When my daughter was two, she dropped a toy and muttered an exasperated "dammit!" under her breath. It was perfectly delivered. She had been taught well by example.
I didn't say word about it. I didn't want to make it seem exciting and forbidden, and she used it in an appropriate way. I never heard a sing-song "dammit dammit dammit" nor heard her shouting it for fun. To my knowledge, she never used it at school [fingers crossed].
All curse words are not created equal. To me, a shit or dammit muttered under your breath in frustration is not the end of the world. It feels good. It's satisfying. They are not inherently dirty words. They do not refer to body parts, they do not demean anyone, and they are not directed toward someone in anger.
Usage matters. If my daughter loses her temper and screams dammit at me, that's a problem. If she makes a mistake and mutters to herself, a quiet dammit is just fine.
Context matters. If my kid sings along with my country music and wants her toes in the water, her ass in the sand, and a cold beer in her hand, that's okay too. Singing the song just to say the word is unacceptable (giggles give her away). Shouting ass while on the swing set is another unacceptable context.
Sex matters. I intend limit sexual messages as long as possible. My kids don't listen to much pop music, which simplifies things. After some older kids played "Sexy and I Know It" for them, I refused my kids' request to download it. The kids tossed around sexy for two weeks anyway, even though they did not understand what it meant. Sex is going to happen soon enough, and I do not need to encourage it.
My kids may curse within limits but may not listen to certain pop songs. Unusual but true. Cursing is just bad words. Sexy is about sex. It's about looking a certain way so others value you in that way. That is a message I do not want to promote to my children.
The Bad Words Rules aren't posted on our wall, but they exist. If I had to summarize them for my kids, the Rules would be:
cursing to yourself in pain or frustration
cursing along with Mom's redneck music
cursing at people in anger
vulgar body part names
cursing just to get away with something
the f-bomb (despite what you might have heard the day you spilled permanent paint on mom's new butcher block desktop)
What are the rules in your house? Are you more or less strict than I? Or are your hot buttons just different than mine? To read what other bloggers do in their families, please head over to Modern Family in Rural America and follow the links at the bottom of the page.