My wife and I are generally pretty peaceful folks. We try pretty hard not to raise our voices, though we fail on this point as much as any parents. But more to the point, we have never had a habit of using language that would be, uh, unacceptable coming from a child.
But this hasn’t stopped our kids from figuring out how to swear on their own. You might not realize it because they don’t swear in the common American English vernacular. For example, back when Reid was three or so, his expletive of choice was the old British folk song “Bobby Shafto.” Sometimes he’d hatefully scream the first line or two, or sometimes just spit out the song title. More recently, any time one of our children gets the slightest bit upset about something, the person responsible is instantly deemed a “boo boo baby.” Regardless of the choice of words, the intent is usually clear by the tone of anger, rage, or hatred in their voices.
Everyone has very strong feelings from time to time, positive or negative. Of course this is normal. Just like babies have to practice controlling their bodies and develop coordination over time, kids also need practice and experience at dealing with their feelings constructively.
Despite reminding myself of this many times per day, I’m finding that dealing with this to be one of the more difficult aspects of parenting. I’m familiar with the escalating retaliation experiments (an interesting article can be found here in the NY Times) but beyond that, why does it seem that children more often antagonize each other rather than doing something kind for each other? Is antagonizing is easier or is it just more satisfying?
Maybe the verbal abuse they dish out is better than a violent physical response. But we’re also getting very tired of the word “blatty!” around our house.
Just recently we’ve challenged the kids to go out of their way to do something kind every day. We then go around and share at the dinner table. We’re hoping that the kids start seeing the positive effect they can have on others and that this will be more enjoyable for them.