By Andrew Gibson, Ph.D.,
author “ Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child”
On the web at DrAGibson.com and blogging at Gotanangrykid.com
All Rights Reserved.
Swearing is a right of passage. Once you become an adult, you can swear. Children, on the other hand can’t. Ever. We want children to be innocent. Cursing is too vulgar for their innocent tongues and, thus, too vulgar for us to hear. Spike, an out-of-control ten year old, doesn’t care. He loves vulgar.
Swearing can’t be depicted in most media. It’s for our children’s protection. We want to keep our children from the evil world as long as possible. Even naughty children aren‘t supposed to swear. Of course, there are exceptions. Take Spike, for example: Spike can’t produce a sentence without a curse. It gets him attention
Sex, too, is also only for adults. So it shocks when cursing , not to mention sexualized cursing, comes out of a kid’s mouth. We don‘t expect it. It makes a kid seem low class, rebellious and defiant. This is exactly why the Spikes of this world engage in it. It makes them feel powerful and dangerous. Swearing gets them noticed. Spike doesn’t care what class you put him in. He knows that sexualizing his cussing is like lighting a firecracker.
A swearing kid does not fear punishment; he wants to rebel and wants to feel bigger than his shoe size. A swearing kid who can get away without punishment is one tough dude. Punishment isn’t one of Spikes concerns. Nobody punishes him for anything. They can’t. He doesn’t accept it. He is likely to give punishment right back if they try.
Swearing sets the normal kid apart from the abnormal kid. The abnormal kid does not fit in so he emphasizes his misfit by not caring. He violates public decorum rules and dares anyone to object. Some people give him a lot of anger. Most people give the kid a wide berth. This reinforces his sense of a perverse kind of special. He is unique. On the one hand, he is rejected by those he claims to despise; on the other, he is responsible for his own rejection. The latter is a nicety which is lost on the kid.
The kid is in control. The control may seem backwards. Doesn’t matter. This is how abnormal kids keep what sense of pride that they can. It isn’t a pride that gets them what they need. But it does get them respect through fear. Such a kid is potentially dangerous. Many adults around the kid seem apprehensive. They are uncertain how he will react. The kid picks up on the apprehensiveness which reinforces his strategy. It is as though he says, ‘if I can’t be liked, I will be feared.’ Put two or three of these kids together, and you have a gang. Now instead of being apprehensive, adults are afraid. This is big in an abnormal kid’s life. Much of it stems from a kids willingness to be seen as atypical through swearing. Take out the swearing, and the sense of danger collapses. Swearing is the glue holding the various parts of the atypical kid’s need for opposition together.
So what does a parent do? Absolutely nothing. Literally. There should be no acknowledgement on any level that Spike’s cursing has any impact on you. You may say, “ Well, doesn’t this show that I approve?”
Ignoring does not show approval of anything. It shows you don’t care. Caring is important to Spike. He has to know that his rotten behavior matters; it’s what keeps the behavior going. If you remove any trace that you care, it won’t continue. You have more authority over Spike’s swearing that you know. You think that because Spike cusses you that he hates you, rejects and you, holds you in contempt. At one level he does. At another, he wants you to accept the real him, which is deep down, hidden but still alive. You can’t reach the real Spike by reacting to the unreal Spike. You want the real? Ignore the unreal. When the real emerges, as it will, then you can react.
About The Author
Dr. Andrew Gibson was born in Detroit at the close of WWII. He grew up in the midst of farming country in central Michigan. Both parents were teachers. He keeps a picture of his childhood companion, Wags, to this day (you had to see the tail to appreciate the name). After discharge from the Navy after the Viet Name war, he graduated with a BA and MA from San Diego State University and earned his Ph. D from the University of Connecticut. He has taught at Portland State University, in Portland Oregon, at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and at SUNY New Paltz. He resides in Eastern Connecticut, with his wife of 41 years, where he conducts a private practice in parenting seriously difficult children. His book “Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child’ is the first of a series examining seriously difficult children at various age and emotional disturbance levels. Her invites you to find him on the web at DrAGibson.com and to visit his blog at gotanangrykid.com.