Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Talkin' like the boss

Dear Laura,

I hear you're a family doctor of sorts. Perhaps many sorts.

I have a question for you when it comes to swearing in the home as a legit expression of anger. I mean, afterall, you have to express it so why not that way if no one else hears?

And oh yeah, where was that stuff picked up from anyway? We try to sweep our sidewalk, but my wife thinks it comes from the streets. Me? I think it's comin' through this little (not so little) box in our living room. Perhaps we are numb to the cake boss' less than delectable language after "picking up so much trash" from outside.

Either way, somethin's gotta change...doesn't it?


Sidney Obediah

Dear Sidney Obediah,

First of all, that's not your real name; I can tell (I have a sixth sense for these types of things). I am going to guess you're Mennonite though, or at least have some Mennonite in you, or there's no way you'd come up with a name like Obediah. Well, I suppose you could be Quaker. I used to have a picture book called Thy Friend, Obadiah, and he was Quaker. Or Amish. But since the Amish don't use the internet, and you sent your question through the internet, then you can't be Amish. Unless, of course, you used your neighbor's computer, which I suppose is an option except that I still don't think the Amish would be consulting Laura Sybil for any advice nor would they need to watch Cake Boss for baking advice.

Secondly, I'm going to assume that the perpetrator of foul language is a child, not a parent. If it's a parent, then you've come to the wrong person. If it's a child, then we can talk.

So? What should your plan of action be?

I'd start by making sure that you and your spouse are on the same page. Do you both agree that swearing in the home is unacceptable? And do you both know why you think so? "Because I told you so," is only going to work so often and not at all beyond a certain age, so you'd better have some very good Biblical and/or moral reasons why you want your children to avoid certain words. I would look at verses such as Luke 6:45b and Ephesians 4:29 to support my reasons for expecting only wholesome talk in my home. If the two of you can't agree, or can't figure out why you don't want your children swearing, then you're going to have a lot of trouble with respect and follow-through.

Next, you will want to have a conversation with your child. For a younger child, simply state what is acceptable and unacceptable. If you have an older child, however, then you are going to want to lay down all of the points you and your spouse discussed. You will also need to state the consequences for any future language infractions.

True story from the King home: When Isaac was three years old, the Good Doctor was in the middle of scolding him for something when Isaac looked his dad in the eye and very seriously said, "You idiot!" Now, I will admit that as parents we both had to take a moment to walk out of the room to control the laughter because it was so unexpected. When we had ourselves in check and did some investigating, we realized that he had learned this from watching 101 Dalmatians; it's one of Cruella Deville's favorite lines when she's mad at someone. We understand full well that "idiot" would not be found on a list of swear words, but it is definitely unacceptable in our home, and certainly so when aimed at a parent. Isaac was reminded that sometimes we see and hear things on TV or in the movies that we are not allowed to repeat. He was told that if we heard that ever again, that particular movie (and maybe others) would be taken from him.

So be prepared to have to cut back on family viewing if the language continues. It is your job as parent to protect your children and to create the best environment for growing into mature, God-following adults. Cake Boss may be your favorite show, but is it worth it if it's promoting unacceptable behavior in your children? But also keep in mind that you can't protect your children from hearing foul language in every situation. So you also need to lay the foundation for moral character on a daily basis. You also have to let your child know that if the behavior continues, even after limiting what is watched, there will be further consequences.

If setting boundaries, saying "no" or the idea of giving consequences are new to you, or if you're just not sure how to go about it, I highly recommend John Rosemond's Parenting By the Book. He suggests that consequences need to be unforgettable or memorable (not abusive or harmful) so that the behavior is less likely to be repeated. Only you know what that might mean for your child. What will be unwanted and therefore, unforgettable to your child? A week without screen time? Cleaning all the bathrooms in the house? Taking the phone for a day? A monetary fine for each infraction? (This one worked in our home for a different type of language problem)

Never a dull moment in the parenting journey, is there, Sidney Obediah? Have fun!

Sincerely, Laura Sybil

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