Experience taught me that the easiest and most effective way to influence my children was to ignore negative behaviour and to praise good behaviour.
For example, if I didn’t react to swear words, my children soon forgot about them because our family didn’t usually swear. We had few other kids who lived near us because we lived in the sparsely populated Greenbelt which surrounds Ottawa. The kids were free to explore, make forts and ride their bikes on windy dirt paths. We lived surrounded by wild life, even before we moved out to our hobby farm.
However, there were three older boys who lived down the road. Our hockey net attracted the boys at first; they would come over and play road hockey right in front of our house with our older children . Actually everybody was eleven and under back then. David, my fourth, was only five but he was the designated goalie, sporting adult sized pads which almost completely immobilized him. David was thrilled. He was actually part of a real, big guy hockey scrimmage, even if it meant enduring hockey pucks that relentlessly slammed into his pads.
The hockey scrimmage was the highlight of the day. After dinner, I’d help everyone bundle up against the cold because even our youngest children wanted in on the excitement. They could only waddle outside; scarves wound around their faces and foreheads so that I could only see their eyes twinkle.
Apparently the older boys did not curb their language while they were in the heat of the game. I discovered this one evening while tucking three-year old Claire in bed. She had just had a bath, her hair was curling softly around her face and she was in a soft pink sleeper with her thumb in her mouth but she was mad. Mary, her little sister was still up because she had a long nap that day. As I started closing the door, Claire took out her thumb and yelled,
“Close the fucking door you stupid bitch!!!!”
My eyes opened wide, my mouth dropped open and I stood frozen to the spot in shock. Slowly closing the door without saying a word, I went down the hall in a bit of a daze. I faltered slightly as I managed call Michael,
“Do you want to know what Claire just said to me?…”.
I didn’t mention anything to Claire and she never repeated those three swear words again.