To eff is human – but swearing in front of kids won’t do

A cartoon-style speech bubble with random characters to denote swearing.

I’ve changed a lot since becoming a parent. One of the many ways in which I have relates to my language. And, yes, I’m mostly talking about swearing in front of kids.

Before having children, I was quite the potty mouth. Even in the early years of parenting, I was pretty liberal with my lingo because it was a good stress release and they were too young to understand.

But the older they’ve got, the less I’ve used bad language around them. I would say I’ve cut it out completely, but that would be a lie. The odd expletive escapes my mouth in front of the kids, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. To eff is human, I like to think.

So I was interested to read an article about swearing being on the rise. A survey found that six in ten people use strong language every day, with a third saying they do so more than five years ago.

For my part, I probably still swear the same amount as five years ago but have learned to keep it for when they’re out of earshot. I no longer get as animated while watching football and have long since accepted that Spurs will only ever disappoint me, so there’s no point ranting at the telly.

So most of my foul language these days is when my wife and I are having lunch together while the kids are at school. We wouldn’t swear then either ordinarily, but we tend to talk about the news so it’s unavoidable really.

Another key finding was that most parents don’t want their children to hear them cursing. Only one in five were comfortable swearing in front of kids.

This is much more in keeping with my own experiences. I’m glad about this as I was beginning to think I was becoming prudish. Phew.

Emboldened by the realisation that I’m not Mary Whitehouse, I’ll go one further. I don’t want my kids to hear anyone swearing. This is easier said than done though.

You can’t control what they hear in the playground, for example. It’s where oldest learned the F word at the tender age of four. Similarly, our garden backs onto a field popular with groups of teenagers. So it’s inevitable my three will hear some pretty ripe language at times.

Then there are acronyms that get everywhere. As the article points out, everyone knows what WTF means. So I’m pleased the BBFC is now treating it as full-on swearing.

On a semi-related note, boundary-pushing advertising has a responsibility too. I remember being horrified when a KFC “What the cluck?” ad played on the radio one Saturday afternoon a couple of years ago.

We can only do our best though, so that’s what I’ll continue to do. This generation of kids has already lost a sizeable chunk of its childhood to the pandemic, so I think it’s important we do what we can to preserve their innocence as much as we can.

Mouthing off in the right context is fine in my book, but swearing in front of kids won’t do.


  1. John Adams

    I try desperately hard not to swear in front of the kids. In fact my eldest dislikes swearing. I imagine lunch with your wife is very sweary after building up to it!

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