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Swearing Around My Kids

I have young children, 3 and 18 months. We have recently moved closer to my in laws. I get along with them all and think, as a group, they are a pretty great family to be part of. The problem is that now we live close enough to have weekly family meals I have noticed they swear, a lot. I have asked them to please watch their language around the kids, we don't speak that way and certainly don't want our children to speak that way. But they continue to speak with such foul language. I can understand that they have lived this way for a long time, and I have been here for a short 3 months. But I don't want to take my child to playschool and hear that my daughter is teaching new words to other kids. How can I approach this in a manner that I am taken seriously and listened to? My husband would like them to stop cussing, but it seems to me, like he does not want to appear like a 'pansy' or 'wuss' in front of his Dad and brothers. There are other grandchildren, but their parents seem to be okay with the language used at family dinners. So I am the first to bring this issue to the fore front. I am not an uptight parent by any means, but I think that my husband and I are articulate enough to come up with more creative ways to express ourselves than throwing the "f" bomb around in a room full of kids under 7 years of age. Thank you for any help you can offer. Also, they use a lot of nicknames (that I don't agree with) None have been directed to my children, but I know their time will come. I would like some advice on how to nip that in the bud.

Wendy's advice

For many of us, curbing our language when we have kids is a huge challenge, so you and your husband should be commended on it not being an issue in your own home. This will probably have the biggest influence on whether or not your children choose to use such language when they're old enough to understand its significance. However, while they are still too young to know better, it really is best to keep them as sheltered as possible from words you don't want them learning. My first suggestion is to speak with your husband and to make it clear that you need him to back you up on this. It sounds like he really is already on your side, but his fear of looking less manly to other male members of the family cannot be allowed to take precedence over your work together as parents. Once the two of you are on the same page, it's time for you to tackle this issue with the offending parties together. Schedule a time to sit down with them to discuss this specific issue so that they know it's important to you, and not just a passing comment at a family gathering. You don't need to be stern or confrontational, but you do need to let them know that you're concerned about your children picking up inappropriate words and phrases and repeating them around others, and that for this reason you can no longer allow them to be around this kind of language. This may also be a good time to discuss the nickname issue and its hurtful implications for your kids, but if you feel that this is overkill in a discussion that may already be uncomfortable or strained, you may want to save that discussion for another time. Don't expect your in-laws to be able to stop swearing cold turkey, but let them know that you need to see them making an effort. If they are unwilling to at least try, then you need to keep your children away when you know the language will be inappropriate for them. If this means hiring a babysitter while you and your husband attend family dinners, do it. If it does come to this though, consider hosting as many family gatherings as you can in your home so that your children don't completely lose touch with this side of the family, and have a clearly defined rule that there is to be no swearing in your home. Remember that you are your children's most consistent and effective role model, and while you can't control the behaviour of others, if you continue to use only appropriate language and behaviour, and express disapproval when you hear language that isn't appropriate, once they're old enough to understand this issue a little better, they will make good choices.

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