Swearing with My 9 Year Old

Bad Words“Dad, I’m going to swear, but I don’t want you to get mad.” “Okay,” I said as I retrieved a glass from the cupboard and shut the cabinet door. Usually when my kids discuss swearing, the words they are talking about are “stupid,” “idiot,” or “shut-up,” and so I braced for these G-rated “bad words” as I filled my glass with water. Then, my 9 year old son sat up in his chair and said, “What does f*&!er mean?”

The sip of water turned into a long slow gulp as I thought about my response. “Hm,” I said, as I attempted to delay my answer, “Where did you hear that word?” I stopped what I was doing and sat near him and waited for him to tell me that he heard it on TV, at the park, or coming in through our window from the street.


“On the bathroom wall at school.”

Oh, the old bathroom wall. Yes, they do have lots of bad words on them, don’t they?” I was stalling.

“So, what is it? What’s f*&!er?”

“It’s a word that I don’t want you saying.”

“But what is it?”

“Well, when someone doesn’t like a person or they want to make them angry, they yell, that word or sometimes they only use part of the word, like when they drop something on their foot.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“I still don’t know what it means.”

“Think of it as an expression. One you shouldn’t say.”

“Yeah, I thought so. Dad, why is sh*t a bad word, but crap isn’t?”

“I don’t know. Maybe a bunch of rich people sat around a table one day and decided you shouldn’t say sh*t. I really don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t say crap either.”

“Maybe… it is a gross word. I hear people say b*!&h a lot. What does that mean? Is it like another bad name, like f*&!er?”

“It’s pretty bad.”

“Which is worse?”

“They’re both bad and I don’t like them. I suppose b*!&h is worse though. Because if you say that, you’re trying to tear someone down. The only reason to say it is to belittle someone.”

“Like the ‘N’ word?”

“Um, yes and no. That’s the ugliest word in the English language. If you ever said that one, I can’t even imagine the trouble you would be in. I don’t want to imagine it.”

“The kids down the street say it.”

“I know, but it’s different when they say it.”

“It’s still bad.”

“Yes, it is.”

“I thought you said ‘stupid’ was the worst thing you can call someone?”

“I do hate that word.”

“You said I can’t say hate.”

“You’re right. That’s another word that I don’t like.”

“What’s the worst word there is?”

“There are a lot of bad ones. Hm, I guess the ‘N’ word is the worse. What do you think?”

“Probably when people swear and use God.”


“Well, the other words are for when we are calling each other names. You’re not supposed to do that, but you REALLY aren’t supposed to call God names. That can’t be good. It’s like one of the commandments.”

“I think you’re right…. Hey, I don’t want you using any of those words, okay?”

“I don’t.”


“You said, ‘shut-up’ once.”

“I know. It wasn’t right. I hate that I said it.”

“You said ‘hate’ again.”

“See how easy it is?”

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  1. Funny, but a necessary conversation since he brought it up. Did you ever explain the f word? I hope so. My seniors book club had a very interesting conversation re the usage of that word. In my opinion, it is a very humanly degrading word.

  2. Sounds like you’ve had the conversation I’m worried about having but I know will come (along with many others!)

    One of my problems as an English expat in Holland is the s**t word. In Holland it’s used very freely and not considered bad language – even the minister at our church uses it!!! As an Englishman I find it difficult to deal with the idea that my children will be using words like this (and probably worse ones that as an unhip parent I have no idea that they exist!)

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