Friday, January 25, 2013

In His Room... Bad Words and Potty Talk

There's a world where I can go
And tell my secrets to
In my room
In my room 

Not for a minute did I ever believe my son wouldn't learn "those" words. You know, the ones every other kid has said with a friend, giggling and tittering over them. Can we list the words? Here are some~
Stupid
Butt
Fart
Dumb
Hate
Penis
Diaper (not friendly when used as name!) 

Let me say that hearing these words does not throw my game off in the least. At least it's not 'shit', right? Although he has been told that since he doesn't understand what that word means, he can't use it. But the other words seem to be used with some frequency lately, especially when a project isn't coming together easily, or even at the dinner table for effect, and then that's the time when we have two options:
You may stop using this name-calling, potty-talk language or you may go to your room and do it there.

I'm probably atypical in that I do not punish my son for using less-than-pleasant words. He knows these words are not polite or friendly, and that they do create an unpleasant space around us. He knows that if they are directed at others, there are the natural consequences of having a friend angry at you and having to make amends and make right the relationship. He knows we must never direct these words at others, especially other adults. But when he's getting mad at something he's working on which isn't working and starts getting loud and noisy-- and when those words start coming out, he has the choice: do you want to go say the words in your room, or would you like a little help? 

Words are just words. Some of them, when used, require an apology. I know kids are going to be kids, they are going to learn some hard lessons with each other or at school if they call another person a name or use language which is unpleasant or not allowed at school. But I feel like this is part of what some kids need to do, and forbidding it, as we know, can result in a potential power struggle. Some parents would recommend a bit of vinegar or hot sauce on the tongue; others would suggest a spanking.

Here's the deal with me: I am not so fragile that he can't express himself. It doesn't mean that I will be happy with him if he calls anyone, including myself, a name, it just means that I won't be destroyed by some less-than-lovely language now and again. I do not believe it's going to turn him into someone who swears like a sailor. I do believe that he needs guidance on how to express himself. Kind of par for the course with a kindergartener in any case, bad words or not.

Interestingly, by allowing potty talk or "name-calling talk" (as we call it, because it's an easy way to identify what exactly we're addressing with him) to go on in his room, it kind of takes the fun out of it. The adult audience at home isn't shocked by the language, just bored. Forgive me for the analogy, but I believe this is much like how we guide young children who do other socially-frowned-upon things like masturbating-- we tell them that this is something we do in our room, in private. 

Of course, the potty talk isn't always "in private". Kiddo and one little friend of his know that if they want to discuss Captain Underpants ad nauseum,  the bedroom is the place to do it. With the door open, of course. 

But I believe that there's something really great about having ONE place in a child's world where they can really let their freak flag fly. Some place which is safe for him to vent his frustrations with the words of his own choosing. He is old enough to know the difference between 'we can do/say this here and we don't do/say that in other settings/situations'. And as long as he is honoring this, we are fine. 

He's not old enough to keep a journal; he doesn't have the skills to express himself in writing proficiently yet. And really, what would I do-- stand over him while he writes in a journal at five years old? "This... T-H-I-S is I-S the --oh, you know that one-- baddest B-A-D-D-E-S-T day D-A-Y ever E-V-E-R. Did you get it all, honey?" What's wonderful to me about journaling is that it is a stream-of-consciousness activity, so immediate and releasing. Having a child who isn't proficient at writing express himself in this way is likely to seem the opposite for him, just more tedious and awful. Being able to go into his room and let loose "stupid butt blocks won't stay up!" is  likely to get that job done quicker.

We really don't give Kiddo a lot of direction or guff about his room. We ask him to keep it relatively picked up so you can safely move through it. That's about it. He's got a gallery of Star Wars printouts he's colored, cut out, and taped to the wall. He's got his art, plus some nicer adult art pieces which he likes. The walls are yellow with orange trim. That was for me, when we were painting the room before he was born. "Yellow?" someone asked. "Why not?" I replied. "It's what I can live with sitting in his room for hours and playing with him... besides, when he's a teenager, he's going to want to paint it black anyway." 

 And I'm glad, too, that he has a place that's just his. The kitchen is mine-- having the cat underfoot is bad enough, toys on the kitchen floor are verboten. The living room gets picked up regularly; all his creations have to be deconstructed or moved weekly in deference to the vacuum.  His room is the only place where the space is really his.  So if the shelves are cluttered with paper creations and Lego constructions, well--that's the perfect place for them. He's proud of his work, and I would rather encourage him by letting those products of play stick around for as long as he needs them to. 

And too, this is the one place he's going to get to just be himself--for a very long time. The Beach Boys wistful tune is portent to the future, to his adolescence maybe, when his imagination will be augmented with writing and building skills further developed, or his teen years, when the adults become some other, unrelatable species. 

On those days, and I still remember my own, there is something about going into one's own space and shutting the door, throwing oneself down on the bed and thinking one's own thoughts in the quiet--or with the stereo up loud, via headphones...

Do my dreaming and my scheming, lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing, laugh at yesterday  

2 comments:

Hakea said...

You've got me thinking now...

I don't hear my kids say a lot of "bad" words. I know they use them with their friends. And I hear them say them sometimes in whispers to each other.

Our home is a no put-down zone, so names are not tolerated. This has worked so very well, because my boys have become assertive around this "that's a put-down and that's not OK".

One of my boys has a low tolerance for frustration. He was getting frustrated yesterday and I heard him swear in muffled tones.

I'm really curious as to why we don't get a lot of "bad" language. I think we haven't made a big deal of it, and when it has happened we've asked them to think of more appropriate words and do a "do-over". You're right, if you give it a lot of attention, kids do more of it.

With three boys in the one room there is no private at our place.
I like what you say about kids needing their own space to test and explore their own limits. My two older boys journal a lot and have since they were very young (lots of drawing in special notebooks before writing). They also create their own books on the computer. You've reminded me that the youngest doesn't have this kind of outlet because he's not a writing or drawing kind of kid.

Hazel M. Wheeler said...

I agree about the 'bad' words-- this is really a temporary phase, methinks. I don't send him to his room if he wants help, either, only if he wants to 'ugly up the place' with calling things names. We are pretty strict with not calling living things names, but if Kiddo needs to gripe about a 'dumb' something, I figure the bedroom is a great place for blowing off steam, in any case.