Damn, shit mom!!! Sigh. These sailor words are not music to my ears, but they are emanating from my four year old son on a regular basic these days. Damn, shit have become Jack’s euphemism for anger and disappointment at my lack of response to his needs. I wish I could blame TV or an ill-behaved friend or the dog for his cursing, yet sadly these lovely words he picked up from me. Ugh. I use these words in situations where my willpower is zapped and I’ve dropped something or spoiled something or stubbed my toe. Jack picked them up and delightfully discovered that I have a strong reaction when he says them. So he uses them pointedly to upset me when I have upset him. Smart, eh? So what’s a mom to do?
At first, I acknowledged Jack’s frustration and asked him to use words that would help us both meet our needs. I explained that my needs weren’t being met when Jack used words that can be hurtful and I would prefer to help him meet his needs in a more peaceful manner. At that point, Jack had my full attention and immediately dropped the curse words as they had effectively worked. However, he continued to use them when he felt I was not serving his needs.
Next, I ignored him. Of course, the ignoring only happened on the surface because underneath my calm facade I was panicked. What would happen if other parents began to shun play dates with Jack due to his sudden turrets-like language? “He will learn as he always does,” a wise friend told me, “through experience. If he is shunned then it will be his own doing and he will understand the power of his word choice.” She was absolutely correct. In other areas we ask our kids to learn through natural consequence, so I would have to relax and let the chips fall where they may.
Several months of ignoring didn’t seem to help, even with my more relaxed internal state so I began practicing playful parenting at the suggestion of another mom. I would laugh when Jack said these words and playfully mimick new words saying “Oh, did you say Donut, Sugar? I love donuts and sugar, is that what you said, Jack?” This only seemed to fuel Jack’s frustration, as his intended goal of upsetting me didn’t work and he only cursed louder and more violently, now coupling hitting with his language. Frustrating for both of us!
Finally, I lost it one recent afternoon when Jack’s younger brother Eli was tromping across our bed and began saying in the sweetest baby voice, “Damn, shit mommy!” ARGH! This is not meeting mommy’s needs AT ALL! At that point, I admit yelling, screaming and making a big fuss, which is hugely disappointing, yet actually a bit effective for an afternoon of sailor-free language. Of course, this doesn’t work for very long unless I continue to yell and scream and otherwise act like a deranged mother, which I’m not. I’m supposed to be a peaceful parent, right? I’m an attachment mama, not a freaking out mama. What do I do?
Right now, I don’t know. I know this phase will pass once Jack and I figure out how to best meet his needs before he has to resort to swearing. I know that as Jack matures and develops empathy (usually around age six) that I’ll see less and less of these types of outbursts. All I can say for now is that I love Jack passionately. He is a dream come true and I keep that in mind when I find our relationship stuck in a rut.
For all my friends who love Jack despite his Damn, Shit outbursts, thank you! And for all those passersby in the grocery store who see my little sailor cussing down the aisles…forgive our intrusion on your need for peace and calm. We won’t always cuss out loud. Both Jack (and I) are learning!