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When the White House Says C*ck

How (and why) to talk to kids about presidential profanity

Published on: August 14, 2017

child-protesting
Photo:
Flickr

I’ve got a delightfully colorful mouth and my husband does, too. We aren't shy around the kids; their exposure to swear words runs the gamut from birth. We often joke that we expected our daughter’s second word to be an add-on to “mother” (and not one fit for polite conversation). But joking aside, I never expected to have to explain words like “pussy” and “cock” to my elementary schooler.

When those words are used by candidates for President or White House officials, there’s no shielding our kids from them. The current administration has pushed my limits and left me feeling obligated to explain things that would not have otherwise come up. And not everyone has been a fan of my approach.

In January, I took a picture of someone wearing a “pussy” hat during the Women’s March. On the back was a piece of paper that read “power to the pussy.” When I shared photos from the march, many of my family and friends asked why we’d brought our daughter along. Why would we willingly expose our 8-year-old daughter to that kind of language?

child-wearing-pussy-hat
Image: Amy West

They failed to make the connection to the source. If my young children are going to hear words like “pussy” and “cock” from men in the White House, I’d rather they hear and understand them on our terms.

That meant not just attending the march but talking about those words in a way that reclaimed them. We are feminists and we are doing our best to raise feminist children because — as Emma Watson reminds us — feminism is really just believing in the equality of men and women.

This is fairly straightforward on the average day in our home, but nothing about the political climate of late has been straightforward. We talk about the headlines over dinner and we don’t sidestep much. This election cycle gave us “grab her by the pussy” and that was the beginning of exposing our oldest to some terminology she wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.

So what does one say about the comments former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci made about Steve Bannon, when looking into the confused eyes of a third-grader?

First, we define the terms. This is the most straightforward part, despite how cringe-worthy it can be. And it is, even for us!

Next, we discuss the context. This is when we are able to talk about why people in those stations should not be using that kind of language. We can raise the issues of failing to uphold the dignity of these offices; of the lack of decorum and even basic professionalism; and of the basic elements of respect and civility that are being disregarded every time one of these headlines pops up.

Beyond defining the words themselves, we have to address the sources. It is unprecedented for language like this to come from the White House. We feel it’s important to talk about current events and give our kids the opportunity to understand and ask questions. That’s part of our approach to parenting in general and it also comes with the territory of homeschooling. No question is off-limits in our home and we want our kids to be curious and inquisitive, even if it means having hard conversations.

Of course, this administration just keeps giving more fodder for these talks. I appreciate the candid discussions we’ve had with our daughter and the growth she’s experienced because of them, but we sure wouldn’t mind a break from the profanity coming from the White House.

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