other swears in a creative way. Assbitch is one of her newest creative expressions.

Our children do have a clear understanding of when it is okay for them to do so, and when it is inappropriate. They have a respect for others who are uncomfortable with swearing.

At a recent visit to my friends house, she pulled out some organic alphabet cookies. The kids all sat together combing letter to make their names and spell out swears. They all had so much fun! We laughed and connected with our kids as they explored some words that our grandparents would have had soap put in their mouths for.

It was liberating and freeing to know that we didn't have to do what was done to us when we were kids when it came to swearing. It was light and fun and not at all serious.. I think some parents would be so much happier if they could lighten up about the whole swearing issue.

Here is a video I thought would be great to share with this entry.

The seven dirty words (or "Filthy Words")[1] are seven English-language words that American comedian George Carlin first listed in 1972 in his monologue "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television". At the time, the words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the United States, whether radio or television. It's interesting that many of these "swears" are on television today. Times are changing and our culture is relaxing surrounding the issue of swearing. This is progress, growth and a good thing... in my world anyway.


lynzpaige said...

Assbitch, I love it! I went through a phase in high school where I said fuck as often as I could. It was so FREEING!

Chris2267 said...

They are just words and we as a society have made these words bad. I appreciate the way you have explained to your children when it is appropriate and when it isn't around certain people. I believe that is how all parents should do thing.
Great blog post.

Onewithwings said...

I have had a lot of bad habits (I still swear, I am sure my 2.5 year old will likely follow suit, it is not a big deal to me) but like you, I do not hang on the "Do as I say, not as I do" excuse. That's what it is. An excuse for one's poor behavior. If I don't want my son to do something, I don't do it. I quit using drugs, I quit smoking cigarettes, stuff like that. "But I'm a grown up" is a shitty excuse for shitty behavior. My husband and I are my son's biggest role models. We are not perfect, and do not expect perfection.

velwest said...

Ha Ha, Dayna! Louis first read word was fuck and we went from there to luck, suck, duck... I gave him a lite brite and you knowthat the first pattern he made himself was to spell out that work. I also didn't know boner was a swear! Whatever

Magickal Housewife said...

I am so happy that you posted this Dayna :) I mean this is a constant battle in our house. I want to let them swear. But I have been conditioned to think that my kids are ghetto idiots (or rather that others will see my kids this way). I know I don't need permission to let my kids swear, but I feel as though you have given me it. I mean the whole reason I came to Radical Unschooling was because of you, and your opinion means a lot to me, so to hear that letting my kids speak the way they want to is the most freeing thing! Thank you :)

Natalie said...

I agree. I stopped saying the one word that sounded too much for me in my children's voices and they pretty much dropped it too. My 5yr old daughter loves Gordon Ramsay and that lead to a lot of emulation for a bit :-) She uses swear words perfectly in context and they are just another avenue for her to express her feelings. We've talked about how other people may feel, especially older people in the supermarket, so she tends to refrain from it there, but uses them freely at home and at the homes of certain friends. My own father hit me in the face and used soap in my mouth for swearing as a child. The experience has taught me what a ridiculous amount of power some people give to a few letters in a particular order. I don't choose to give my power away like that. I really liked this piece. :-)

Lisa Russell said...

I'm really surprised that boner was listed, too. We say the word all the time, even in mixed company. Thanks for another great insight, Dayna.

sarah said...

I absolutely agree with all of this. I tell my kids that swear words are just letters and sounds and meaning like any other word. I do tell them that they are allowed to use them but that some people will judge them for using them and they may want to think about that from time to time.

Sara said...

Love it! You navigated through this issue very deftly. The key is respecting people. Certain words are bad when used to offend someone, but as self expression or in a teasing way, I don't understand what the fuss is about. And one generation's swear words are usually tamed by the next one's overuse. No one is shocked if someone says "Gee Whiz" or "Swell", but they used to raise eyebrows back in the day. Personally, when I hear of yet ANOTHER war, what else can I say but that the world is just fucked up. May God have mercy on this fucked up world.

karisma said...

I do not have a problem with swearing from kids as such since they are only mimicking what their parents say or do. I do however find it unnecessary and unappealing to hear every second word.

Especially when the use of the word does not make sense as it is being used. Ok I admit it, I am sad with the eventual down fall of our English language. It is slowly being obliterated by slang and misuse of words in sentences.

I must admit to having the urge to pass some of our local teenagers a thesaurus in the hopes of them expressing themselves more clearly. I often wonder what they actually learn in English class at school these days? Not vocabulary..thats for sure!

Bah! Not that I am judging, my kids, the little darlings would be right up there with yours! And I have heard some charming language flying in this house I can tell you! :-)

My youngest taught himself to read with Captain Underpants books! The greatest book of ridiculous words I have ever seen!

Jolene said...

The finger photo didn't bother me at all, and I think using the finger is silly and fun. I actually laugh when people use it on me (drivers, etc...), but I did have a lot of thoughts about the swearing.

I don't swear. I don't remember ever swearing as a child and I don't remember me or any of my cousins being punished for it. I don't remember my parents or extended family swearing much. I've never been attracted to swearing, and throughout my life, I've asked people of all ages not to swear around me. I just don't like it... kind of how I don't like people farting around me, because the smell is unpleasant. But it's a personal preference, and I don't really care what they do when they're not around me. I don't think it's "bad."

I did feel embarrassed the first time I heard my son swear, and I gasped. But then we talked about the words and what they mean and how some people feel about them and how I feel about them. He thought some of the descriptions were pretty gross and didn't want to know TMI. He's not interested in swearing. He's only experimented a few times with the most profane swear words. But he went through about a year of his made-up swear words like "poop-head, fart-face, etc...." After about 30 minutes of a lot of that, I would tell him I really had too much and I wanted him to stop.

Thanks for giving me a chance to think about it.

Jolene =)

Molly said...

Our last name is a German swear word (Fick, German for "fuck") and just last night my 6 year old out of the blue announced that her friend's brother Ben told her it was a bad word, like she was unveiling a secret. I don't want her to feel it's a secret! "Oh yes, he is right, it is a swear word in German it's also just our last name." She asked what it meant and I didn't feel like defining "fuck" to her, but she was satisfied when I said it was a word people used when they were in a bad mood or wanted to be nasty. My daughter was kind of amazed and said "Do Oma and Opa know?" (her German grandparents). "Yup, and they don't really care."

It is an odd German thing - my husband was teased about it by German kids when he was a kid in Germany, and yet Germans are fine with it being a surname. They'll laugh, and then just shrug.
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Ooo Zot! said...

What a great post! It is so ridiculous how adults censor children (often through threat of physical punishment). Freedom of speech!

Jo said...

Awesome post Dayna. Our nearly 5 yo swears, and that is fine by us, and we have just started having the conversation that some people will be upset if he swears out of the house, so although he can say whatever he likes in the house, to respect others - we should try and not say some words out of the house.

Even though he's only 5, he gets it. We do the same with his toy guns - he understands some kids are not allowed to have toy weapons, so we don't take them to park day out of respect for those kids and their parents...

So looking forward to hearing you speak in Queensland in October! J

Sher said...

LOVE that the picture of the children is next to the Mark Twain quote.

My husband and I had a good giggle over the tots too!

messyfish said...

hilarious! My boy was swearing in context at 2 years old. He would drop something and say "s**t"! My mum would go pale with horror hee hee hee

Anonymous said...

We have the same philosophy. Me and hubby both swear on occasion (especially if we have a small accident, like banging our thumb or something). So it seemed really hypocritical to tell our children not to swear. Instead we decided it would be more useful to share guidelines with them about when it's appropriate and when it isn't. When they first started swearing they'd ask (if we were going to meet someone) if those people would be likely to be offended. The novelty of swearing seems to mostly have worn off now and it's not an issue (really it never has been). I think treating it as a matter of fact thing with a time and a place has made all the difference.

The Seed That Grew said...

This post just makes me smile so much.. Love it!