WTF! My son said FFS the other day! So what can I do about it?

The other evening, my seven year-old son was playing on his Wii when something didn’t go as he’d hoped.

‘Fer f**k’s sake,’ I heard him mutter under his breath.

‘WHAT. DID. YOU SAY?’ I growled, in the manner of Daddy Bear finding his porridge bowl empty. ‘COME. HERE. NOW.’

My son skulked over, tail between his legs. He knew it was wrong.

‘WHAT. DID. YOU SAY?’ I said again.

‘I’m sorry, Dad,’ he whimpered.

‘Then why did you say it if you knew it was wrong?’


‘No buts. Just answer me. Why did you say that bad word?’

‘But…but..but you say it all the time.’

‘Do I?’ I asked him.

Well do I? I asked myself. DO I?

Well, evidently I do. According to my wife, I mutter it under my breath all the time. When I’ve caught the tip of a finger with a potato peeler. When I have to chip dried up Cheerios off the kitchen tiles. When I see my kids watching some American cheerleader-type dross on kids’ TV.

I am forever in ‘FFS’ mode. To such an extent that I don’t even know I’m doing it.

And there’s another favourite of mine, too: Jesus Christ (pronounced, ‘Jeee…zuss Ker-ist’, as in ‘who forgot to flush the toilet?’)

However, I managed to modify the latter after I heard my four year-old repeating it after a particularly frustrating episode involving trying to zip his coat up and getting it caught in his jumper.

‘Jee-zuss Ker-ist,’ He repeated.

‘No, son. Daddy didn’t say that. He said: “Cheese and crackers”.

Which is the term I’ve used as a substitute for the blasphemous phrase ever since.

But the FFS phrase is a whole different game of balls (if I’m allowed to use that term!)

Now I’m pretty good at swearing. Not quite in the league of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, but I can hold my own in the bawdiest of company. I was brought up around it. However, the language has cranked up a notch – or gone down a league, depending on how you look at it – since I was a lad.

The air was only a pale shade of blue in my childhood home. It was all ‘Bleeding’ this and ‘Bloody’ that. There were no hard ‘F’ or ‘C’ consonants, although a softer ‘Sh’ sound may have come across my eardrums once in a while.

But since I became a parent, I vowed never to swear around the children, or at least not before they could understand what the f*** it meant.

Now, though, I realise it’s part of my vocabulary’s DNA. Some might call it lazy. I prefer absent-minded.

But it has to stop. Right here. Right now. Bit of a p***er, really!

Anyway, I’ve been on the internet and had a look for some advice on how to deal with young children who swear, and found this very informative advice from child psychologist Kenneth N. Condrell.

He says there are several reasons why youngsters swear, as follows:

You still may be wondering why young children swear at all. Well, there are several reasons:
Swearing makes them feel grown up.
Swearing releases tension.
Swearing gets them lots of attention from grown-ups.
Swearing captures the attention of their peers.
Swearing is a way of getting back at someone.
Swearing shocks people and for a kid, that can be fun.

Then he goes on to give 5 Things You Can Do When Your Child Begins to Swear:

1) Keep your cool! Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s first teacher and coach. It is your job to help your child learn from mistakes, and a yelling, screaming parent is not a very effective teacher.

2) Explain to your child that you know other kids and grown-ups use bad words, but that your family does not believe in swearing. You can simply say, ‘The Jones family does not believe in using bad words.’ Statements like this can build family pride.

3) Explain that bad words can hurt people’s feelings. Point out that just as a punch or a slap can hurt, words can hurt people too, and that is why you do not use bad words in your family. Often, children are not aware that swearing hurts others’ feelings.

4) Continue to explain that when kids swear, it makes people think they are not a nice person—swearing can give kids a poor reputation.

5) Now, all of this may be enough to slow your youngster down and to think twice before swearing. And if you catch your child trying not to swear, then let him know how proud you are that he is showing good manners. There is the possibility, however, that your words will go in one ear and out the other. If this is the case, you need to let your child know there will be a punishment if he continues to swear—for example, each time he swears from now on, he will lose 15 minutes off his bedtime. To really inspire your child to try, you can also add that if he has done a really good job by the end of the week, there will be a weekend privilege—maybe he can stay up later or see a video or make popcorn or have a friend over to play. Whatever you decide is up to you; just make sure it is something reasonable (not a new bike!) and something that inspires your child to try.

Which all sounds like brilliant, sound, practical advice, so I’d better get to it.

Like I haven’t got enough to f***ing do!



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9 Responses to WTF! My son said FFS the other day! So what can I do about it?

  1. The advice is useful, I am terrible for swearing and have tried to tone it down a bit but I know the kids will hear the odd thing. It’s easier with my eldest as I’ve been able to explain that I don’t really think there’s such a thing as bad language, but rather inappropriate times to use it. I know he will probably swear around his friends but I would rather he knew not to do it in class.

    My bigger concern with this is not so much the swearing but the losing of temper, I am so short tempered and I see the same trait in my tween and I am sure this is learnt behaviour from me. I am desperately trying to sort my own temper out so my children learn to respond calmly to things that annoy or frustrate them.

  2. Laura MacGill

    I try really really hard to keep my swearing inside my own head. And I do it a lot, that’s for sure.

    Mine are at the stage where they know all the bad words but aren’t repeating them. Ron Weasley makes it a bit harder I have to admit. And DH isn’t quite as skilled at internalising Ffing frustrations. Which makes them come to me whispering about “Daddy saying swear words”.

    The thing that drives me on is how much I hate those words coming out of children’s mouths. It sounds ugly and more often than not they can’t do it in context.

    A quick suggestion for your FFS habit is to switch it to “Fat snakes”. : )

  3. I think you’re a real gentleman Keith for not swearing on your blog. Well, you know. Not typing it in full. I find it hard to believe that you swear. No, really I do. *wink wink*

    Anne xx

  4. Oh dear God that’s hilarious and heart-breaking in equal measures! I need to watch my language because I’ve recently started swearing more and f*** or FFS is my usual choice of tension reliever. However, I really don’t want to hear my little boy say it, so need to start fudging!

  5. We’ve run into this as well here. With 3 boys it’s difficult. My hubbie grew up in the “it doesn’t matter” household while my mother still corrects me if I make a slip at 30+many! (when she hears it)
    Our oldest boy learned the F and C while hubbie was driving and I just told him he could say “holy Cowasourisis” instead (flinstones reference) and it worked. The younger two are more daring. I do notice that people don’t seem as upset as they were when I was a child.

  6. I’ve always been properly prudish about swearing. Mt children have been brought up to use culinary alliterations to vent their spleen (usually starting with ‘f’). Behind the wheel, however, I would make a convict blush. ‘Bugger, bugger, bugger’ yelled my then toddler when she first took possession of her Little Tike car. ‘I have to,’ she said reasonably when I remonstrated. ‘I’m driving!’ Sometimes my vehicular language seeps in to our vicarage and the only comfort is that my children are appropriately shocked and recriminatory. My family says my language turned blue after I married into the church!

  7. Brilliant I read it all in one breath :)
    Car driving can be a bad place…I was cut up very badly by a white van a while back and I called the driver a w****r and only realised I’d done so when a little 3 year old voice pipes up from the back seat ‘Is he a w****r mummy?’
    Needless to say I’m much more careful now, I’ve even stopped saying b****cks as well

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  9. Ditzy Mummy

    Ditto, I often swear under my breath but as my 3 boys never listen to me anyway they haven’t caught on. The odd time they’ve sworn such as bollocks etc I normally tell them there’s no such word or make up another word. Ah the innocence. My 7 year old did ask what the f word is and I told him it could mean anything falling or funny but he persisted so I told him it was flipping heck. His response was ‘but mummy you say that all the time’ ah s**t hope he doesn’t say this at school.