When my first child was a toddler, I dropped a jar on my big toe while preparing breakfast for him one morning. Before I could even think about controlling myself, an expletive he would definitely never hear at his Christian preschool slipped out of my mouth — loudly — as my toe throbbed in pain. I couldn't tell if he had been listening, but tried to change the subject quickly.
A week later, I was driving my toddler and his newborn brother when the baby started crying. "$#*@&#^$*, Charlie, stop crying!" my toddler yelled from his carseat. OOPS. Guess I taught him a new phrase.
Maybe I shouldn't have been so worried about it, says Australian blogger and mom of three Constance Hall. In a viral Facebook post, Hall lays out her argument for why it's fine to curse in front of our kids.
In the post, which has been liked 28,000 times on Facebook, Hall asserts that since she never swears at someone in front of her kids and only uses curse words for emphasis, it's not harmful for her children.
"You'll never catch me calling someone a name or screaming, "F*$k off," Hall explained in her post. "It's the 'for f*$k sakes' when you you've gotten everyone in the car and are pulling out of the drive way when you smell a baby decided now was the perfect time to drop a sh*t."
But unlike my toddler, Hall wrote that her own children knew they shouldn't repeat her swearing with the exception of the "odd hilarious moment in the supermarket."
In a TODAY Show survey on Twitter, most parents didn't agree with Hall's arguments: 68 percent voted it is not okay to curse in front of your children. "There's no cursing in my home. My husband and I don't curse at each other ever. It's about respect. Yes, it's out there, but not in my house," commented one voter. "Parents should lead by example, be positive role models," said another.
Some parents defended Hall's stance. "It's not the end of the world. It's more important to focus on work ethic, education, things like that. Social awareness," said one commenter. "Children learn more from our actions than they do from our words," said another.
Recently, Hall said she has noticed her oldest son dropping a few F-bombs as the result of hanging out with his friends. "Does it bother me? Not much — meanness would bother me more," she said, though she discouraged him from continuing to swear.
It has made Hall realize that her child has reached the milestone where he is sometimes more influenced by his friends than he is by her, and she wrote that she feels it is more important that she teach him more important moral lessons.
"So while it's important to say, "Don't swear, it's not cool," it's equally important to teach your kids to strive to find friends with similar moral codes to your family," she wrote. "That way, when they do ignore you and run off with their mates, they are in good hands — maybe cheeky ones, maybe sweary ones, but good ones none the less."
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TODAY Tastemaker and child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa told TODAY Parents that she agrees with Hall that it is more important to teach children that the point is not the swear words themselves, but how people use them.
"We're not afraid of words at our house, but I teach my kids to be aware of how their words will affect other people," she said. "Don't use swear words to insult or hurt people, ever.
"The rule here is: you can swear. But you can't swear where an adult or a child younger than you can hear," said Gilboa. "Treating people respectfully matters, so if they feel swearing around them is disrespectful, don't do it."