Monday, February 09, 2009

Is Stupid Now a Bad Word?

I had another post scheduled for today, something terribly bland and uninteresting I'm sure but as I was scanning my feeds yesterday I came across a post at An Island Life where Kailani objected to her children hearing the word "stupid" in a children's movie. In her house it's a bad word and judging from the comments she's received it sounds as if most people agree with her.

I, however, disagree. Please don't think I'm taking a shot at Kailani by posting an objection--not at all, she's great--I just happen to have a slightly different opinion on the issue.

Why? Well first, I think stupid is a pretty legitimate word. You cannot replace it with "crazy" or "silly" as suggested, they're completely different. You could use the word "inane," "insensate," "ludicrous" or "moronic" but which would sound more bizarre coming from the mouth of a toddler? Using one of those words just makes you sound pedantic on top of everything--though my guess is if you did use one of those words you have the advantage that 90% of the population wouldn't understand what you meant anyway.

There are times when stupid is exactly the word for the situation. Or even the person frankly--not that I'm passing out that judgment right and left but honestly there are plenty of times when people have stupid behavior or do stupid things--even are stupid. I believe my parents were happy to point out my own stupidity from time to time during my teenage years and thankful I am for it.

I think, based on the post's comments, that what mothers most object to is the word being used as an insult. Fair enough, I don't allow my children to insult other people either but it seems that to unilaterally decree "We don't say 'stupid' in this house" rather than addressing the issue of a child being rude or having no empathy for others accomplishes little. I know plenty of children who are chastised for saying "stupid" or "hate" but receive no reprimand for saying "I don't want you to be my friend anymore" or "I don't like you" or any number of cruel things children say. Teaching children kindness is more than just punishing them for using a particular word.

Second, and by far the bigger issue in my book, is how the trend to vilify "stupid" represents the shift in societal values.

For example, the other day one of the kids got into the car after school and told me that someone they know got into trouble for saying a "bad" word. Curious, I asked which word it was but the child was too embarrassed to repeat it. I finally dragged it out of them and it turns out it was the word "stupid."

"Stupid? That's the bad word?" I said, chuckling.

"Yes," they nodded, eyes wide that I'd been so bold as to repeat it on the school grounds.

It used to be that if you wanted to say a bad word you looked no further than the words describing lewdness, wanton sexuality, body parts or bodily functions. We didn't talk about some things because they were private, we didn't talk about other things because they were abhorrent, we didn't talk about the rest because it wasn't polite.

However, nowadays with every new teen-targeted movie celebrating the crass, the vulgar and the sexual the new profanity represents a new set of values. Forget chastity, morality, grace, gentility, modesty--they pretty much went out of fashion with the 60s--instead we have the new value: tolerance. For everyone and everything.

While I'm certainly a proponent of being fair and kind to all, it does bother me that the worst word you can use today isn't the "F" word but words like "stupid," "dumb," "hate," "retard," or the worst of all--the "N" word. While my children hear words representing blatant sexual acts 50 times a day on the playground what word is it that gets the punishment in the classroom? "Stupid." Oh the irony.

Now I'm not advocating using the "N" word--I can't think of any way its use or any other ethnic slur could be justified--but it just goes to show how our values have shifted and the campaign against words like "stupid," "dumb" and "hate" seems to be the next level in modern mind control. The pervasive use of profanity teaches children that they can be funny or popular if they use the F word (at least that's the message from Hollywood) while their teachers at school are spending all their energy teaching them that they're intolerant and bad for using what still is a legitimate word. Where are the priorities?

It's as if Big Brother is out there, slowly changing our values by making us think bad words--and by extension the acts and behavior they promote--are funny and good while perfectly good words are shameful and it bothers me.

So as for me, I'll keep washing out my children's mouths with soap when I hear them using truly bad language but I'll use the word "stupid" when it's warranted and allow my children to do the same. Being able to correctly judge true stupidity is a critical life lesson that they'd better learn if they want to avoid a lot of pain in life. But then that's me. Maybe I'm being stupid, who knows.

***

Here's your chance to speak up and let me know your thoughts--I'm really curious:

  • stupid
  • dumb
  • hate
  • crap
  • butt
  • fart
  • retard
  • bloody (as slang)
  • damn (as slang)
  • hell (as slang)
  • the name of diety (as slang)

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Technorati tags: parenting, motherhood

97 comments:

Stephanie said...

I do not like it when the kids say stupid or hate, but it is in the context you mentioned, directed at their siblings.

The Social Frog said...

This has been a big topic in blog world lately. I do not like for kids to call eachother stupid and stuff like that but there are far worse words that kids use on a daily basis.

Laurie said...

I wonder if stupid is becoming a taboo word in schools due to the influence of our ever burgeoning influx of immigrants from the south. Stupid, i.e. estupido, is a strong insult in most of Latin America. Tonto, which means dumb, is much more accepted.

Jennifer said...

I wish that when I was a school teacher "stupid" was the worst word I had to deal with! I taught 8th graders, many of whom were, gasp, 15 and 16 years old, and hod no problem spouting off some of the most foul, hateful language I'd heard in a long time... and that was when they were being nice to a best friend!

For me personally, "crap" is a hard word to get rid of. My mom abhorred it growing up, so that of course, made me use it more... but now, I see, it is an ugly word that I hate to hear coming out of the mouths of children.

Erica Douglas said...

I wouldn't allow 'retard' or 'dumb' as they were words to describe the disabled.

I don't mind 'stupid', although at the moment we descibe behaviour as 'silly' rather than stupid. I don't like hate but I think it's a completely valid expression at times.

chelle said...

See I think there needs to be a distinction. If someone is called stupid, I would be annoyed. However if a child were to say "Arg but that is stupid" I totally would not be offended. I am an advocate of not calling one another names. Unless they are sweet and kind there is no need for it.

Gray Matters said...

I think children are introduced to "stupid" and "hate" to young - they need to have a little maturity and understanding of the proper usage and context of the words before they go spewing them out everywhere. Honestly, you've made me look at the whole language "policing" a little differently - thank you for sharing your ideas.

Edi said...

I think everyone would agree that name calling - regardless of what word is used, is mean - b/c the intention is to make the other person feel badly.

I agree with what you said. The word in and of itself is not bad. You cannot always use another word especially if you are a person that is specific and enjoys words.

One day my mil was visiting. I was in another room and I heard her rebuking my dd for using the word "hate" - and it wasn't for saying "I hate some person". It was for using the word hate at all - my mil thought it was a word that should only be used for certain things. I didn't say anything to my mil about it - but later told my dd that we are fine with using that word.

And yeah - it's scary to think that a kid would get in trouble at school for using stupid while every real profanity is winked at. I don't get it.

Courtney from mommie blogs said...

I agree it is the context and purpose behind using any word that I would take issue with... except for curse words, they are banned 100%!

a Tonggu Momma said...

I agree with you, but I do draw the line at calling a person, rather than actions, stupid. Miley Cyrus' recent mocking of Chinese-Americans by using her fingers to change her eye shape? Completely and utterly stupid. Her as a person? Too young to have so much. Or I just wouldn't say anything at all. Though I might think it.

Mom24 said...

Interesting. I must say I was really pleased to see the number of people who said retard is not acceptable. To me, that word is just mean. There is no reason to use it.

In our house, most of the words on your list are not words we would encourage. OK, actually all but the first three, and those need to be used carefully, not to hurt someone. I enjoyed seeing how others felt. thanks.

Aimee said...

I steer my children away from using words like "stupid" as an insult towards other people (esp. their siblings). But if a situation or an object really is stupid, then let's call a spade a spade.

I will not allow them to take the name of the Lord in vain, such as "Oh my G*d" and the like. To me, that is much worse than saying stupid. I cringe when I hear kids in my son's Kindergarten class saying that.

"Retard" is also a touchy word for us, probably because we have a developmentally delayed son. It hits a little close to home for me.

Overall, I try to teach my children to speak to others how they would like to be spoken to. That includes things like saying "I hate you," "You're not my friend anymore," etc . . .

I agree with Gray Matters in the fact that children are exposed to adult language too early these days. They don't understand the complexity or the gravity of the words.

Amy said...

I agree with you 100%. On your poll, can you add a "none of the above."

Angela Fehr said...

I checked all but "butt" on your poll. For my children, (ages 6,4 & 2) it's not the word they use so much as the context. I want to teach my children that using expletives (or their milder substitutions) is not the way to handle frustration with themselves or with others. I aim to model that myself. Teaching them appropriate context for words like 'stupid' is a part of the process, but at my children's young ages, it's easier to start with an outright ban.
My kids are homeschooled partly because I don't want to have to deal with fouler language in their vocabularies at this young age.

Tracey said...

We're pretty loose... as long as it's not an actual curse word. I do however require that my kids know what they are saying. I frequently stop my son with "Do you know what you're saying?" or "Tell me what that means." Of course, we also don't tolerate anything that's said disrespectfully to us even if it's "yes mam".

ShabbyInTheCity said...

We didn't use 'liar' growing up and it really sounds awful to me now. We would say instead 'telling a story'.

Janelle said...

Classifying 'stupid' as a bad word is just plain stupid.

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

Well written post! I agree with you that the word used is not as important to deal with as the rudeness or reason behind it being used as an insult. Stupid seems like such an innocuous word in today's world where our children hear and see so many things that are by far much worse in vocabulary and context.

Tammy said...

I personally think it is stupid to make "stupid" into a bad word! ;-) Honestly though, I've known kids over the years who were taught to never, ever, ever use that word. I just thought it was ridiculous! One of the funnier times was during a church service, the pastor was preaching, and he used the word stupid (in the correct context, of course) and a sweet little Downs boy popped up and said to his mother, "HE JUST SAID STUPID". LOL

Words like "stupid" are fine in the proper context. I wouldn't want to hear kids calling each other stupid though. That's just mean and uncalled for. But like you said, kids can be just as mean and hateful without using the word stupid. I see no reason to banish the word from a child's vocabulary, because there are appropriate times to use that word!

When I was a teenager, we had friends who had a small daughter. They wouldn't allow her to use "stupid" (even in proper context), but when they wanted to use the word, they would spell it. Now that? just plain stupid...and quite hypocritical if you ask me!!!

corrie said...

We mostly work on being respectful. It is interesting that when I hear my kiddos say 'crap' or 'that sucks' I cringe. It sounds horrible, but what do I say when something really sucks? exactly. It is actually making me think about what I say. And how I sound.
I agree with you on your point about shifting values. Very good post.

Allysha said...

I don't like it when my kids use stupid or hate or dumb in regards to others (esp. their siblings) when it is intentionally an insult and not a (semi-) thoughtful commentary on someone's behavior. We don't call one another stupid just because someone won't play polly pockets with someone else!

That said, I agree with you.

ElleBee said...

I would reprimand my kids for using nearly every word you mentioned...if used to describe a human being. I've tried to teach them that BEHAVIOR can be "stupid", but that doesn't make the person "stupid". It's a tough lesson. As far as cursing goes, I'm more offended when I hear people say "Oh my God!" or "Jesus Christ!", and my boys are absolutely NOT allowed to take the Lord's name in vain. We're having trouble right now because our 3 y/o has been saying "damnit!", in context, of course! I've been trying to tell him "we don't say that word" and encourage him to say something else, like "Oh my goodness!". We'll see how that goes.

luke said...

All those words are completely ok...unless they are directed at me. Then they're definitely wrong. :)

Hmmmmm
May be "stupid" is like the word "retarded" It has legitimate medical or scientific uses but when yell it at a person with a disability then its not ok.

So you can use the word stupid as long as you don't let the stupid people hear it.

Patois said...

My kids can say something is stupid and not get in trouble. They can't call someone else "stupid." But they can't call someone else anything cruel. (Unless we happen to be talking about our governor and the legislature and the school board and so on. Hey, I'm allowed.)

I curse a blue streak. I try my damnedest not to do so in front of the kids. They're not allowed to curse.

melinda said...

any word can be used as a curse word or a mean word, if the intent and tone is there..so subsituting a phrase like, "flipflop butter" expresses anger, depending on the way its used. sometimes words are a great pressure reliever, and should be used, raw.
i agree, teach the difference.
in our home saying stupid is a serious thing..reserved for poor decisions, but not people.
i personally feel like an idiot when i say "african american". born in this country, AMERICAN! or i am an irish-native-american american. or, i could simply be, an american. geez...but i digress.

JENNIFER said...

I have been thinking a lot about the word stupid lately.

One definition of the word is that you "lack keeness and quickness of mind." Another is that you are "tediously dull," and yet another is that someone stupid would be "irritating or annoying."


I do not forbid my kids from saying it (yes, it is very possible I am a "bad mom" :) but I do wonder if everyone has a different idea of what is stupid?

Some people are so much more willing to judge other people's reasons for doing something and declaring them stupid....but how do we really know if the decision was stupid for them :)

Drat...I fear this may be a stupid comment :)

Cynthia said...

You make excellent observations! Using "stupid" as an insult toward someone else is just the symptom of an attitude that needs to be addressed. I find it difficult sometimes to help kids learn to have the correct attitudes, and to help them develop the kindness, respect and empathy we want them to have. Maybe it is easier to just place a ban on words like "stupid" in an attempt to deal with these attitudes superficially. Unfortunately, it won't take care of the real problem. Thanks for making me think more about this!

Jolene said...

I don't really like any of the words on your poll - although I do say "crap" my self as an exclaimation. But I don't find their use offensive when used in the right way (except the Deity one - I really hate that). You are right when you say - it is not the word but the context.

We have tried to diffuse name calling etc... in our home by teaching our children to avod the "3 c's" - No criticizing, condemning or complaining. When you define it like that it makes it a lot easier to teach your children. We have gone over and over what those words mean so that when we hear something hurtful directed towards a sibling we can say "were you just condemning your sister?" and they get it. Its not about the words they use but about how they are treating each other.

I think it is great that you posted this.

Lara said...

I suppose I'm a prude. I don't mind the words stupid or dumb in certain situations, but my kids tended to just call each other stupid and dumb. So, the words were banned. Now that my oldest is understanding the nuances, she realizes she won't get in trouble for using it, unless she calls me or her sisters stupid. So there you go. :)

Scribbit said...

Thanks for your comments, some of these made me chuckle (I can just picture that 3 year old saying "dammit!")

Shabby in the City--I hadn't thought of the word "liar" which is interesting because a couple times now lately one child here has called another a liar. It bothered me to hear it and I came into the conversation to say, "Is this what you really mean? Because it's a pretty serious thing to call someone, you're questioning their reputation"

In our house I don't get upset over certain words necessarily (unless we're talking full out profanity) but I will not permit the kids to fight. Sure things get started but hitting and other physical stuff isn't tolerated and any kind of name calling is off-limits. I'm on them pretty hard about saying things that could hurt someone else so maybe I'm doing the same thing as many out there just enforcing it differently.

Marcy said...

I'm not a big fan of my kids saying "stupid." Then again, I do have a potty mouth and find myself saying things I shouldn't in front of them. My son is known for saying, "What the hell?" He's only 3. I also caught him saying, "Stupid kid," under his breath when a little boy was annoying him. He didn't say it directly to the boy, but rather as he was walking back inside to our apartment.

Good thing my daughter is a goody-goody b/c she refuses to use bad words. Maybe some of her goodness will rub off on him.

Motherboard said...

Your survey results are quite stunning! I find it interesting that people are so "not ok" with the words stupid or retard and yet they don't even blink an eye when they hear kids shouting Oh My God or dammit,or bitch/whore (which is how the teen girls around here refer to their friends...), hell or even sh@* (why am I ok with typing the others and not that one?? interesting.)

I find it far more offensive to hear children cursing than I do to hear them use the "other" words. You nailed it when you said we have had a societal shift in thinking "those words" are the bad words and the truly bad words are accepted.

Fantastic post!

Becky said...

We dealt this this issue with our children. At first, we told them not to say stupid at all, and it had a personal family history attached to it--my aunt used to tell her four little brothers that they were stupid all the time--so when my dad grew up, that word became the worst insult he could think to label anyone or anything with because it had caused him so much pain as a kid.

However, we soon realized we were not being practical, nor were we addressing their hearts. So we recanted that rule and began giving better explanation. We talked about the fact that it was rude to tell someone they were stupid, because none of us are stupid to God and we try to see others as God sees them, but it was okay, if someTHING was truly stupid, to say it was so. The result is that they use the word sparingly and appropriately (with secret joy).

Lisa said...

We took a trip to Hell in the Cayman Islands. I tried to get my kids to say we were going to Hell, but they wouldn't. They don't like the "traditional" bad language and hell and damn would be on that list. I can't see myself punishing them for it, though. I guess if they were to use it in anger against someone in our home, then I would be bothered (or at school). The other words are used and all though they are not "lady like" and I try to get us to clean up our speech, I am not bothered by it and feel like there are other things to worry about. And treating others kindly is at the top-telling the truth and family relationships are really more important to me than if my kid says fart.

Anonymous said...

I have a sibling-in-law who was trying to remove the word "NO" from her little girl's vocabulary. Can you imagine not teaching a girl in this day and age the most powerful word in her arsenal..."NO" said with great gusto and feeling! I'm with you.

Maddy said...

This is a tricky one. I did vote, but I think much depends upon what you mean by the word 'reprimand.' As often as not [due to speech and language delays] it's more a question of 'correct' and provide other choices that more accurately describe the emotion that they're trying to express.

Because mine [like many others] pick up on 'cool talk', want to fit in and are very good at mimcry, this can be a tough call.

'Stoopid' and it's equivalents are quite often merely shorthand and spoken without thought.

For me at least, it's about tackling the underlying motivation in using any particular words.

Similarly, just with the 'awesome / cool' comments, it's about expanding language and vocabulary, as using the same words all the time is very dull.
Best wishes

Lucy said...

I just like the word 'bloody' because I think it's cute the way the English use it. Who knows. Maybe it means something else there. Actually...I probably wouldn't want a toddler to use that either. I didn't like any of those words when I worked at schools out of kids mouths. But Heaven knows I've said enough of all of them. I'd like to be a nicer person. I wonder if there's hope.

Kim said...

Wow, Michele. What a thought-provoking post. You make an excellent point about how we're turning the word "stupid" into a bad word, instead of addressing the real problem: a child behaving rudely.

Michemily said...

I stopped saying "bloody" when I heard that Britain doesn't like it because it refers to the sacredness of Christ's death.

That last one threw me for a minute. Diety? Diety? Oh! "Deity," as in gods.

My mom quickly found out that soap didn't work for my brother. He needed tabasco sauce. He liked the soap.

Janet said...

We blew that one early on. The Queen called her brother stupid and we told her not to say that because it was an ugly word to say about your brother. OF course, all she heard was that it was an ugly word. She now corrects us if we say it. So we try now to say things like, don't be mean to your brother, and don't talk about other people. (She mortified me in Dairy Queen the other day when she POINTED and said, "Mommy look at that big fat man!" Something she has NEVER heard from her parents.)

She kept telling me that her 3-year-old brother was saying an ugly word but I could never catch him at it. Finally one day, he dropped something, and said very clearly, "Ugly word." It took me awhile to stop laughing.

Now instead of concentrating on specific words, we are working on the attitude and showing respect for others. Words are words. Look at "bugger." We wouldn't think twice about it, but in England that's worse than the F word.

Margie said...

I didn't vote because I'd rather hear all of those words over the curse words, (like you said the ones that used to be, like the "F" word etc.) that I hear almost daily out on the streets or in public places by both adults, teens and pre-teens. I think the word "stupid" and other similar words on your list are really a persons pet peeves. I had a teacher once who kicked you out of class for saying "shut up" to anyone. My husband got on the kids for saying liar. You don't say them out of respect for that person, but not really punishable words. Oversensitive is right, some schools don't keep score in games anymore so no one is a "looser". I'm so glad my kids are grown!

Reno said...

There are a lot of words that can be considered profanity- depending on how they are used. I think we all agree on that.
I hate hearing the 'F' word- but even more I hate hearing the deities' names taken in vain.

The Bertone's said...

I think it is a personal choice. I do not like my children saying the word stupid, because it became something they were calling each other a lot! I also don't like the word hate for my kids, cause they are to young to know what it really means. I don't think that it should become a "Bad Word" but I don't like my children using it. I feel a lot of these words are a parents choice, or preference. Unlike swear words, where most parents can agree, they are not appropriate.

Fawn said...

Interesting post -- I hadn`t heard about this debate yet! I'm definitely in your camp on this one. Although I DO find "retard" pretty offensive, as I can't think of any way to use it that would be appropriate, it smacks more of ignorance than down-and-dirty profanity.

Jennifer said...

I really enjoyed your post. I have to agree that the language police have been going a bit far lately. While I don't like my children to say "hate" or "stupid" to each other, I think that they are valid words that need to be used in many everyday situations.

Randy and Ally said...

This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately with a little one in the house now. I do not condone profanity, or of course belittling other people, but I have a hard time forbidding people--even my little one (who is much too young to speak, so maybe I'll change my tune later) from using phrases that I myself use. I would feel kind of hypocritical . . . but that may just show how young I am as a parent.

Melissa said...

I agree with a lot of what you said. There is a lot of focus on following "rules" rather then learning how to be a caring member of society. I could rail against tolerance, for a while, but I won't here.
I would get on to my children for using certain words that I do (like "crap") because it just isn't necessary. There are less crass words that suffice. And it's a hard habit to break. I wish I didn't say it.

lifemoreabundant said...

I was fascinated to read the comments on this one. My husband teaches Bible at a Christian school, and has a student who takes the Lord's name in vain repeatedly and enthusiastically, but won't read the word "hell" when it appears as a place reference IN THE BIBLE. Her mother told her it was a curse word.

we have determined that it doesn't teach our children anything to completely ban something because we don't like it in a single context. These are the things that cause the hyper sensitivity in our culture, leading to political correctness.

Also, as an English teacher, I understand that context and meaning of words change over time. If my daughter called someone a "faggot" I would be completely appalled! That doesn't mean I won't let her read an old fashioned book in which a bundle of wood for a fire is referred to as a faggot.

Just my 2 cents (or so).

Annette Lyon said...

I think you nailed it--the issue is the motivation and meaning behind what is said (an insult), not the word itself.

A lot of people still get offended at innocent uses of words because they're so stuck on the old definitions. I had to fight for a geographical use of "hell" (referring to Milton's Paradise Lost and the sections that take place in heaven and hell) in one of my books, because they feared that even that use of the word would offend readers.

(I won, but the way--but it was a lame fight to have to wage.)

Rachel@oneprettything.com said...

I don't have kids but I'm often being told by nieces and nephews that I've said a "bad" word. It seems that anything and everything is considered a bad word now. I used the word "dumb" and was told by a five year old that I'm "making bad choices." Lol. It's hard to keep up!

Blog O' Beth said...

I agree with you Michelle and honestly you really helped me clarify my own opinion. My daughter just recently started using the word 'stupid' and I wasn't sure how to react. I suppose the real lesson is to not be rude but to be polite. I don't ban movies from my house that use the word stupid and we even allow Kung Fu Panda which uses the word "suck" but we don't use those words ourselves and I think that role modeling is the key here.

Michele said...

I think it's okay to say you did something stupid or that an idea is stupid. But I don't think we should call a person stupid. He may do stupid things but not be stupid himself. And even if he is, I don't think we should call a person stupid.

calicobebop said...

I whole-heartedly agree with your post. I enjoyed reading your thoughtful and thought-provoking ideas on this subject.

I remember when I first heard the term "PC" or "politically correct" many moons ago. Isn't it funny how that memory would stick with a person? I suppose that was the desired effect.

planetnomad said...

When the kids were little, we didn't let them call each other stupid, but we tried really hard to address the issue of kindness, rather than just words. I didn't really let them use "hate" either, very often. But now they're a bit older, and their use of language has changed. So much of language has to do with context, as you so rightly point out. As someone who lives surrounded by other languages, I have realized that bad words in other language just don't carry the same weight as those in your own language.
I thought this was a really good post.

Stephanie and Co. said...

Wow! I think it's all been said. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion.
I work with a group of youth in my church and I can't believe how mean they are too each other in a "just kidding" way. It's not the words they use, it's the context. My aunt always used to make us say three nice things when we were caught saying something mean to someone. I used this when I taught high school and my students picked it up pretty quickly, reminding each other to be kind.

Kim N said...

Great post! I agree with many who have said it is more about the context when the words like stupid are used. The only words I have totally banned in my house are cuss words, taking the Lords name in vain, and the word "retard". Having a mother whose twenty five year career was working with people with cognitive disabilities I saw first hand how hurtful the word can be. It is another case of a word being misused and turned into slang so that it is now offensive even when used properly.

flip flop mama said...

I agree that it's all in context. I was surprised at how many people don't like the word "crap." That one cracks me up and my 3 year old (at the time) said it once or twice, but hasn't picked it up. The others of course we shouldn't call people names, but the words aren't offensive to me.

Beautiful Mommy Princess said...

Thank you for writing what I have been saying to my own kids for the last 4 years. Stupid is as stupid does. I could not believe it when my son was punished for saying it at school (which after enough strange behavior on the part of the teachers I decided to homeschool). My children are taught to be kind to each other and to others (old or young) they come in contact with. Now, I need to send some emails with a link to your blog.

Beautiful Mommy Princess said...

Thank you for writing what I have been saying to my own kids for the last 4 years. Stupid is as stupid does. I could not believe it when my son was punished for saying it at school (which after enough strange behavior on the part of the teachers I decided to homeschool). My children are taught to be kind to each other and to others (old or young) they come in contact with. Now, I need to send some emails with a link to your blog.

Melissa-Mc said...

I talk to my children about any word they say that is putting someone else down, especially family members. But, "crap" is my personal cuss word of choice.

The school systems truly have me baffled. In the last state we lived, we couldn't say "Merry Christmas" but we could take the Lord's name in vain. Who are we worried about offending here?

Serena said...

I completely agree with everything you said! My sister-in-law doesn't like 'gosh'. I sometimes wonder if it's just because her mother-in-law says it, and she doesn't really get along with her mother-in-law.

I have been trying to watch what I say lately, because my three-year-old has a crazy-good memory. It's not so much the WORDS I say (though I have been trying to cut out 'crap') as the attitude behind them. I can be very unkind and critical, and that's not something I want her to learn from me. If she's unkind and critical, I want it to be from her own sinful human nature and not because I taught it to her.

I love this quote, by the way: "We didn't talk about some things because they were private, we didn't talk about other things because they were abhorrent, we didn't talk about the rest because it wasn't polite."

The Girl Revolution said...

That is so dang stupid.

My children inform me that I've said a bad word when I say "stupid."

That's stupid.

Their school and their teachers tell them that it's a "bad word."

My young children reprimand me all the time for "bad" words.

Stupid, crap, Gosh, Heck, freak, freakin, dang, flip. Stupid evangelicals have ruled out half the expressions of feelings words that are part of being Mormon.

Duh, you're allowed to replace bad words with "good" words to express feelings.

Stupid, Stupid South.

Tiffanie Novakovich said...

My older children understand the difference between calling something stupid or something someone did stupid, vs just calling someone stupid. But I still ask them to refrain from using the word too liberally because my little one is not that discerning yet. It teaches the older ones to set a good example.

Alice Wills Gold said...

Don't want to here retard, but for some reason retarded is o.k. with me.

Don't like any of the bottom slang words especially taking the name of the Lord in vain...but really the word bloody is o.k. with me because we are American and it really isn't a bad word unless you are in England or Australia, right?

The rest of the words are perfectly o.k. with me.

Carrie said...

I do not think any of the words you listed are appropriate for children to be saying or hearing in their homes. I will do everything I can to keep them out of my home.

You don't ever need to use the word 'stupid' to describe your child or something your child does. When my son does something that's not very smart or not a very good decision, those are the words that I use to tell him so, because they are not nearly as degrading as the word stupid.

miriama said...

I don't like crap or retard but having raised two girls, having run a day care and having been a GS leader....I can think of far less words. And you know what? Sometimes there are really STUPID things. My daughter did something VERY stupid the other day and I told her so.

Naomi said...

Context and appropriateness are delicate things and kids need a lot of help learning to wield words wisely. My daughter's in the exciting phase of preschool potty humor so I try to choose my battles. I don't think I am probably as horrified by profanity as many parents might be but I definitely think kids need to know when it's okay to speak like a sailor... i.e. never around adults!

Heather said...

I didn't vote in your poll because my answers aren't black and white. It depends on when and how many of those words are used. My kids are very young still. This does make a difference to me, because when my kids use these words they mean them as swear words because they are the worst words they know (or think they know). As they get older, I will care less and less about them saying these words.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I don't care about stupid, but I do think hate is a strong word and one that should be metered out carefully. However, it does have its uses. I hate liver and onions, for example.

Stupid is reserved for politicians and pundits.

Jamie said...

AMEN. I had that exact same thing happen with my kids at school. I say stupid a lot - "That show is stupid" or something like that. If something is stupid, it's stupid. You're right - no other word.

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Exhale.

Thank you. This has recently come up in our home and I have been so torn on how to deal with it. Hearing one of my children call another STUPID does rip out my heart. Then it is an ugly, ugly word.

But I (now I know) use the word so often because it is a GOOD word! Like you said, there are just not enough synonyms for Stupid. Stupid frequently sums it up like nothing else can.

I have been so confused on this issue. Like, I'm serious, you have helped me to clarify.

An Ordinary Mom said...

You hit the nail on the head ... I like to reprimand, not necessarily for words, but about context.

And this post is far from stupid :) !!

poppy fields said...

Only the last three got on our bad word list. We personally, love to say fart around here and have some pretty funny private family jokes around that word :)

Babystepper said...

I'm so glad to hear someone say this because I've felt the same way.

Of course my children cannot call each other or a friend 'stupid' but I certainly want them to be able to recognize stupidity in this world when they see it. I want to teach them propriety and discernment at the same time.

I have the same issue with the word 'hate'. They certainly cannot say they hate a person, but the phrase "I hate it when..." is sometimes the only thing that truly explains your feelings.

Kara said...

AMEN!! I so agree with you! Of course I don't think I'd 'encourage' the use of "stupid" but it definitely has its place.

Whatever happened to just teaching your children kindness (and other good values) and not "outlawing" certain words.

Emily Gerow said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I find this societal trend painfully stupid myself. You said it all.

***Patricia Linehan*** said...

I've never told my kids that stupid is a bad word, but my 4 year-old is the "word police" in our house. He thinks stupid is bad and that we should say "stewie" instead. :)

Darcie - Such The Spot said...

I agree that the use of the word 'stupid' is okay, in context.

I happen to have a daughter with Down syndrome. She has a tendency to use words like 'stupid' directed at people when she's angry. It's difficult to convey to her the correct use of the word in context so we try to just omit that word, and others like it, from our vocabulary so that she doesn't pick them up and start throwing them around haphazardly.

The "retard" word is absolutely unacceptable in my book, for obvious reasons. Using that word is no different than calling a black person the N word. It's a very hurtful, derogatory word. To use it correctly would be to say that an individual is retarded. And you would do it in context, like to say that a child is classified as mildly retarded for special education purposes. Still not exactly a warm word, but worlds better than 'retard.'

Another disturbing trend? The use of the term 'shortbus'. All of these are just hateful ways to pick on members of our society that have absolutely no fault in his or her disability.

Completely different that the use of stupid or dumb - in my opinion.

Headless Mom said...

I agree with you.

Actually, by biggest pet peeve about slang/profanity for the last few years is "friggin". You know? We all know exactly what you(whoever) meant when you said it. You're not fooling anyone. I can't stand it out of a child's mouth, especially.

(In the interest of honesty I will say though that I have been known to have a pretty foul mouth. I'm also an adult. I don't love it in children.)

Organizing Mommy said...

I think it would be downright hilarious to hear your toddler say "that is moronic mommy" The problem with STUPID is that it is often used in a derogatory manner toward a person. As usual, a good post.

gracie said...

lol, you had bloody on your list, i use the word constantly, but i live in the american midwest -- i can say it out in public loudly and folks will simply look at me strangely it has no meaning here in a bad word swearing context, it is simply a creative way of swearing, like 'oh nuts'

as for the word 'stupid' - education/child rearing experts are trying to eliminate the word so that 'children' don't think that they are stupid if they are called stupid - hence it's 'bad' word status

i have given my children permission to use certain words: darn, nuts, -- and any words that robin williams made up for his character mork form ork -- which dates me and my taste in entertainment lol

Stephanie said...

Very thoughtful post. I really appreciate how you challenge the status quo...and how you think so carefully about linguistics. :)

I agree that using the "F" word or crass sexual terms is far worse than "stupid" and the like, but I also am not a big fan of "stupid" (although it does depend on the context...I mostly object to it being used as an insult, which is common among children).

For me, the larger issue is about teaching your child kindness, compassion, and proper social etiquette. It's really the "principle" of the matter rather than just a "here's the words we use, here's the words we don't" rule. For example, I don't like the word "fart" because I think it is an ugly word that doesn't go over well in any kind of professional setting. I would much prefer my children to use the word "gas" or to avoid that topic, except when necessary.

Stephanie said...

Oh my. It's late. I just realized I made a big grammatical error in my last comment.

What I MEANT to say is: "Here ARE the words we use, Here ARE the words we don't."

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I've tried to be careful with my kids to say that most of the "bad" words like stupid and hate are only bad when directed at people. So they get that.

The rest of the words aren't taboo (except for damn, hell and taking God's name in vain), although we do tell our kids that they aren't polite. But in the grand scheme of things, saying "butt" occasionally isn't that big of a deal.

Nicole said...

I run a daycare, and I will tell you that 9 times out of 10 when I hear the word stupid, it isn't describing a situation, it is name calling....but even when describing a situation I am not thrilled with the use. My objection is not in the word itself, but in the lack of respect for other people. I think children should be taught from an early age to respect other people. If a teacher has spent hours preparing a project and a student declares "this is stupid" that is disrespectful an hurtful, and the child should be made aware of that fact. Name calling is unacceptable no matter what in my book. What I try to teach the kids I work with (and my own children) is using respectful language to express your feelings. It is a good habit to get into early in life. Sure there may be a time you feel something is "stupid", does that mean you need to demean a person? Why not think about what it is that is bothering you and express that. I think it would not only be more respectful, but also more productive in changing the situation.

2xmom10xgma said...

BRAVO, Michelle. The way we are being PC'ed into witlessness is: unintelligent, dim, dense, brainless, dim-witted, unwise.a-n-d, dare I say it? S-T-U-P-I-D!! MOMM

Steph @ Red Clay Diaries said...

I love this too, Michelle. My sis doesn't let her kids say stupid. And she doesn't really want my kids to say it around them. Oddly, she says crap all the time, which bugs me. ;)

I guess a lot of it is personal preference. But I'm with you - let's focus on the lewd, the crass, the God-dishonoring. They're lots more important than synonyms for "unintelligent."

Pumpkin said...

As my mother always said, "If you don't have something nice to say then don't say anything at all."

page2 said...

my kids somehow figured that "stupid" and "dumb" were bad words even though we didn't intend to teach them that. if i ever use those words they tell me i've said a bad word. i don't object to those words unless they are being used in a rude way.

reprehriestless warillever said...

This is the most thoughtful post on behavior that I have read in a long time. I agree that the attitude is far more worrisome than the word itself, and I try to reinforce kindness with my children.

However, I will NOT accept blasphemy. There are only ten commandments, it shouldn't be that hard to remember not to take God's name in vain. I have been shocked with the casual way that young children at my son's school use the phrases "Oh my ***" and "What the ****?"

Musings of a Housewife said...

Well this got people talking! LOL! I think I'm on your page with this. I don't let my kids call another person stupid, but they can say that things are stupid. I don't really worry about that one too much. But then they hear me say FAR worse. Those are the words I have to work on - not stupid. Fun topic!

Lis Garrett said...

I don't particularly like hearing my kids call someone stupid, although they're more likely to say that some thing is stupid. In that case, I do think there are better adjectives, but I won't object to them using the word. It's not that I think it's a bad word, but it's not necessarily the best choice. Personally, I cringe whenever I hear a kid say "suck," but I also cringe at the word "sperm." LOL!

I guess everyone has his or her own idea of which words are offensive. I used to have a BAD potty mouth when my kids were younger (and I do NOT agree with those who claim only people of limited intelligence use foul language). But hearing your 3-year-old use JC and GD in correct context makes you pay very close attention to the words coming out of your own mouth.

CrAzY Working Mom said...

Stupid is indeed a "bad word" at our house as is Hell, Damn, and Shut Up.

Casual Friday Everyday said...

I agree. But don't most children use those words as insults? Directed towards each other, siblings, their parents...etc.

I don't believe the word stupid, hate, retard (I hate even typing that out) or curse words should ever come out of a child's mouth.

The only exception would be using stupid in the context you mentioned.

I do have to admit...I have to watch myself with such words because I am the model for my children.

Nell

Amanda P. said...

If stupid is a bad word, we'll all have to boycott Charlie Brown. The movies say stupid repeatedly. That's where my kids picked it up.

Antique Mommy said...

I didn't know that butt was bad word until I said it at a party and the hostesses child ran from the room screaming and fanning his face. That was before I had a kiddo. I wrote about it incident waaaay back when I started my blog 4 years ago. Anyway, my mom said the word butt and I lived to tell about it. I don't let Sean say stupid so the other parents will let their kids come over and play. Kidding. Sort of. I just go along. I don't let him call anyone stupid or idiot and I've conceded to the butt-Nazi's and don't let him say it either.

Joy @ Five J's said...

Such a well-said post.

In our family, "stupid" is allowed, but not when directed toward another person in a derogatory or demeaning answer. Respect for others is utmost.