I was in Von’s the other day shopping for cat food and cheap wine when the wild screeching of a toddler pierced the afternoon boredom. It sounded very much like a kid going through the “terrible twos,” perhaps stimulated by a mommy who has had it up to here with him and was beating him with a loaf of sourdough bread.
I could tell the direction of the screaming by the number of shoppers emerging from the aisle with their hands over their ears. Sure enough, Mommy followed, trying to placate a little boy who would have none of it. He had just hurled a can of tomato sauce across the floor and was screaming, God knows why, when he suddenly stopped, gasping and gurgling, and said, “You go to hell!”
I couldn’t believe it. OK, terrible twos are awful to be around and there are times when you want to thrust the kid into the arms of passing strangers, but I never heard one actually cursing his mommy. In fact, I never heard one actually cursing anyone. I think we have a new problem here, America. Kids are becoming, well, just like us.
They are learning to speak by listening to adults converse in person, on television, on computers and even at garden parties. There are no boundaries anymore. Use of the F-word has achieved pandemic proportions. What used to be confined to a men’s gym or to fields of combat (or perhaps to bedrooms where dirty talk works as a kind of erotic catalyst) has also found its way into the kitchen and the living room. And not in abbreviations like, “That's a bunch of B.S.,” but the words themselves, said at full voice.
Friends and neighbors with toddlers have told me that their precious little ones use curse words during tantrums in which they kick, flail about, stiffen or run away, screaming at their dear mommies or doting daddies.
An expert on the Raising Children Network website suggests that toddlers become confused by words like “sit” and “truck,” and are simply repeating what they think they are hearing, like ... well, you know. When they get a reaction, that’s exactly what they want.
My advice: Just say to them, “Those are not nice words.” If that doesn’t work, it looks like you ’ll have to wait until they reach 18, at which time “Go to hell, Mom” means exactly what they intended it to mean.
Then you can choose not to swear right back at them. And get satisfaction out of that.
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