From the Desk of Doc Smo- Profanity and Children

From the Desk of Doc Smo- Profane Speech


I was talking to the Mrs. yesterday when the subject of children using profanity came up.  Mrs. Smolen has noticed more and more children using language that is vulgar and rude.  I have noticed the same thing. Take my office for example. I certainly want the children that I treat in my office to be comfortable and feel free to express themselves, but when I hear them let loose with language that I don’t think they should use, it disappoints me.  I hope that their parents are noticing and correcting them when they have a quiet moment.  As many of you know, I practice in the South, in North Carolina to be specific, where “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” is taken seriously.  Frequently,  parents insist that their children refer to me as “Sir” and will correct them repeatedly if they forget.  I think showing deference to older people is a laudable thing, but I think it is more important for children to use respectable language, language that does not include vulgar words that have sexual meanings, refer to bodily parts or excrement, or are hurtful to others.


In some respects, our culture has become quite coarse.  Certainly, your children are likely to encounter poor quality language on TV and at the movies, especially if you are not involved with their media consumption. That is why it is so important for you as a parent to be actively involved in the media your child consumes.  It is also vital for you to set a good example and try to keep your language respectful.  If you slip up, point out your mistake and apologize.  I think you should do the same thing when your children cross the line of civility: help them recognize that they shouldn’t have spoken in that manner and ask for an apology.  Vulgar words have strong emotional content and often are used in hurtful ways.  That is why you are asking for an apology.  Words can hurt just like fists.


Parenting is all about setting limits and teaching your children skills they will need to be successful in the adult world.  Knowing the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable speech is one of those important lessons that children must learn.  It is every adult’s responsibility to teach not only our children but also all the children with whom we are involved, exactly where that boundary is.


  1. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    My 2nd grade son remarked the other day that he noticed other boys his age used “rude language” a lot, and he was bothered by it. Not only do we not allow profanity or slang in our house, but we don’t allow speech that is unkind or disrespectful- not just to adults, but to siblings and peers as well. That doesn’t mean no one ever gets upset or expresses disappointment around our house, they just have to use kind words and the right tone of voice. While I do encourage the children to say “yes, sir” or “no, sir”, I am more diligent about the rest of the content of their speech. I don’t want to raise a child that turns out like Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver- polite in the presence of adults, but lacking in a true moral compass.

  2. Charlotte Rouchouze says:

    Hmm, this is an interesting one. I have sometimes wondered if I will change my way of speaking once baby gets older. I never speak disrespectfully to people (ok, rarely…), but I do enjoy swearing.

    I think there are two issues: one is teaching kids to respect others, which is not only about language but also about not judging harshly, being kind, etc. And second is the issue of context. You may write “r u down wit dat?” in a text message, but this is entirely inappropriate in a paper, for example. I have observed that this is something today’s kids, whose reading and writing takes place largely on electronic devices, have more and more difficulty with. I think perhaps the solution there is READING! And not twitter updates…

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