It's so easy to be complacent about swearing these days. It's such a common, everyday form of communication that we find ourselves using it when we're happy, sad, angry, or just can't think of any more suitable.
It's not until you hear it coming out of the mouth of your three-year-old that you start realising how shocking it can be.
In fact for me, the revelation about swearing came a little before the recent episodes with my son.
One night, at a Plunket meeting of all things (yes, they can have their R-rated moments!), a woman was sharing her viewpoint - a perfectly sane and well-reasoned viewpoint, I may add - but doing so using language that would make a sailor blush.
In a split second I realised that here was someone who used even more bad language than myself.
Where I used to think I had people in hysterics with my salty tongue, I could now see that they were laughing with shock and horror at my turn of phrase. I resolved on the spot to at least exorcise the worst words from my vocab unless the situation really warranted it. (And no, sliding on a Wiggles DVD case didn't qualify as an appropriate situation).
My husband and I had already decided not to use the worst offenders in front of the children.
Road rage became increasingly difficult, as I found barking "fudge" or "fiddlesticks" or "what a ... candy cane" at particularly tense moments somewhat unsatisfactory.
Nevertheless, I thought I was doing well.
That was until my son started saying "bloody" every two seconds. He'd occasionally scream out "shit" when he thought three or more adults would hear him.
By far his favourite action at present is to catch the eye of a passing (innocent) child, point at them with a sticky little digit and belt out "no, don't do that, bloody fing!"
"Um, do you say that a lot around the home?" ventured some brave soul to me as my child traversed the playgroup sounding like a pint-sized Gordon Ramsay.
I definitely think barking at an unsuspecting child is beyond the pale and my son is hauled up when he does so. But one of the main problems I have is that, unlike my husband, I don't think "bloody" is a swear word.
It's a word I would use to my grandmother ("the bloody traffic was unbelievable today!" or some such).
I do use it a lot around the home, usually when trying to unscrew a battery hatch, or removing a weta, or tripping over a plastic building block.
I will need to stop, because while I might think "bloody" is cute, I doubt kindy teachers will agree.
When he says "shit" he is asked to not say it again, and then promptly ignored. Quite a good strategy, I think, when the sole intention of the act is to shock and not at all to express frustration (like his mother expresses frustration...)
But my husband alarmed me the other day by reporting, via text, that my son had dropped the "f" bomb on several occasions throughout a day in his father's care, not to mention a few "MF bombs" just to mix it up.
Naturally I blamed this on his father's verbal laxity and congratulated myself that I had never been audience to that particular assault.
I think most parents will agree that one of the dangers of your child swearing is that the first time they do it, it's usually in a completely incongruous setting and you have to bite your tongue to stop yourself laughing - which the experts warn you not to do.
But what about my 2.5-year-old year old niece who saw a yellow truck outside her daycare and ran in bellowing for her playmates to go and see the "Yellow *uck! Yellow *uck!"?
Now that's just *&^%king funny.
- Dita De Boni
Pictured above: If your toddler starts sounding like a pint-sized Gordon Ramsay, it might be time to tone down your own swearing. Photo / Supplied