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Using Foul Language Around Children

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

I really don’t watch much TV, but I am a big fan of the show Brothers and Sisters. I often tape and watch when I have a few free moments.  So, I was trying to catch up today and watch an episode from several weeks ago.

In one scene Kitty (Calista Flockhart) is holding her 3 year old son in her lap while she is on the computer trying to buy a purse during an online auction. When Kitty doesn’t succeed in getting the winning bid she blurts out  “Damn, Damn, Damn” right in front of her son!!!  Never even flinches or says Oops or anything.

Now, I am not a television censor, but I mean REALLY??  Although the language that is on television is often disturbing to me, I realize that “we” can turn off the television and choose what to watch.

I also think that is really important for parents to continue to monitor the television programs that their children watch, which includes the language that is used on the program. But in this case on Brothers and Sisters,  (I am not picking on that show I promise), not only did I think that the language was inappropriate, it was amazing that they would “show” a parent swearing in front of their child. Talk about bad parental modeling!  A 3 year old child is listening to every word that their parent says, and at that age they don’t know the difference between the word darn or damn. What they do know is that Mommy used that word so it must be okay.

This was a good reminder that children are always listening to the language that we use. You can “get away with” using “bad” language when a child is an infant (not preferable), but as a child enters their second year of life, so after their first birthday, they are beginning to mimic language.  When a child hears any word they may repeat it, whether that word is appropriate or not.

Many a parent has come into my office and asked “why is my child saying _________”. If their child is saying that forbidden word, it means that they have heard that word somewhere.  Maybe not from you, but from another caregiver, an older child, or yes, even on the television. It is especially important to keep language appropriate in the earliest years in order that a child will understand the difference between good words and bad words.  As a child is older and they are exposed to more situations and even more inappropriate language they have an understanding of words and what they should not be repeating. A little one does not get that.

While I still love Brothers and Sisters, I think that a show about families,  would be prudent to forgo the bad language, especially while a mother is holding a child in her lap.  Even if I can’t get the writers to change, it is a good reminder to all of us that our children are listening!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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