"This Sucks"

How do you define inappropriate language in your home?  What are the consequences for inappropriate language?  Why does inappropriate language and the consequences matter?  These were three questions I had to answer recently.  Here’s the story.

I was at my kitchen table writing an email while my eldest son was pretend playing in the television area.  Out of the blue, I heard him say, “This sucks.”  While some readers of today’s post may disagree over whether the word is inappropriate, “Sucks” is inappropriate language in my home.  On the spot, my child was placed into time out followed by a long “daddy stare.”

When I released him from time out, I asked what he did wrong and he absolutely had no idea.  Calmly, I explained what he said and why I felt it was inappropriate.  He listened, understood, and then returned to what he was originally doing.

When I mentioned it to my wife, she told me that he probably got it from the movie Madagascar 2.  Although my wife didn’t share as strong a sentiment on the word, she understood the point I was making.  I doubt if most people would use that language with their priest, a potential employer, or a client they may be doing business with. I wonder as well how many teachers would use the word in front of their class.

I feel like inappropriate language should be identified with children.  If my child didn’t learn the lesson from me, who would I expect them to learn the lesson from?  As far as giving a time out versus a warning, that was my parental prerogative.  (For the 80’s generation reading this- pun intended in reference to former pop singer Bobby Brown)

Maybe you agree with me or maybe you don’t on the word in question.  That’s fine.  We could probably debate the word all day long.  What I would say though is that I feel like lines in the sand have to be drawn with children in terms of what is acceptable and unacceptable language.  Allowing pop culture, friends, or other outside influences to dictate right and wrong is a mistake.  I would be willing to bet that any parent who does not draw these lines in the sand will be dealing with much greater issues than the word “Sucks” as time goes on.

Thanks for reading!  If you feel like I do, please pass this article along.  More of you are doing this and the added exposure to the messages of this blog is really appreciated.

My next post will be on Tuesday. Have a fabulous weekend!!!


One housekeeping note:

My latest interview on The Dr.Carol Show is on the right side of the blog.  It’s short and sweet.  The responses have been very positive so please listen when you have an extra 15 minutes.

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  1. Renee says:

    Hello Clayton,
    I have to agree whole heartedly. My children will say words periodically that I will chastise them for. In my mind I'm thinking, "Was that word really that bad to say?" But your right, even though a child might say sucks or something similarly harmless, it is still good to nip it in the bud before they start saying words that are really inappropriate because they think its okay. The words stupid and hate are band in our house. My children will actually substitute other words for them when they read them in a book as well. Thanks for the insight. You are always so helpful.

  2. Melissa says:

    I just posted about this very subject on my blog last week. We have 7 children. 18,16,13,11,5,3,and 2. The littles pick up every little not so nice word that comes out of the teenagers mouth.
    I just came over from the blog hop. Followed you just now. Blessings, Melissa

  3. Agreed! My children have never heard an inappropriate word come out of the mouth of their father as that is not is nature. I, on the otherhand, have been known to let a word slip out here and there. My mother always said to us growing up, "I wouldn't let you eat garbage and I won't let you speak garbage." I agree with that statement. It's called integrity. Good post as always!

  4. Scather says:

    This is a very thought-provoking post – and some insightful comments above too.
    Great to see a parenting blog that actually promotes thinking.
    Thanks for following scathingweekly.blogspot.com – just thought I'd stop by for a visit!

  5. Yet says:

    For parents, this is really something to ponder on. I am vigilant with my kids' language. Something that is very hard to control is the outside influence. Kids tend to bring this at home and younger ones would follow without even realizing what he's saying. I agree that there is no other way of doing it but call the kid's attention and make him realize what words are appropriate and not. I thank you for sharing this. I hope all parents get to have a glimpse on all of your insights. These all make sense! More power to you!

  6. Mare says:

    hi, thanks for the follow! following back, check me out on FB and Twitter too!

  7. Mare says:

    hi new follower! thanks!

  8. Joyce says:

    I agree, the English laguage is to vast, we can find other words to use. Out of curiosity what is your opinion on the word c-a-r-p? I hear a lot of people say this from kids to adults including believers. I even heard my preacher say it!!

    • Joyce- To be honest, I've never heard of c-a-r-p other than the fish. I looked it up on Dictionary.com as well. A person can carp at minor errors. Because we live in different areas though, it's possible the word has an added meaning where you live. Some words have a way of doing that over time. My litmus test provided should be all you need. Would you be comfortable saying carp (in your intended context) to a preacher, a potential job employer, a client, etc…?

    • Is it possible you meant c-r-a-p? If that's the case, the same litmus test stands. I'm sure the fish will be relieved. :)

  9. LaVonne says:

    I agree. I definitely don't want my 3 year old saying that either. I have noticed a few poor word choices in cartoons lately. I am hoping my daughter does not pick them up. If she does, we will be having a similar conversation :)

  10. Alhely says:

    Hi Clayton,

    I have the same problem with my 33 month old:/ I'm still trying to figure out how to make him understand that he can't repeat everything he hears. I am pretty strick on what I allow him to watch on tv (usually just religious or educational cartoons) but unfortunately I can't block out what he hears from family, friends, music, and just what randome people might say. I totally agree with you. If we don't draw a line now, the battles we have to fight might actually get worse later.

    PS: Love you blog!

  11. kajira says:

    hi, i'm after you in the monday hop. :) have a great week!

  12. Cori says:

    "Sucks" is a word that I am constantly using, but at the same time biting my tongue because the kids I'm with are starting to mimic and copy everything I say.

    Thank you so much for this reminder!!

  13. Laura says:

    When my oldest was 2 (she's 21 now), she called me a "bo ho" (butt hole)(she picked it up at daycare). I'll admit I had to turn around so she wouldn't see me laughing, but after a few seconds, I did stand her in the corner & explain how that word was a "no no". Just wait until your son turns 13. It only gets better (or worse). I don't like the word "sucks" either and didn't allow my girls to say it.

    Stopping by from VoiceBoks!

  14. Thank you for a great post, and I enjoyed the comments of your readers as well. We have a 12 year old, so this is very up for us. We have the same reaction to the word "sucks" as well as some other border-line words. I tell my child that we are smart people and we can come up with other ways to express ourselves. My husband and I handle things in a similar fashion as you and your wife do, we may not always agree 100% but, whoever's watch it happens on is the "leader" and we back each other. Thanks again for some great advice!! Visiting from VoiceBoks!

  15. Babymama says:

    This post is SO timely. With the kids being home on summer break, I find occasional boredom sometimes (read ALL THE TIME) leads to bickering which leads to the occasional use of words that have no place in our home. Sometimes a lot worse than "sucks" – with "hate" being the one I…well, hate the most.
    Interestingly, any such language seems to always come from my son but never from my daughter – ?!
    We're firm with him. And thankfully, don't have to deal with this that often. I have threatened the old "wash your mouth out with soap" – it works!
    Thanks again for stopping by.

  16. Kristina says:

    I am fairly strict with my children (although they are still very young) about which language they use and HOW they say it (we often discuss the difference between a happy voice, cross voice, mean voice etc). I'm also a high school teacher, so am exposed to kids on the other end of the age spectrum too – and I'm just as strict in my classroom as I am at home… my least favourite word – "whatever" (but usually because of the body language that accompanies it).
    Thanks for sharing your insights,

    Visiting from vB

  17. Hi Clayton! Although I do not agree with the word per se, I do agree with the message you are trying to convey.

  18. sonja says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your post. Sometimes I let words slip (I grew up on a farm with four brothers, so you can imagine which word) and all I can think about is which kid heard me.

    I don't know about the time out though, if he didn't know what it was for…

  19. Hello,
    I agree with your post. When my now 10 year old was in kindergarten she came home after learning a string of very naughty words. She said that her classmate read them to her from the bathroom stall. I found that moment to be a teachable moment and explain to her that there are some words that are not nice and that she should not use them, and that if she ever saw mommy or daddy saying any of the naughty words that she had to point it out to us so we stop using them too. And she was quite a good police girl and made sure no one around her said any of the naughty words she had learned. And up to this day she does not ever say the bad words that are not acceptable in our home. And my little 5 year old still has not learned any of the naughty words and has never heard them and does not say them because of that, but should she ever come home and tell me she has learned a list of not so nice words, I will make sure to use it to teach her about it too.

  20. Marisa Frank says:

    I totally agree with your post. I have 4 children ages 7,4,2, and 8 months. As parents we must clearly draw the lines of what is acceptable. I thought my biggest problem would be from my 7 year hearing things at school, but lately I am noticing the cartoons and/or kid shows are teaching words that in my opinion unacceptable.

  21. Staci says:

    Though the word sucks isn't used around here, my children have learned a few other words I'm not excited about. Probably from me when it slipped out and I didn't realize they could hear me. I've always just ignored it and they don't repeat it again. I found that when I sat them down to correct them, they knew it was not a good word and figured they could get attention by using it often. At least my youngest at 2 and a half thinks that.
    Although, they do tell me when they hear someone on the TV say Stupid, that it's not a nice word and that person shouldn't have said it. And I just nod and say "yes, you're absolutely correct."

  22. I've been thinking about the language issue pretty hard because, well, at times my language…sucks. I remember the very moment I used the word "suck" as a child. I was promptly grounded and give a big schpiel about the connotation of the word and why NO ONE, adult or child alike, should use it. It's amazing how casual things have gotten in a generation's. Knowing that I am guilty and that my 7-month old will soon be echoing my every word, I think it's time to clean up the gutter mouth.

  23. rachelle says:

    Thank you for sharing this very timely post. I'm currently having problems disciplining my 6 and 4 y/o kids. Aside from the language, they even adapted my tone. They even tell me, "Mommy, you're not listening!" because I always tell them this. Do you think "time outs" are still appropriate for a 6 y/o?
    Love your site and now a follower!

    • Rachelle, would I place a 6 year old in time out? Would you believe I have even placed teenagers in time out? The goal of a time out is for a child to think what they did wrong or a smarter choice they could have made. They are implemented differently depending on the age of the child but the concept is still still the same. Hope this helps!