Damn Unschoolers!

My kids have the freedom to use whatever words that they choose to use everyday. The truth is, my kids swear sometimes and they are not punished or reprimanded for it. Yet, they are very loving, kind people who just happen to have the freedom that most children in our culture do not have.

When we feel the need, I admit, Joe and I swear too. We choose words that our culture labels as bad or sinful  and use them as adjectives, nouns and verbs every once in a while. Words are only words in our family. We do not choose to live by the old school mindset of, “Do as I say, not as I do.” I find they authoritarian paradigm disturbing and disrespectful to children. Instead, I know that if I choose to swear my kids will swear too. I take full responsibility for this fact. My kids have the freedom to swear, just as I do.

It’s interesting to note that we do talk about swearing and how it offends a lot of people. Before new friends come over, Devin and Tiff ask me if it is okay to swear around them. Some families have kids who also have this freedom and some do not. We share openly about it and the kids always respect it. Sometimes a swear will come out and there will be a kind of “Ooops” look on my kids face if they forget around certain people. It doesn’t happen very often though. I never correct them in front of people who don’t like swearing, nor do I put any focus on it at all.

It seems so hypocritical to punish a child for swearing if you do it yourself. Shouldn’t we all have the freedom to choose the words we use? Isn’t it a basic human right? It is a double standard that adults are allowed to swear and children are not. I do see more and more parents relaxing around the issue of children and swearing. The list of “bad words” isn’t quite as long as it was in my mother’s day.

When researching before writing this blog entry, I came across this in Wikipedia about swearing:

“Tape-recorded conversations find that roughly 80–90 spoken words each day — 0.5% to 0.7% of all words — are swear words, with usage varying from between 0% to 3.4%. In comparison, first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our) make up 1% of spoken words.[2]

Research looking at swearing in 1986, 1997, and 2006 in America found that the same top-ten words of a set of over 70 different swear words were used. The most-used swear words were fuckshit,

helldamngoddamnbitchboner, and sucks. These eight made up roughly 80% of all profanities.[2] Two words, fuck and shit, accounted for one-third to one-half of them.[2] The phrase “Oh my God” accounts for 24% of American women’s swearing.[3]

Children are historically punished for swearing. I know a few people who swear with every other word that comes out of their mouths. I feel it is result of being severely punished as a child for swearing. When this happens, and a person finally has freedom of speech as an adult, they make up for all of that past control and swear so much more than a person normally would (which, on average, isn’t very often).

My children do not swear any more than I do, actually. Sometimes Ivy will get stuck on a certain swear and try it out for a while, and combine it with other swears in a creative way. “Assbitch” is one of her newest creative expressions. However, our children do have a clear understanding of when it is okay for them to do so, and when it is inappropriate. They have a respect for others who are uncomfortable with swearing, like family and when out in public.

At a recent visit to my friends house, she pulled out some organic alphabet cookies. The kids all sat together combining letter to make their names, and they also spelled out some swears. We laughed and joked with our kids as they explored some words that our grandparents would have had soap put in their mouths for spelling out. It didn’t feel wrong. It felt natural and light and just another way to connect with our kids.

It is liberating and freeing to know that when it comes to children and swearing, we do not have to do what was done to the generations before us.  I think that most parents today would be so much happier if they could just lighten up about the whole  swearing issue. I think that if they gave their children the freedom to swear, they would realize that they would be receptive and respectful at times when we share that it is inappropriate to do so.  It would also mean that through less punishment and control of another human being, more joy and peace would naturally flow into the family. Now…. ain’t that damn beautiful?

Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them . ~Mark Twain



  1. Jean Marie says

    Well said!

  2. Gosh as a homeschooling Mum I have never thought about this aspect! But I guess it makes sense as I do swear when I feel like its needed – and then I do get upset because my kids copy me 🙂

    Time to re-think the whole idea of what I think is right/wrong! And why cant my kids do what I do without it being the wrong thing to do….has given me something to think about!


    • Lisa,

      It is always nice to rethink and grow on our parenting path. It is nice to hear you are receptive to changing for the sake of your children and their freedom! Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your words.


  3. I knew my kids were swearing when they weren’t around me and I didn’t want them to feel like they had to hide things from me. Plus I couldn’t tell them it was wrong when they heard me saying the exact same words.

    • Brooke, Children do not by nature, lie, cheat or sneak around. It is our control and punishment, which is so unjust, that creates this within them. Children are inherently good! I love that you see that you were the one making them be something they are not meant to be by nature. They WANT to connect with you and share all of who they are with you. I applaud your awareness about this! Thanks for visiting my website!


  4. so…. do you drink alcohol or ever get drunk? Do you smoke? Both of those things are illegal for your children to do, but by your argument, if you do it, then it must be okay for your children to do it too. Same as driving – kids under 15 can’t legally drive, but you do. So do you let your kids drive just because you do? What about sex? It’s not illegal for kids who have reached the age of majority (which is as young as 12 in some states) to have sex with others within a year or two of their age. You have sex, right? So by your logic, as long as you have sex, it must be okay for your kids to have sex too?

    I’m not trying to be ugly here. I have let my son, who is now 17, let a hell or a damn slip out once in a while and discuss with him that this is not the best language and the not the strongest way to express oneself, but I don’t punish him for it.

    But to use the logic that you are giving your kids freedom by allowing them to curse is silly. To say that your reasoning has to do with not ‘doing as I say, not as I do’ is also silly.

    Parenting, home schooling, unschooling, whatever… there are simply things children should not do because they are children, because they do not yet have the cognitive reasoning ability and/or experience to make these choices yet, so we make them for them until they are able to do so on their own.

    • “do you drink alcohol or ever get drunk? Do you smoke? Both of those things are illegal for your children to do, but by your argument, if you do it, then it must be okay for your children to do it too”

      Actually, this isn’t my argument. These are worst case scenarios and are never good at helping people understand Unschooling and living in a partnership paradigm. They are steeped in fear and exaggerated, “What-if’s”, which aren’t true to my life at all.

      Devin actually DID drive about a year ago. He really wanted to and we found a place where he could try it out safely. It isn’t illegal if you do it on your own property. He LOVED it! I will always facilitate and support all of my children’s choices in life. They have no desire to drink, smoke, have sex or give birth right now. If and when they have these desires, I will support them and their choices.

      Thank you for visiting my website.


    • My children are 7 and 10 and I have let them both drink alcohol (which they both immediately decided was disgusting and wondered why anyone would drink anything that tastes so bad, lol), drive (with me in the passenger seat on my parents’ farm which they love and my 10 year old helps them with chores and drives the tractor), and if they really wanted to try smoking I would let them try that too. Actually any time they want to try something, I encourage them to, with me right there with them.

      I wasn’t interested in drinking as a teenager, but my younger siblings were, and my parents actually provided the alcohol and let them invite all of their friends over for ‘parties’. Their opinion was that teenagers are going to try it one way or another and if they tell them no, they are just going to go and do it somewhere else behind their back. It made more sense to them to tell them yes, and then encourage them to do it at home where they could make sure everyone was safe.

      The sex part reminds me of a boy I dated for a short while in high school whose Mom was extremely controlling. She always called him and he had to be home by 10. She told me that he was an accidental pregnancy before she got married and that she wouldn’t ‘let’ him make the same mistake. She didn’t trust me at all, which was funny to me because I wouldn’t have had sex with him anyway. I had previously decided to wait. Less than two months after breaking up with me he had his next girlfriend pregnant.

  5. Michelle, I let my children swear as well. Funny thing is, they don’t swear outside of my house. They are just words….the indecency behind the words is made up by us, the humans. The word itself carries no negative connotation. My kids are 10 and 13. And they say things I would have NEVER been allowed to say as a kid. But when they go to Grandma’s house, they don’t swear. When they are outside playing, they don’t swear. When they are at the grocery store, they don’t swear. They know where its safe to do so, and where its not socially acceptable. And its NOT because I told them so, either. They just understand that.

    When you say “There are things children simply should not do because they are children”, well yes. I agree. Dangerous things, like drinking alcohol and having sex. But, what is swearing in comparison for those things? And dangerous to whom? They know the social “rules” of swearing, obviously. So how else can swearing hurt them? I get you don’t approve of it, because you still are in the old parenting paradigm mindset. And that’s okay. But a 17 year old not allowed to swear? I guarantee he swears with his friends away from home 🙂 I am sure all of his friends do as well. That’s natural. When you say “You can’t swear in front of me”, that’s the same as saying “I don’t approve of who you are”, as you know he’s swearing elsewhere. That’s also saying “Shame on you for swearing at all!” I don’t think we understand as parents how much we shame our kids when we “disapprove” of them.

    And 17…sooooooooooo not a child in my opinion 🙂 He’s almost a grown man. But what you do in your home is your business, even if you share it with me. What Dayna does in her home is still her business, even if she shares with you, as my home is my business.

    But the phrase “do as I say, not as I do” works perfectly here. Its just words. As a parent I’d be more interested and bothered by my kid stealing my car, drinking, or having sex-all which are dangerous things. Swearing….not so much 🙂

  6. Totally agree with this article Dayna. We allow our kids to experiment and play with words, and use any word they choose. I let a curse (or two) slip out on occasion (or two) and totally understand my kids will too! My son learned about the middle finger and for weeks was giving us the middle finger at every opportunity. It was all in fun and in experimentation. Never did he give the finger to people outside the home and never to his sister who asked him not to flip her off. But he and I had some really hilarious moments. Same with the word Bitch. We had such funny moments laughing hysterically as we all used this word. Curses are just words, my kids choose not to use them in public (and really, rarely) but know they have the freedom to choose to say these words or not, they feel respected.

    All that being said, were it not for our enjoying and allowing our kids’ freedoms and choices we would never had had the laughs and memories that we now have. Instead we would have had negative memories with punishments and damage to our relationships. We still look back and laugh at these moments and look forward to more fun, and funny, times.

    Thanks for posting this article. I really enjoyed reading it.

  7. Fabulous! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one! And Assbitch… that’s a keeper right there…LOL

  8. This is a difficult one. I swear – very little , have to be really boiling with rage – but notice that my kids do not swear – around me! I also do not swear around my parents! It is very interesting what you write and I suppose as your children are home schooled (?) they do not have to come up against the wroth of a school teacher calling you in to ask why your children are swearing. I think I might be embarrassed if my children started using swear words in public . I think this is due to the perception that if they did this I would be considered a bad mother raising feral, unruly children. Furthermore, some words are just plain offensive and so I would not want them to slip into my kids regular vocabulary for use.

    Great controversial post got me reading and thinking!

    Have a lovely day.


    • Nina,

      Glad to hear that I got you thinking about this topic from a different perspective.

      Thank you for visiting my website and for commenting.


  9. This was interesting, I can see both sides. I understand that we/society has given meanings to words regardless, I still wouldn’t want my son (who’s almost 2) swearing. I don’t think its appropriate nor does it sound nice (esp if you are out) when in public and someone has a foul mouth.

    Im not saying I don’t swear b/c I certainly do. I do my BEST not do around my son but sometimes its hard. I think, as Im not at that point yet, that if my son does swear Ill nicely let him know people dont want to hear it. If he curses in the house Ill try to talk to him so he understands the word or words are no big deal but its not appropriate and not everyone wants to hear. My intention isnt to shame him but to educate him.

  10. Great post! It is very interesting to see who my kids will or will not swear in front of – they can be very sensitive and respectful. Now that I wrote that I wonder why I think it’s so interesting since my husband and I do the same thing 😉

  11. This is a article I have thought a ton about. I don’t swear. Never felt the need or desire. My husband says a couple ‘crude’ words. Rarely though. The children have never said them as far as I have heard. We do believe ‘more is caught than taught’. If you do you cant expect them not to.
    The comments on it having to be the same reasoning for drinking, drugs and sex. I find so off. In general WHY do people, children or grown, do those things? (I mean in a harmful way) Something is void in their life. Or they are scrambling for control they don’t have. A happy content person has no desire to be a drunk or druggy. Why would they? It clouds their life. They don’t ‘need’ to live a life hidden under a bottle.
    My children have driven. And are all to young to legally do so. But like Dayna there are ways to help them do what they desire in a safe environment. They have seen what drunks and druggys look like and are shocked that anyone would desire to hurt themselves like that. We do drink on occasion. But they see balance and no dependance on it.
    Basically my thought is don’t hide life choices from them. Let them see what cause and effect gets. I have never had a child request a drink.(they have asked to smell it, then with a wrinkled nose walk off) Or act interested in knowing more than they do about other things of that nature. Seeing balance in the parents and having a fulfilled life they don’t need or want less than great things life has to offer. They truly know a good thing when they see it! I want blessed children that don’t desire losing their joy to a bottle or a pill.

  12. It appears that the pendulum has swung the other way with this un-schooling approach, your parents disciplined against swearing and now you are allowing it and actually encouraging it to the level you exercise. I was also disciplined for swearing, but now I see that my parents were trying to grow me into a person who wasn’t so much focused on swearing, but was focused on my character and the impact of my character on others. I learned (from my parent’s example of not swearing) that swearing is not necessary in life, and it is better to not make it part of my vocabulary since there are thousands of people out there I interact with each having a different perspective on swearing with most of them not appreciating it’s presence nor the instability that usually accompanies it. I believe it is far better to have self control and articulate opinions and distressful emotions in a way that shows that the situation has been considered correctly and more helpful response it articulated for the benefit of others and myself. Train your child to think, to respond, not react, to be better than you in as many areas as possible. Continue to improve yourself along the way, not becoming content and thus irresponsible.

  13. Interesting. I rarely swear, the odd shit or fuck under my breath as things go crashing down, but my daughters have recently started using the occasional word. Do I think it is wrong, no, yet sometimes I can not help feel conscious. when they do.

  14. katy jenkin says

    Ok i dig your attitude,I personally as an adult have curbed my swearing and it is part of my mindful journey,I still swear sometimes,I just personaly prefer myself when I don’t,I do believe as you’ve pointed out there is a time and place for it but i also think its good to express at home,its where we should always feel safe to experiment.My only question,I have a friend who swears lil a wharfies daughter and had little concept of where and when is apropriate,I happend to be waiting at the checkout behind her Mum,”how’s it going?” Said the girl with that mt friends Mum replied”f…n etc etc f k n … I noticed the girl did not flinch! But whatever you make of this,me.thinks,itleat teach your children there is a moment and sometimes there is not.

  15. after agonizing about this for decades, I discovered something that I think is important: certain words that i was brought up to believe were unspeakable-and never heard my parents use- mainly “fuck” were normal anglo-saxon words . When the Normans conquered England, they like probably all conquerors, started programming the conquered to believe that they were INTRINSICALLY inferior- as in , born to serve the conquerors and their descendants. As part of that campaign, the language of the indigenous became “lower class”.The Normans crossed the channel from Normandy, and spoke French, possibly mixed with the Viking language they had brought only a hundred years earlier. I grew up partly in Europe, and by the time my family left, there was still definitely a lingering belief that noble born people were somehow better- regardless of money or talent. So, it used to be an important marker of your possibilities in life, what kind of vocabulary you used.
    Even in the last decades, I worried that this could affect my kids’s possibilities. It reminds me of the story of Oprah’s grandmother beating her for dropping a glass and breaking it, as a child. Her grandmother was born into slavery, so “breaking a glass ” would have meant to her getting in big trouble with the masters. So, I would say that her grandmother thought it an act of love to beat her- to associate pain with something that could get her in trouble.
    I got the chance to unschool my youngest son when he was 14, and I got custody of him ( my exwife finally let him come live with me).I feel that it is the greatest achievement of my life. He was a very angry young man who said he hated school.He’s now 27. One of the results of that unschooling, that I didn’t foresee, is the degree to which he is able to prepare himself to act appropriately for the conditions he sets out to experience.
    It’s absolutely stunning to me.
    When he was 23 , he planned , and payed for, a 365 day trip around the world. His girlfriend ( of the time) took a year off from Harvard premed to go with him. He is very laconic ( at least around me) , and rarely says anything that I would like to hear about me or the unschooling that I did. But when he was 18, coming back from a visit with his aunt at William and Mary. he texted me ” thank you for how I was brought up. I see people around me whose lives are out of control. I seem to have the ability to avoid unforeseen, undesirable scenarios”. He often stops working and goes on another trip. I believe that knowing he can achieve whatever he sets out to do has allowed him to have a ‘take it or leave it” attitude to everything else- like take or leave a particular behaviour pattern, rather than feeling any compulsion. I don’t get to see him much , but I believe that if he felt using certain words would be limiting for him, he wouldn’t use them. He does a lot of things that seem dangerous to me, like climbing over high passes in Nepal ( where 40 people died in an avalanche the year before), going to Pakistan for a friend’s wedding, and rock climbing. He taught English to ten year old twins in Paris for a while. I don’t know how all this would have worked out for other kids-of other sexes or ages- if i could have unschooled them. I wish I knew!
    But the simple principle of believing in him like a religion has had results that feel are ‘spectacular” – to use a word my mother used after only the first year of unschooling him.
    I love your phrase “delight driven learning”, Dayna

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