In my first year of teaching, long ago, a child came to me quite upset.
“Steven said ‘So what?’ to me”
I had to think quickly as my first response was to say “So what?” But clearly those words were loaded for her.
“What does that mean, when he says ‘So what?’
“That is a bad word. We aren’t allowed to say it.”
“Oh” I responded, “At your house ‘so what’ is something your parents don't want you to say. I bet Steven doesn’t know that. It may be ok for him to say at his house. I didn’t know it was a bad word either. Many people have different rules about words in their families.”
This week at Chrysalis I have heard lots of talk about bad words. We were crossing the street and I said “shhhh” and one of the children corrected me. “Shhhhh is a bad word!” he told me.
I waited until we got across the street and tried to talk about it. “Wow, I have never heard that shhhh is a bad word. Sometimes I say it when I want people to be quiet.”
“Well it is.”
One of the new favorite jokes at preschool these days (along with "hey your shoe's untied!") is “Guess what? Chicken Butt!”
“Butt is a B word,” one of the kids said.
“What is a B word?”
“A bad word. Like Butt. Or the nipples that a girl has.”
“Those sound like parts of the body to me. But I know that people have different words that they feel are acceptable. Maybe your parents don’t want you to talk about anyone else’s private parts in a disrespectful way.”
“And poop” someone else contributed. “Poop is definitely a bad word.”
“Sometimes I ask children if they have to go poop.” I told her. “Is it always a bad word?”
“And hate is a bad word. And dead.” Added another boy.
These conversations usually just fizzle out because children don’t really have an opinion or a stance. They just know what they have been told. I can understand that there are situations when using some language is upsetting. We try to go past the “bad word” explanations.
“Saying hate is such a strong word and shows that you have some really big feelings about it.”
These are great conversations to have with your child. And there are certainly words that we don’t want to hear coming out of children’s mouths! I think it is fine to label some words “adult” words just like coffee and wine. They aren’t bad-- just not for children.
“Jesus Christ is a word,” a three year old told me. “Yes, it is,” I agreed. “And sometimes people say it,” he said.
And that is a conversation I will leave for parents to have!