Two years of big-kid school under our belts, and I haven’t encountered many “bad words” from the girls. Here and there I’ve gotten a report about someone saying a particular word at school. I remember “butt” and “OMG” being discussion points at our house, but the girls have generally been very smart about asking us if they think a word or phrase seems out of place.
We’ve reinforced with the girls that they will never get in trouble for asking us a question. We talk about what a word or phrase means, and why it’s not appropriate. We remind the girls how hurtful words can be, and how people will sometimes try to garner power by the words they use.
Often, when I read to the girls, I edit text here and there. I don’t like the words “fool” or “ugly”, for example, and I rarely say them. Now that they can read so proficiently, the girls will sometimes call me on my omission. We’ll talk about why I changed the text, and discuss words the author could have used in their places.
A few days ago, I was reading the sixth Little House on the Prairie book to the girls. I’d edited the word “stupid” a few times, but I decided to say it for the purpose of discussion. Of course it was used in a different context as to what might be heard on the elementary school playground, but I thought it would make a good point of conversation.
The girls’ reaction was one of seven-year old innocence. “Laura’s fingers felt numb and stupid,” I think the line went. Both girls’ mouths dropped open. They both gasped slightly and looked at me with big eyes.
I couldn’t help a little smile.
I was glad for the opportunity to discuss the use of the word. And I was proud that they recognized that word as one we do not use.
May they always recoil when they recognize something inappropriate, and may the ways of the world not numb them to what is right.