I'd be worried, too, if a fast food toy inspired my innocent child to start swearing. Those foulmouthed Minions have a lot to answer for.
Oh, who am I kidding? My daughter's first sentence was: "F*cking road works". I swear (ha!) there had been road works within 600 metres of our house continuously throughout during the first two years of her life. I guess I hadn't realised the effect my uncensored utterances were having on this baby-infant-toddler of mine. It only became evident the day she spoke that she somehow clocked the road-cones, stop-go men and diggers at the roundabout a few seconds before I did. My bad.
I've already mentioned my fondness for the F-word. I guess my child was always going to pick up on that - since, you know, I didn't turn into a paragon of virtue when I became a mother. So, yes, my two-year-old shocked me with her parroting of my vocabulary but I've only recently started wondering what is my official policy about children and swearing.
Some people think it's hypocritical if parents swear while expecting their children to shun curse words. However, I totally subscribe to the belief that adults may swear but children should watch their mouths. Why is it any different to other vices or privileges grown-ups are free to indulge in? I do plenty of things I don't want my daughter to mimic just yet. I really don't buy into the idea that children should be allowed to swear just because the adults in their lives have potty mouths.
There's a school of thought that swear words are more hardcore these days. I know I pretty much head straight to the F-word from the get go. Those less offensive swear words just don't quite cut the mustard any more. "Bugger", for example, was lost as a viable expletive at about the same time it was harvested by the automobile industry for advertising purposes. That's one way of ruining a perfectly good swear word.
I do think we, as a society, are becoming desensitised to cussing. These days, music and movies are rich with bad language. Having previously pointed the finger at Jessie J and Travie McCoy, I recently heard Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know on the radio. That must have been pretty explicit in the mid-90s. And, has anyone else noticed that bleeping out the offensive word actually only draws attention to it? Maybe it's just me.
There's a lot of advice about children and swearing to be found online. Here are some of the more illuminating thoughts:
Context is crucial: "Calling someone a bad name is much more hurtful than swearing because you slipped and fell." Yes it is. Please do refrain from the sweary name-calling thing - unless, of course, they are being a total a*se.
Audience is key: "The language you use when texting your best buddy can be a bit looser than the words you use in a classroom or when speaking to Grandma on Skype." In short: behave yourself around grandparents, teachers, employers and other authority figures. Knock yourself out, though, if you're with your mates.
It's just a stage: "Swearing ... is almost a developmentally normal behavior for children during middle childhood and early adolescence." Well, if it's normal, should we be worrying if our children aren't cussing up a storm?
There is a perceived cool factor: "For teens, swearing often becomes a rite of passage. They think it makes them cool or more grown up." Yet, as we all know, swearing isn't cool and dangerous any more. In fact, it just might be middle-aged and pedestrian. That has to be one of the best reasons ever for swearing off it.
Ignore it: "The most effective way to deal with your [toddler] children's swearing is to ignore the swearing completely."
That is exactly what I did when I heard the road-works comment from my daughter ten years ago. I smiled serenely and didn't bat an eyelid. And I thought I was a terrible mother. Ha! What do I know?