Potty Words and Other “Bad” Language

As the mother of a 4 year old, I am constantly bombarded with what many would consider inappropriate language. G doesn’t swear much yet (no thanks to me, though), but he does find “potty words” hilarious. He has just started telling jokes – err, “jokes” – and every single punch line is a bodily function. Without fail.

I know many parents chastise their kids for saying “bad” words, but in our house, G can say whatever he wants. I think that restricting language is dangerous, as it teaches children that some expressions are okay while others aren’t. I want him to be able to think, feel, and say whatever he is experiencing – in whatever words best capture it.

That is not to say I allow G to walk around calling people names. I am trying hard to teach him that there is a distinction between a word (which, alone, is neither good nor bad) and the way in which it is used. He is allowed to say words like “stinky” or “stupid” all he wants, but he is not allowed to call someone those words. For example:

– “I think cabbage is stinky” (acceptable)

– “Mommy, you’re stinky” (not acceptable)

The difference, of course, is the intent of the word. In the first example, it is used as a descriptor, while in the second it is used to cause harm. I want my son to understand that the world is not black and white; it is not good vs. bad. What is good in one setting may be bad in another by changing the context. I realize that this is not a simple concept for a 4 year old’s mind to grasp, but I am constantly amazed at what G is able to understand when given the opportunity.

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