The other evening, my seven year-old son was playing on his Wii when something didn't work out as he'd hoped.
"Fer f**'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.
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. And this from a boy who can barely talk!
"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:
• 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 child, that's fun.
Then he goes on to give Five 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, "Our 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. There is the possibility 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 beeping do!
What do you think about children swearing?