F***. Lets face it, although this is not a word that should often be repeated there are certain times and certain situations when this word forces its way from between your lips almost of its own accord. When you become a mother, not only are you immediately cast in the role of babysitter, nurse, taxi, comforter, chef, teacher, artist but you are also supposed to somehow take on the qualities of a saint and cease any and all swearing. I have to admit (queue gasps) that occasionally I still use this word. It's not like I swagger around home like a pirate cursing at every little thing but there are times when this word does slip out. Fortunately, I make great efforts to ensure this is not in front of my children (other peoples children are fine. Just kidding). Unfortunately, there was a time 6 months ago when this word did make an appearance and my toddler was in the room. So now, although this literally happened 6 months ago, I have a toddler who occasionally throws this word out.
When it comes to parenting, I am a researcher, I research everything, look up scientific papers, behavioural psychology websites, read books and handling this little mishap was no different. So it turns out there are three main schools of thought (that appeal to me) in dealing with a little potty mouth. First, ignore the behaviour completely and hope that he grows tired of it and/or forgets the word altogether. Second, say to the child that you "do NOT like that word and do NOT want him to say it again" and thirdly to give them an alternative, for example "Don't say F*** Darling, say "Oh Gosh, Oh Gee, Fiddle Dee Dee!"
My little mega memory has been subjected to all of these techniques. First was when his Grandmother was over and he happened to throw out the F bomb. After looking suitably appalled Grandma stated, "Granny does not like that word! You must not say that!" This backfired and for the next week I was constantly asked "Granny doesn't like F*** hey Mum?" Visitors were told about Granny's dislike for F*** and when Granny made a reappearance she was told "Granny, you don't like F***". So that was a negative for the second technique.
Next I tried giving him an alternative. "Darling" I said "If you get cross you should say 'Goodness me!' I even demonstrated by accidently (on purpose) dropping something and saying "Goodness Me!", adding in raised eyebrows for good effect. This however also did not work and instead, Mr 2 and a half would say "F*** Me!". Really, really not good! Of course I was completely horrified by this and started practicing my speech for when they gave me the award for the worst mother ever.
So now I am trying the last 'school of thought' and ignoring this behaviour completely (as well as keeping Mr potty mouth away from public areas). I'll let you know how I get on but I would like to say that I think it is a bit unfair that when it comes to many of the variety of words I teach my lovely boy, he needs reminding and reinforcement however, hear F*** one time and its embedded in his memory like a drunken and almost instantly regretted tattoo.
Deborah Johanson is a nurse and mother, and lives with her husband and their two children on Auckland's North Shore. Deborah shares her Maternal Journals with OHbaby! in association with Tiny Turtles.
Click here for Deborah's second journal entry, Misrepresent.