26 Jul 2017

You are the best parents for your child(ren): what to do when she ... ^%$@)!* ??!!

Last week my seventeen year-old said to me with some alarm that she overheard young primary school kids swearing and using vulgarities on the public bus. This is what she said,

"What's wrong with these kids? I mean, I know right, that we swear, like in my school we do a lot...but these kids are so young! What's even going on?"

What is going on?

Won't we all like to know.

It used to be that swear words and bad language was the unkind stereotype of some segments of society. I add that I learnt and used that kind of language where I grew up too, but my older sister put a stop to it with her ingenius method of making us pay five cents for each bad word she heard. It was very effective!

But today, this is no longer the case. It's par for the road in media, and of course it is not helped that we now have political leaders whose language use is so sorry and even sick. What has sneaked up on us?

Won't we all like to know?

More importantly, why don't we know? Where have we buried our heads and sold our attention and given our energies to? Why in a era of such progress and possibilities is the raising of the next generation still a task that eludes so many of us?

Definition of expletive

  1. 1a :  a syllable, word, or phrase inserted to fill a vacancy (as in a sentence or a metrical line) without adding to the sense; especially :  a word (such as itin “make it clear which you prefer”) that occupies the position of the subject or object of a verb in normal English word order and anticipates a subsequent word or phrase that supplies the needed meaningful contentb :  an exclamatory word or phrase; especially :  one that is obscene or profane

Both my kids have come back from school and spouted stuff that shocked me. In one instance, my primary four asked me for the meaning of a Hokkien* expletive! I thought it was very crude back in my time and would have gone the way of the dinosaur. But clearly, it's still circulating!

We were very firm that they could hear it but not learn it, and certainly not repeat it. I am not naive to think that they won't bow to the pressure to use it since it's the lingua franca in school (and please don't expect teachers to police this too, they have enough to do. However, the children have reported that the teachers themselves swear at times, sigh).

When my daughter was in primary school more than a decade ago, the girls regularly gushed 'O my God'. I thought about it and felt that it came close to a violation of the musise of the word 'God' for a fomring mind and heart so I banned it. Instead we devised alternatives, since of course, she would need to be able to express exclamation.

When the son's turn rolled around, the vocabulary had already shifted.

Recently, I found my junior college going gal weaken and use 'f' words! She knew it was far from healthy nor elegant, yet it was so commonplace that she just fell in with the crowd. Being older, and with a foundation of what's right and wrong, I could point her to Scripture and clearly say that she will have to put a stop to it.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. ~ James 3v10-12, ESV

For the record, she goes to an elite school in Singapore. It's like a global youth language popularised by the media.

Should we parents and caretakers be doing anything about it? Of course. If you don't want to be sweared at in your old age, do something about it now. Language habits stick.

Here is what I have done. Please share your experiences in the comments!

a) with very young children
Immediately insist that it is wrong and devise alternatives. use 'Aiyo, Goodness, O dear...susah..' Don't give them smartphones please. There is plenty to show they don't make the kids smart at all. Time to turn this tide around. If you have already given them one, make sure you place parental controls on what they can access. {restrictions for apple productsandroid products}

b) with older children
Reinforce that it is wrong, talk about why people resort to such language, discuss how it stumps one's ability to communicate well. I mean if you can say 'f-' rather than 'I feel so upset because...',  your emotional maturation will be truncated.

Other habits that are very helpful: establish the language and tone that is acceptable in your home. I must say this will require parents to go along too!

Getting even very young children to journal so that there is a healthy emotional outlet is also very useful. Children today are awakened emotionally, psychologically and even sexually way before they are ready. For example, the stresses of school imposes a huge emotional burden many are not mature enough to manage. So, there is a lot of pent-up emotion in children that is coming out via social media and in their language. This state predisposes them to be vulnerable to suggestions including attempting behaviours that promise relief. If we allow our children to swear rather than really talk, we are not helping them.

So what is at stake here isn't respectability or social niceties. It's far more.

Let's get to work parents! You can do it. We must do this.

*Hokkien is a dialect of the Chinese language, the dominant dialect in Singapore

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