Sunday, April 8, 2012

Writing the Book on Parenting...

Every lunchtime during the working week I walk from my office and go to ASDA.  It's the only place within walking distance; which is both a shame, and an indication of the salubrious setting of my workplace.

One day this week, as I walked from one end of the store to the other, I passed a family: Mum, toddler and Granny.  This is not unusual in this particular ASDA, lots of people seem to think their kids should learn the ways of Smart Price early on.

A little more unusual was the snippet of conversation I heard as I passed them:

Granny: "do we need to get cutlery?"

Mum: [shouting] "she don't need a fork, she'll use her fucking fingers"

Which was nice.

Now, I'm in no position to give parenting advice, nor am I the sort of person who is likely to tell someone else that what they're saying to their child is possibly, maybe, just a tiny bit inappropriate.  But it was, and I didn't think it was a technique Supernanny would have been proud of.

I'm very happy to litter my speech to adults with swearwords, I don't attach any greater significance to them than I do any other word.  But this made me feel sorry for the child.  Maybe it was the first and only time the mum had ever sworn at her, or maybe it was a regular part of their relationship.  I don't know.  But it just seemed so unnecessary.  It was swearing as filler, swearing as punctuation, not swearing for effect or emphasis.  Even if it had been the latter, not in the direction of a toddler surely?

It made me judge the mother too.  I wondered what other things she might think were okay which I might not.  I wondered what the girl would be eating with her fingers; bolognaise perhaps?  A tasty curry?  Perhaps this mum also thought that a bowl of cereal should be eaten without a spoon?

Two days later I heard another mother tell her son "you can't go on the fucking ride, and you're not getting any fucking sweets, now shut up".  That was in ASDA too.  The boy didn't look to be misbehaving, but he did look like he hadn't enjoyed being spoken to like that.  Not an isolated case then.

Am I wrong, or being prudish?  Maybe everyone swears at their kids (and I don't mean the under-the-breath frustration swearing, I mean swearing AT their kids) and it's all part of their growing up experience.

Perhaps when I'm a dad myself I'll understand it, but for now I'll just remain dumbfounded.


  1. I sometimes do the rarry underbreath stuff but I hate hearing kids spoken to this way. Horrible. We all get stressed, especially at supermarkets with children whiiiining, but I think most people would regret swearing at their child? I suppose the mums you heard might well have felt a bit shit for losing it once they were at home with a cup of tea?...or maybe not! But I think feeling shocked at hearing it is a completely normal response innit.

    Interesting post! N :o)

  2. I think what bothered me most about this was the "Now shut up." I don't use too many swear words with my kids, mainly because I don't need them to repeat them at school or at Granny's house, but the "Now shut up" was terrible. Sad kids grow up like that.

  3. I've said "shut up" to my 6 yo maybe twice in her life. Both times felt horrible for saying it pretty much immediately and apologized. I can't imagine actually swearing at her.

  4. I swear quite a bit. Sometimes swearwords add a certain emphasis and encapsulate exactly what I mean, in a way other words cannot. I'm definitely not prudish, but I am sooo sad when I hear parents swearing at their children or in conversations that can be overheard by them. Like the previous comments, even the "shut up" bit makes me very very sad, god knows how many times I've shouted it inside my head at my son, but so far managed not to say it loud. These children do not like being talked and treated like that, they just learn to live with it. You can see it in their sad and sometimes defiant faces. You know, these parents probably learnt this behaviour from their own experience, and their children will probably do it to their children in turn, and so it goes on... Again, sad, sad, sad. I know my child will swear when older, but I want him to learn when it's appropriate to do so.

  5. No, this is common place with a certain element and socio-economic cross-section (#snobalert). I also swear like a navvy and don't attach any significance to the words, but never in front of a child, in work or in front of my parents. Unfortunately, a big percentage of children will grow up thinking that this is an acceptable way to behave and speak to another human being.

  6. Errrrrrrm.. wasn't Bedminster ASDA was it perchance? That place is SOOOOOOOOOO rough. I hate hearing children being spoken to like that. I think a swear word has probably passed my lips and directed at Ethan a couple times in nearly 3 years and would've been no worse than bloody. I felt bad after that as well. I may have screamed shut up at him a few times when very very frustrated with crying that went on for hours when he was a baby. It's not a good way to communicate though. If I get annoyed with Ethan I always feel terrible for the rest of the day and make sure I apologise to him, explaining why it happened, saying it's normal for people to have moods, to get annoyed sometimes. It doesn't make it right, but it is normal.

    This shouldn't be normal behaviour though, not in my opinion...

  7. round here it's Butlins where I hear that sort of thing. I once heard a mum call a little girl who couldn't have been more that 3, a c*nt. Nice. I am middle class enough to think that unnecessary swearing is caused by a lack of vocabulary. A sad reflection on todays society, coupled with a general feeling by many people that children are not people at all but some strange under class to be controlled, beaten and sworn at. Poor kids.