I faltered slightly as I managed to stutter to my husband,“Do you want to know what Claire just said to me?…”.
Experience has taught me that the easiest and most effective way to influence children is to ignore negative behaviour and praise good behaviour. By treating swearing in a laisser faire manner, my children quit almost immediately.
When our family was still young, few kids lived nearby because our house sat on a few acres in the sparsely populated Greenbelt surrounding Ottawa, Canada. The kids were free to explore, catch frogs, make forts, skate on a homemade rink and ride their bikes on narrow dirt paths through the surrounding fields and clusters of trees. It was the perfect spot for imaginative children to play without fear like children have played for hundreds of years.
However, our homemade ice rink attracted three older boys who lived down the road. They were actually quite sweet, including all our kids in pickup hockey games even though everybody was eleven or younger. David, my fourth, was only five but he was the designated goalie, sporting adult sized pads which almost completely immobilized him. Although he could hardly move, he was thrilled because he was an important member of a real, hockey scrimmage. He never complained, enduring hockey pucks that relentlessly slammed into his pads.
These hockey games were the highlight of the day. After dinner, I’d help the smaller children 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, with only their twinkling eyes visible.
They stood like stuffed statues, pleased simply to watch.
It was a lovely old-fashioned pastime, repeated for generations in the frozen north. However, this idyllic scene was not as innocent as it appeared; our teenage visitors 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 cozy and warm in a soft pink blanket sleeper with her thumb in her mouth. She looked adorable. However, Claire was mad that she was in bed before her younger sister who had slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon. 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. I stood frozen in shock for a moment. 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 to stutter to my husband,
“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.