I didn’t grow up with swearers. I can count on one hand the number of times I heard my mom say “shit.” She said, “For crying out loud.” A lot. Which I now know is code for “fuck.” I, on the other hand, am somewhat of a potty mouth. I have been since junior high (sorry, Mom.) I enjoy the satisfaction I feel with a well-placed F-bomb. I will admit, though, that I am selective about who actually hears me spewing profanity, and there are likely more than a few people in my life, my kids included, who would be shocked to learn of my trash-talking, trucker-mouthed alter ego.
I have, on occasion, dropped a “fuucckk!!” in earshot of my children but have so far been able to deflect and deny it, claiming that they, in fact, heard wrong. What I really said was “duck” or “fudge” or “truck” or “fork.” But I know the day is fast approaching when my sweet offsprings’ virgin ears will realize the truth. Their mother? Is a whole lot of classy with a little bit of crassy.
But am I doing my kids a disservice by not swearing in front of them?
According to one research scientist, Dr.Emma Byrne, the short answer is yes. The “Sweary Scientist” is author of the book, Swearing is Good For You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, and she believes that “swearing is part of children’s social development.”
In an article posted in The Sunday Times, Byrne is quoted as saying:
Learning how to use swearing effectively, with the support of empathetic adults, is far better than trying to ban children from using such language.
She goes on to say:
We try to keep strong language away from kids until they know how to use it effectively. I strongly argue that we should revise this attitude.
She may have a point.
Over the past few years, science has shown that there are many positives to letting loose and letting those profanities fly. Researchers from Keele University’s School of Psychology discovered that swearing increases your tolerance to pain. They also found that it helps to improve your physical performance when working out. A study done by psychologists from Marist College concluded that a link exists between verbal fluency and how fluent a person is at swearing. That’s right, fellow foul-mouthers, cussing is actually a sign of greater intelligence.
Swearers are also likely to lie less, have more integrity, bond with their co-workers, and generally be happier people.
Because let’s face it. Sometimes there is nothing more calming than standing in mountain pose, taking a deep breath in and releasing a deep breath out, all whilst saying, “Fuck it.” I know it makes me happy.
Another plus? People who swear are less prone to violence. Which makes complete sense. While crazy psycho murderers are penting up every complaint, grievance, and stubbed toe ever experienced, we cussers are letting all that shit go. Let.It.Go.
So should we be teaching our kids how to swear? In a Talks At Google video, Byrne states:
Children whose parents model for them appropriate usage of swearing are far more likely to not get in trouble for using it inappropriately. Whereas those who are left to learn it in the playground, who then don’t actually know where the limits are.
In addition to helping kids understand language better, Byrne also believes it is important that kids know why people swear.
Talking honestly about why people swear helps to demystify not just the words, but also the emotions of the people around them. You’re helping them develop that all-important theory of mind. Children need to learn how swearing affects others.
Does this mean that I will be letting my inner sweary AF voice out anytime soon around my kids? Probably not. But if I do, I have science to back me up.