Communicating Instinctively: It's a thing...

In Christopher's second grade school year, he would come telling me some of the "bad words" he was hearing. He wanted to know what they meant. So & so called so & so the "p" word and had to go to the office.

I have learned not to react about what these little kids are saying because "punk" isn't necessarily a bad word but he needed to know that the word was offensive. Quoting an article from npr.org on why kids say bad words:

"...children are using words to communicate instinctively. They don't yet have the judgment to take a step back and think about whether a word is appropriate for a given situation."

Good to know...

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However... 

Christopher got whacked on his behind two summers ago when he was six-years-old. He was playing on the Wii with another boy who had just moved into the neighborhood. My husband and I were sitting in a room off of the kitchen and the boys were in the living room. All of a sudden I hear, "Oh shiiiit", annunciated in a back in the day, "Oh snaaaap" kinda way. He just let it roll off his tongue like it was part of his vocabulary. 

In disbelief, I looked at my husband and I asked, "Did he just say oh shit?!" My husband said, "That's what it sounded like." In certain instances, I am the bad cop aka Mama Bear and this was one of those times. My husband didn't even move.  

I got up to see if the boys were in freeze mode from Christopher's slip up. They were still playing. I cocked my head like, "Really?"  When I called to Christopher, "Son, come here for a minute", I could tell by the way he approached me that he knew I heard him. As I was asking, "What did you just say?" he was already crying. I hissed through my teeth, "Tell your friend to go home." 

I was pissed. I had to go into my own timeout while his new friend gathered his things and skirted out the front door. I wondered what his parents might think of us once he went home explaining why he had to leave. We weren't even on texting terms with them yet.

My six-year-old son was going into the first grade! Had he learned this word from Transformers? Had he learned it in Kindergarten? Did the new friend say it? Had he overheard his dad say it? When I asked him where he learned that word, he said he didn't know. He either didn't want to get his dad in trouble or he didn't want to give up the Transformers. What bothered me most was how experienced he sounded saying it. 

I told Christopher to go in his room and by this time he was bawling. 

How I whipped instinctive communication

I wanted to jack him up by the shirt collar saying, "We don't talk like that, do you understand me?" But at that moment he was just a little kid. I whacked his behind with my bare hand on his bare bottom. It hurt me just as much as it hurt him. He got spanked to the tune of, "Don't-let-me-EVER-hear-that-word-come-out-of-your-mouth-again." This unfortunate incident happened on a Friday, the punishment that hurt us just as much as it hurt him was the longest weekend in his existence. He had to stay in his room.

If this was something that had to happen for Christopher to"be afraid, be very afraid" of me, I am glad I did it. He learned a valuable lesson that day. "Mommy don't play that." I haven't had to do anything more than snap my fingers, glare or talk through my teeth to set his behavior straight. Aside from never telling me where he learned, "Oh shit", he has always been very open with me. 

While watching movies he will ask, "Did he just say a bad word?" He's quick to switch from a song playing on Pandora while saying, "Mom I think that has inappropriate words in it." He's always right. The words don't jump out at me, but he's listening to the lyrics and he knows the bad words. He'll inquire about the meaning of those words. I'll tell him what word they were derived from, explaining that they are all insulting and disrespectful while reminding him that he is not to use them. He always replies, "I know."

Recently the three of us were out and about and my husband said something about they way I was driving. I said, "Hush, I'm driving this ship." Yes as corny as it sounds, I really did say "ship". My point is that kids listen to every word you are saying even when they aren't part of the conversation. Christopher said, "Wait, mom. What did you just say?" I said, "Ship son. Have you ever heard me say that other word?" He said, "No."

So by now, though he's only eight-years-old, I thought he knew all of the PG-13 words.

But... 

This weekend Christopher and I were watching Fast & Furious Five. I asked, "Is that girl one of the bad guys from Fast & Furious 6?" He said, "No that's not her. I think her name is Bitch." I said, "What did you say? He said, "I think her name is Bitch. You remember that guy on the airplane said, "Shut up Bitch?"

Didn't see that coming did you? 

Well I hollered! And by hollered, I mean I laughed my butt off! I should have kicked right in to lesson mode, but I knew he didn't know it was a bad word just by the way he gave me the, "What's so funny?" look. When I explained to him that bitch was a bad word, he was so embarrassed. He didn't even question it's meaning as he normally would. I said, "You didn't know. Just be glad you didn't say it in front of a teacher. Now you know." 

I expect that when he hears that word again, he will ask what it means. I'll save that lesson for another day.  

Here's the thing you really didn't see coming... 

This may have been the first time I really laughed out loud at something he said. I've always been a firm believer that I shouldn't laugh at everything he says and does in his presence. I never condoned what was funny the first time around, if it was something I didn't want him to repeat. Cute as it might have been - I nipped it. I wrote it down to share with other adults and that resulted in The Christopher Chronicles.  

From the book: 

#28 Gender Exploration

Checking out his man parts, "What's inside here? Peanuts?" ~Christopherism Age 5

You can best believe with all my clenching jaw might, I did not laugh. 

Here's the thing... I practiced this skill over and over, and I thought I had it mastered until this weekend.


In the words of my editor:

"This book is for every adult who has ever been left speechless by a child and had to hold back their laughter." ~Antoinette Dickson

Check out: The Christopher Chronicles!

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Kenya G. Johnson

Author (The Christopher Chronicles), freelance writer, editor, photographer's wife, and blogger at Live Laugh Blog! a storytelling publication. about.me/kenyagjohnson