Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why Do Kids Cuss (and then cover it up)?

Lately, I have noticed a problem amongst my two sons and the neighbor kids.
One neighbor kid, a girl of about 12, I don't even know how to approach the subject, because honestly, I don't think her parents care.
The other neighbor kid, a year older than my 9 year old, seems to repeatedly drop the swear words. Last week, I caught him swearing while out playing with my boys in the yard. He of course wouldn't cop to it, and my son, Josh tried not to rat out his friend. I can appreciate loyalty to one's friend, but not at the cost of lying to me over something so meaningless. I mean, in its sense of meaningless, that it isn't a matter of life or death importance.
Now, them being the only white boys amongst a group of hispanics and a couple of girls, I knew that it was one of the two of them.
I asked one simple question: "Were one of the two of you swearing?" This seems to be a pretty cut and dry "yes or no" type of question. At least to me. Josh looks at me, shrugs his shoulders and states, "I didn't say it." This may be true, but it fails to answer the question as to IF one of them had cussed. The neighbor kid, Ryan, tried to deny it, but Josh, under pressure, broke down and gave me the truth.
Both boys received the soap in the mouth treatment from Ryan's mom. Ryan for cussing, and Josh for lying about it.
Fast forward to today. Those two, and my youngest are inside our apartment playing and running around a bit like boys do so often. And then suddenly I hear the words "holy s---" come from the back bedroom. When called out, noone was talking. I got from Ryan that he "heard" the words "holy shOOt". Okay, I'm old, I'm half deaf. But do they really think I've gone stupid?
Since noone would talk, Ryan was sent home, Josh to his bed for a nap. As Ryan left he felt compelled to tell me that Corwyn (my 4 1/2 year old) had been dropping the f-bomb. After he left, I asked Corwyn, who admitted to cussing.
Now, honestly, I know us adults aren't entirely innocent here. We cuss from time to time, and Ryan's parents I think do it even more so than my wife and I do. But guilty is guilty, regardless of whether the kids are within earshot or not.
When I grew up, my parents cussed. Especially when I was really young, but I think that was a direct result of the havoc I wreaked upon my parents. And yet, I still didn't even begin cussing much at all until I was close to the teenage years. And nowadays, I hear pre-teens, and single-digit aged kids dropping cuss words left and right as though its as normal as asking someone how things are going. I guess I just don't get it. And I'm not even sure how to deal with the cussing by my kids, let alone other people's kids who are out in the yard playing with my kids. We live in an apartment building in a section of town that is almost exclusively apartments, so we get kids of all walks of life coming through, and they all play together.
A lot of the foreigners, seem to be the most adept and most "fine with" the kids cussing, but it pervades all spectrums. We live in a lower socio-economic environment, but it just seems to me that isn't a valid reason to let it go.
I am contemplating keeping my kids separate from playing with the neighbors, but is that really teaching them anything?

I just truly wonder what it is that I can do to cut down on the rather offensive language. I can't always be cut in dry in everyday life, as it isn't PC, and yet I'm supposed to accept this foul-mouthed language? And what about the lying to cover it up?
I would appreciate any help I can get on this one, to help nip it in the bud as fast as possible before it grows beyond my ability to control it.
What's a young father to do??

Here is a semi-related article by Chuck Norris:

Jesse Jackson (on an off-air mic before "Fox & Friends") and Whoopi Goldberg (and another host on "The View") have raised the cultural language debate to a new level: Who has the right to say the N-word? Their answer: Blacks can, but whites can't. Unfortunately, this derogatory debate has degraded into Don Imus on steroids.

I agree with a lot that Whoopi had to say about the imbalances between the races. But I disagree with her for going off on an intentional N-word marathon, which was bleeped out repeatedly in order to demonstrate her point. There's a reason her diatribe was bleeped and our society still veils our full expression of the N-word: because it still is regarded by most as derogatory and demeaning. (Even among blacks, the N-word obviously can be defamatory, as Jesse Jackson proved when he used it in the same breath he used to describe how he would like to cut off Barack Obama's genitalia.)

This is more than a race issue and far more than a debate over freedom of speech. When will we learn that just because we can say something doesn't mean that we should? Once again, we're confusing liberty for licentiousness. It is a classic example of what happens when a society leaves its moral absolutes: Everything becomes culturally relative, with each deciding what's right in his own eyes. Language is one more infected arena in America's societal degradation.

Think about it. What word is nasty or unwholesome anymore? There are no "bad words." Words once considered evil are now terms of endearment. There's the B-word, the D-word, the A-word, the F-word, etc. Even bleeps are mere blips on America's moral radar screens. When ministers use G-- d--- in their sermons and moral activists threaten to cut off a presidential candidate's genitals and call him the N-word, can't we see the signs that we're heading in the wrong direction? We have become desensitized to everything, from profanity to pornography.

Today's America is certainly not the one in which I grew up during the '40s and '50s. Profanity of any sort was wrong back then and frowned upon by most in private or public use. Today profanity has become a positive form of expression, with studies even showing that it releases stress and boosts morale at the workplace!

I genuinely believe we can do better. I believe we must do better. We need to leave a better legacy of decency, civility and respect for future generations. I believe we need to give them our best, and our best must be more than justifying the use of derogatory language based upon cultural or racial relativity or even freedom of speech. If we're going to reverse negative trends among our youth, it's going to begin with us establishing a better model for them of how we treat and speak about others.

Whoopi proposed that we must find a "new way to move forward." I propose that that new way is not new at all, but an old way that has been discarded and forgotten. It is a way that simultaneously addresses equality, respect and decency. It is a way that was promoted by America's Founders and eventually resulted in increased unity and civility across the land. And it is also a way that I devote an entire chapter to in my upcoming book, "Black Belt Patriotism." The chapter's titled "Reclaim the value of human life." Here's a little of what I say in it:

"The Founders believed equality would give legs to freedom. As John Adams said, 'We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions … shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power … we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.'

"The Founders knew that America was not perfect. Slavery, in particular, troubled the consciences of many of them. … Nevertheless, our Founders believed there was something inherent in humanity that called it to a higher purpose. For all the shortcomings of early American society, the remedy was always there -- expressed in the founding documents of our nation. The Declaration of Independence set America's course. Though we have sometimes drifted from its highest principles, all Americans have ever had to do was steer by its compass to acknowledge or rediscover the inherent equality of slaves, women, the poor, Indians, and the unborn. All were -- and are -- children of God, endowed by their creator with 'certain unalienable rights.' …

"The Founders could not immediately abolish slavery. It was too entrenched in the economy of the South, but the Declaration eroded its foundations in a way that made its end inevitable. That 'all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights' is one of the most powerful principles ever enunciated in the history of politics."

And that power can be unleashed again to help us in our day. The sooner we get back to our Founders' words, our country's original calling, the sooner we will start treating one another (red, yellow, black and white) as our Founders' prescribed and the sooner we will get beyond these slanderous debates about language and humanity. It's time to grow up, America -- to move beyond the arguments of yesteryear. You're older than 200 now. It's time to act your age.


DeadMule said...

Kids cuss because it is an expression of their power. (Adults don't want them to do it.) And they lie about it because they don't want to be punished. It has little to do with morality (in their minds) and more to do with autonomy.

Mookie said...

Thanks Helen. I guess, is there anything I can do to put a cap on all this, at least slow it down some?

Anonymous said...

$#%%$@@% that was funny!

Theblacksentinel said...

I totally agree with deadmule on this one. My son has cursed and been caught and of course tried to lie to cover it up.

My honest suggestion is to focus on the lying aspect which to me is much more egregious than actually saying the words. Honesty is key. But you will also need to assert your parental choice on NOT using those horrible words.

I believe that the children around you apartment are using these words because like you said a lot of them are children of immigrants it sounds like. And their parents are probably not as adept with the English language and don't discern the words meanings as you and I.

I would concentrate on my kids, I don't really care what the other kids do. My kids need to understand that they are never allowed to follow the crowd. I don't advocate that and won't stand for it. I would ask your kids to talk with you about the words and why they feel compelled to use them with these other kids. The answer will be really simple. They don't wan to feel ostracized etc.

Also, I thought what Chuck was saying was half/half. I agree that we have become totally incensed about the downfall of supposed moral behavior. But I can't get on board with what the founding fathers are saying since they did NOT believe in equality for all. Unless by all they meant land owning white men. Which IS what they meant.

Also, about the N-word and Whoopie etc. People don't seem to have a problem with gay people personalizing the words that were used to hurt and demean them. Same with women and bitch. That word is now the name of a feminist magazine. It is somehow just the N-word that seems to drum up a lot of problems. I think that just like any other sub culture that has claimed a derogatory name for themselves it should be left at that.

Sorry for the long reply. Great post. Talk with those little ones of yours I am sure things will work out. P.S. if it continues then separate them from the kids, that will be a big lesson.

Mookie said...

Thanks for visiting my page, and also for your input. As for long comments....I like long comments!!! Although I'm sure you realize that about me after reading my comments on your page!
Thanks again. I'll try your suggestions!