About andrewdlgoff

I was an early childhood educator for twelve years, nine of which were enjoyed as a special education classroom teacher. My passion for inclusive programming and practices has guided my work in school districts, community colleges, and universities. I currently serve as faculty in the Early Childhood Education Department at the Community College of Aurora in Colorado.

When Your Kid Won’t Stop Cussing

According to cognitive linguist Steven Pinker, in his book The Stuff of Thought, cussing—or at least loud vocal outbursts when feeling escalated emotions—is innate. The actual sounds blended together by a person to express their emotions is learned and culturally specific.

I acquired this knowledge after years of telling my wife to be mindful of our children’s ears when choosing to use the sounds of F-CK, SH-T, and B-TCH combined, and shortly after my daughter came home telling us her friend gets to say F-CK at home.

This coincided with my daughter’s increase in emotional volatility. Inevitably, a month or so later she began effectively utilizing the same sound combinations to express her anger that my wife does.

Our eight year old navigates her emotions around the house with loud outbursts of “h-ll”, “sh-t,” “f-ck,” and “b-tch.”

If this sounds familiar to you and you’d prefer fudge, shoot, heck, and booger keep reading.

Noam Chomsky, the prolific linguistics researcher, regularly talks about power and the use of language as a weapon to exert power. That is precisely what we are doing when we shout out our preferred expletives.

Sometimes it’s because we feel a loss of power; other times, particularly in the case of my daughter, those expletives are to demonstrate power. For example, she says, “Sister, stop being a b-tch!” when her five-year-old sister won’t share a toy. My five year old quickly learned the connotations of “b-tch” and so when she hears it she breaks into tears and gives my older daughter what she wants. That is one of many examples, but they all serve the same immediate function; to feel more power and control.

A month into my daughter’s newfound superpower, after reading psychology researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, How Emotions are Made, I discovered a method to combat such challenging behavior. Disrupt the power of the words and teach less abrasive outbursts.

My first instinct was to provide my daughter with the literal meaning of each word. That led to laughs, but it did not mitigate the cussing.

Going back to the drawing board, I decided to draw from my knowledge I developed as a preschool teacher. Based on my current research and past experiences I came up with the idea of turning every cuss word into an acrostic with the letters in the cuss word.

In her book, Barrett suggests that cuss words are often the outcome of people not having words that effectively communicate how they are feeling, or even conceptualize how they are feeling.

For example, most cuss words now represent a range of emotions. I feel very b-tchy or sh-tty. Furthermore, what I conceptualize as feeling b-tchy and my wife conceptualizes as feeling b-tchy are very different. And my daughter, who has much less experience with the word, has only as much understanding of cuss words than the feedback she receives when she says them or hears them being said.

One of Barrett’s central recommendations to improve the way we understand and express our emotions is to develop a larger vocabulary of emotional terminology. Herein lies my strategy for effectively addressing cussing.

To help children learn to effectively manage their emotions, they need the words.

And since my child, and I presume yours if you’re still reading, are already well versed in cuss words, let’s use them to our advantage, creating useful acrostics with other emotions, while at the same time remove the power the words give to children.

I mean, think about it. Saying Gosh darn it. This flipping poop makes me angry doesn’t quite have the same power as the collection of sounds most adults blurt out—and that children become very good at imitating.

I will provide a few examples, but I encourage you to brainstorm acrostics that work for you and your family. The words that are chosen must be understood by the adults and children. That said, this is an opportunity to expand everyone’s emotional vocabulary so include a couple of words that are uncommon.

Frustrated, Upset, Cranky, Keen: These are all words that can be used to summarize what we feel when the word f-ck is used. We are frustrated with the situation, upset by the current circumstances, cranky because of x, and keenly focused on what is bothering us most.

Example: She says, “What the f-ck?!” I respond, “I understand that you’re feeling frustrated, upset, cranky, and keen. What can I do to help you/I think you need to take a break,” or something else that is constructive.

Stressed, Hurt, Irritated, Tense: These are the four words that are the best fit for her when she uses the word. If we needed an acrostic for me when I say the word, it would be different. When x happens there’s a feeling like things aren’t going the desired way (stressed), it doesn’t feel good (hurt), it’s bothersome (irritated), and it needs to get back to normal before I say f-ck.

Example: She says, “Oh sh-t!” I respond, “I agree, this is a very stressful, hurtful, irritating and tense situation.” Again, keep it constructive.

Bitter, Insulting, Threatening, Cruel, Hostile: I will admit that my first acrostic for this word was intended solely to take the power away from the word. The initial acrostic was beautiful, intelligent, talented, courageous, and helpful. It really made my daughter angry when she called her sister a b-tch and I responded, “you’re right, she is very beautiful, talented, courageous, and helpful.” That turned the power around, but it doesn’t help develop her ability to manage her emotions.

Example: She says, “You’re being such a b-tch.” I respond, “I hear what you’re saying. You think I am acting bitter, insulting, threatening, cruel, and hostile. I’m going to take a break so that I don’t act like that anymore.”

As I said in the beginning, our need to scream out profanities is somewhat innate. As is the case when extinguishing a challenging behavior, we must replace it with something more desirable that serves a similar function for the child.

There are a few options. One is to opt for replacement words such as fudge, shoot, and booger. A second is to scream and then use the words in the acrostic to express the emotions. The third—what my family has chosen to do—is continue to use the cuss words, but frame them as a collection of mixed emotions. That seems to be the most effective, with evidence from our recent four-day stay with my in-laws and no cussing from my daughter.

Furthermore, both of my daughters have discovered the humor of the literal meaning of each word. Oh, the joys/challenges of life when we recognize that #OurChildrenAreListening.

This article was first published at https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/what-to-do-kid-wont-stop-cussing-kvnw/?preview_id=492709&preview_nonce=436889c9b8&preview=true

Nine ways to confront bullying in the early grades.

It was a Wednesday. The afternoon was moving along as it typically does. My daughters and I sat down to eat a snack. I asked both of them, “Who did you each lunch with today, sweetie?” My older daughter looked at me and began to cry. Tears and a hug later were followed up by a question I had asked myself growing up. But the context was different and I had no one to answer. I asked the question because I was pushed and tripped. Hers was because she was told nobody likes her.

“Why am I bullied?”

Continue reading

The Misconceptions We Reinforce When Talking to Children about Disability, and Solutions

Itzel and Javi Last school year my youngest daughter befriended a young boy, Jonathan in her class with Down Syndrome. A few months into the school year she and my older daughter were having regular conversation about playing with Jonathan. Throughout that stretch of time I was met by periodic questions and comments about why Jonathan. Why doesn’t Jonathan say words? Why does Jonathan have different rules than other children? Why does Jonathan have his own teacher? Many times the questions came across as rhetorical. It sounded like the came out of a conversation that the teachers had with the students. The questions were more about receiving confirmation from me, a former early childhood special educator and researcher of high-quality inclusive education. But I wasn’t confirming what other adults were telling them. Most often, I was clarifying misconceptions.

Continue reading

Is There a Brown History Month?

When my eldest discovered that this month is Black History Month her first question was “Is there a Brown History Month?”

My initial response was a mental, “Ummm.”

I then said, “I don’t know. I’m sure there are months set aside to recognize the histories of other racial populations, but I’m not sure when they are.”

“Is there a Chinese History Month or Mexican History Month, because I am Chinese and Mexican and I think there should be a month for us?” She proclaimed.

Continue reading

Clothing, Communication and (Children’s) Gender Identity

I am nine years into fathering and there is one social norm expected of me that has been more striking than any other; the clothing my children are dressed in—the colors, cuts, images, material, brand, and origins. All of these attributes contribute to much more than their essential purpose of protecting the body from external elements.

Until my oldest daughter was three, I was regularly reminded of the social messages her clothing communicated—many things that words did not. Explaining our choices of garments was a waste of breath. The clothes my daughter wore were a medium for expressing hers and our beliefs and values around gender identity to adults and children.

Continue reading

It’s More Than Junk Mail…

Every year around the holidays we receive a gift catalog providing us with an opportunity to buy a farm animal for families living in Africa. I have tacitly accepted it as a harmless piece of junk mail. The catalog typically sits in our pile of junk mail. But, after my older daughter commented on it, I was forced to give it some attention.

“Dad, can we buy an animal for a family in Africa. The animals are for families in Africa who don’t have their rights met. They need our help. Come, look,” she said. Continue reading

Is Your Classroom a White Space?

decentering whitenessA few months ago I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed when I came across a post from an ECE colleague of color. The post gave me a jolt like none other in recent memory. The article was titled Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People. One passage of the article states:

Merely inviting more people of color into a space does not in and of itself make that space inclusive. Patterns of white dominance suffuse the space just like other spaces we occupy, only this time, we’re calling it “inclusive.” That’s more painful and frustrating than being in spaces that are [color] blind. Continue reading

How to Raise a Socially Conscious Child

maya angelou quote

Since developing this website and speaking on behalf of it, I periodically hear variations of: “This is not as simple as you make it sound. Make me a believer and I will be totally on board.”  I get it, and all the more reason for the slogan of this website: “Listen, Speak Up, Engage and Unite.” I can’t promise this blog post will make you a believer, but it should give you a better idea of how we have been working to raise socially conscious children.

Continue reading

Because There Aren’t Enough Black Fairies

IMG_0301 (1)Until today, my posts have been about experiences with my older daughter.  This is the first post specifically about my younger daughter.  For years she has been by our side while I talk with my older daughter, but this is the first time the conversation was just the two of us.  It may have helped that her older sister was gone for the morning.

My younger daughter celebrated her fifth birthday last weekend.  One of her gifts was a small white plaster fairy.  The gift came with paints and a paintbrush with instructions for personalizing the fairy.  The illustration on the box was a fairy with fair skin, very similar to her skin tone.  After setting up the fairy and paint on top of a paper bag with a cup of water I walked to the sink to wash dishes.

After five minutes I returned to her side to observe the progress of her masterpiece.  I immediately noticed that the porcelain white arms of the fairy’s arms, legs and face had been painted black, the dress was blue and the mushrooms surrounding the fairy were a variety of colors with spots.  Continue reading

Generalizing Abstract Concepts of (In)justice and (In)equity

Elk meatPrejudice and discrimination have been a topic of conversation for my older daughter and me for about two years.  It started with the advent of wall building, carrying on through all types of topics that almost always include the words prejudice and discrimination.  I’m happy to say that there is clear evidence that she has learned to incorporate these abstract concepts into her everyday routine.  However, of late she has taken it a little too far for her mother to tolerate. Continue reading