Our sweet barely-4-year-old accidentally knocked down a kiddie chair in the living room the other day, and what happened next, well, I can’t exactly tell you in this family-friendly forum.
Suffice it to say it involved her muttering a four-letter word. A real good one. And, I admit, it’s not the first time we’ve heard her use one.
We can hardly be surprised. I have a potty mouth, and so does my husband. We do our best to rein it in around our daughter, but sometimes — OK, a lot of times — we slip.
I feel a little bad about that, and probably I should feel worse. But then again, maybe it’s not so bad — there’s science, it turns out, that pats my head and tells me it’s all going to be OK. (Thanks, science!)
NPR reports that a paper in the recent American Journal of Psychology frames curse words as just part of the enormous amount of language kids soak up from every day life.
“I think it's part of them learning about their emotions and emotional expression and how their parents handle emotion," Dr. Timothy Jay, the paper’s author, told NPR. "So I think if you look at it as just part of being angry or frustrated or happy or surprised, that is all normal. That's built into all of us."
Granted, I wish I could set a better example for my kid by handling frustration or anger with utter grace and constant cool, but that just ain’t me. And it ain’t you. Or anyone else we know except for scary people no one likes anyway.
Harsh language, to some extent, falls from all of our tongues – it’s just part of life. Maybe giving our kids a little bit of exposure to it, even accidentally, is actually teaching them something about the world of words and how language and emotion are linked.
If nothing else, a swear word or two is bound to come in handy a bit later in life, when they learn how to drive, right?
That’s what I’m telling myself, and it looks like, for once, I have science on my side.