“Wait, WHAT did you say????” I shrieked.
And then she said it again. “What a F*** you are!”… She didn’t just “say” it… she directed it AT me.
I definitely didn’t expect this.. at least, not for another fifteen years. Not from the mouth of a four-year old. And certainly not in reference to me. Well, maybe I knew that would happen one day in the deep, far off distance but not one day last month!
She said it after I advised her to take some time out – right round about the 19th time I asked her to brush her teeth that evening. Clearly, an unreasonable request.
So what do you do?
If you live in Denmark, you’ve probably already been part of conversations where at least half the participants are befuddled by how casually colorful Danes can get with the English language. F words…s words…c words…take your pick of consonant. Don’t believe me? Melanie from Deljige Days and Tina from Traveling Mama wrote about their experiences here, and it started a firestorm of a debate in the expat circles. “Swear words” really are everywhere here, sometimes even in open advertising…and their use occurs with all ages. It’s not uncommon to hear littlest of tykes use some pretty big words. One mom I know was pretty shocked to hear her preschool daughter come home rattling off a little ditty about the day’s shitty weather that the whole class had learned together. To be fair, the weather was indeed really bad that day…
Also part of the conversation on swearing are defenders of expression as well. And I’ll confess, I don’t necessarily keep a clean batch of language on me at all times either when in the company of adults. I shouldn’t be the one pot calling the kettle black. However, to me, there is a difference between using off-color language to add humor – rather than anger – to a story, and a young child directing violent language (and yes, I consider that word in the context above violent) at a specific person.
You can’t get angry necessarily because at this age, children don’t have a full grasp of what it is they are repeating. They are just repeating something that they heard someone else say. In this case, she heard it from an older friend – and she knew it would get a reaction, which is what she was after. While she learned it from someone else, it made me really think about what she might be learning from me as well.
Furthermore, while I appreciate that swearing is the norm here in Denmark, it’s most certainly not in the US at this age. And my daughter will be in the tricky situation of everything in her recent memory being from “here”, even though we have to move back “there”, which is actually where she is really from. If she drops a bomb or two like that “there”, then she will no longer be a toddler in the trees. She will be suspended.
We talked about it she and I…and I might have issued some parent-style threats about never repeating something like that again. But mostly we tried to talk why it isn’t appropriate, and why it hurts feelings and makes people angry. And it’s certainly made me watch my own language use. After all, leading by example is a parenting thing right? I realized that just because I think I’m not doing it in front of children, doesn’t mean they can’t hear me or learn from me, perhaps the biggest learning for me from that brief tense exchange that really started with a request to brush teeth.
We haven’t had it pop up since, but I’m curious if others have had experiences with this? Did it bother you? And what did you do about it?