Stupid Stupid

Caryn: I’ve written before about me not being a good mom. At least, not in the sense of being the sort of mom to whom others look for guidance or advice or wisdom. I’m a good mom in that I love my kids and am snuggling a crabby two-year-old on my lap as I type and am not reaching for my coffee because I don’t want to disturb this precious moment. But, I do a lot of things “wrong.”

Case in point: The other night I was telling a group of people about how my snuggly two-year-old is on a kick where he calls everything “stupid.” I was laughing as I shared examples of how I’ll say, “We’re going to Target.” And he’ll go, “No, that’s stupid.” Or how I’ll say, “Let’s get some lunch.” And he’ll go, “Lunch is stupid.” Honestly, it’s darling and it cracks me up.

But as I shared this—me laughing—I looked around at the faces. Total horror. One mom said, “How awful. Let’s hope he gets this out of his system before he gets to school.”

And I was reminded of how “stupid” is on the banned words list among many parents. I still don’t know why.

With the exception of calling another person “stupid” (particularly if that other person actually IS stupid) or being TOO disrespectful, I’ve never gotten the big deal with this word and kids. Maybe it’s because my kids are hilarious—and sharp–and want them to grow up being laughed at (in a good way). Maybe it’s because I say “stupid” all the time and think it’s a fantastic word. Very workable. Tons of things (and people) ARE stupid and I see little wrong with it.

So I thought this might be something to address here….What are the things that we’re cool with that might horrify others?

Carla: A friend of mine once told me she doesn’t let her kids read “Max and Ruby” books because they use the “s-word.” It was the first time I’d ever heard of that word being ban-worthy. I mean, I don’t want my kids calling other people stupid and we crack down when they use it to refer to each other, but it’s not like other “s-words” they could be using.

There’s a whole list of words like this, words that don’t bother me in the least that I worry are offensive to other people. Like butt. We call the rear end of a human being a butt. Not a bottom, not a behind, not a fanny, a butt. Sometimes it’s a tush, but only because that’s such a cute word and it suites the cuteness of my children’s butts. Anyway, I’m always a little taken aback when I hear parents “correct” their kids when they use a word like butt. I used to check myself because I figured it was me who was too lenient. Now? Well now I don’t really care. We say butt. Get over it.

As for things we think are cool that might be horrifying to other parents… where to start? Probably with The Simpsons. We don’t watch it often because it’s on while we’re at church (how fitting!), but when our oldest was a preschooler, we watched it all the time. And she watched it with us. And we laughed and laughed. Someone gave Emily a Marge Simpson doll and she carried it everywhere for a few months. She even brought it with her to the communion rail one Sunday. It was a proud moment for us. And lest anyone be horrified by a preschooler at the communion rail, it was an Episcopal church and they like that sort of thing.

Caryn: We say butt. When we’re not using what I thought was a Spanish word, but recently found out was totally made up by Rafi’s aunt. But that’s neither here nor there. With so much of this, it’s about usage and intent. Like, while I was just making dinner, my son was mocking my daughter for her pronounciation of “Messiah.” So I had to ban the word Messiah.

They asked if they could talk about Satan, then. I said sure. So now they’ve made up a nice song about “Satan Down in Hell.” It’s lovely. I’m sure they’ll someday see your Marge Simpson at the Lord’s Table and raise you a nice busted-out rendition of “Satan Down in Hell.” You think the Episcopalians can deal with THAT (Jen, can they?)?

But really, people, what are the things you are cool with that raise eyebrows elsewhere?


21 responses to this post.

  1. I do and say stupid things all the time. Yet I’ll hear my kids saying normal things, like butt, and channel my own mom for a second, “now, honey, we don’t say butt in this house.” But actually, we do say butt, all the time. So I shake out of that and just realize that I’m conforming to what I think “should” be instead of what really is.

    I want to raise authentic, genuine kids. I want to be concerned with what’s going on in their hearts, and sometimes listening to what words I (or they) use can help me know about their hearts, and sometimes it gets in the way. I guess my job as mom is to figure out which is which!


  2. Posted by Robyn on January 5, 2010 at 9:45 am

    We say butt. And booty. And stupid, usually in the context of “stupid dog.”

    I don’t make my kid eat. Or even necessarily eat healthfully, honestly. I don’t really regulate her eating all that much. People seem to have an issue with that. I offer her the food, and I figure, if she’s hungry, she’ll eat. Why should I turn it into a power struggle? Then, when she does eat, if she only eats french fries, so what? Another day she’ll eat nothing but bananas. Okay. Here’s a multi-vitamin, and it all evens out eventually.

    We don’t have cable tv–only watch dvds–but we’ve turned our 3-year-old into a Stargate fan. She can even use “Goa’uld” and “Teal’c” in the correct context in conversation.


  3. Posted by Rachel K on January 5, 2010 at 10:25 am

    We say stupid and butt. I remember the first mom I ran into who reprimanded her kid for saying stupid and I immediately wondered if I was a stupid mom for not thinking that was a bad word for kids to say.

    What this makes me think of, kind of the opposite in a way, is how surprised I’ve been by how many Christian parents have their kids “believe” in Santa Claus. We’ve never banned him, but we’ve never raised him to the level of real either. He’s always just been a nice story. I ran into some moms at our Christian school that were talking about how nice it was that their kids still believed in Santa. I told them that I hoped they didn’t get around my kids then, because my kids, in no uncertain terms, would tell them that Santa is NOT REAL. They looked at me kind of shocked-like. Wonder if we’ve ever wrecked that for anyone….


    • Posted by Robyn on January 5, 2010 at 9:50 pm

      What do you mean Santa is NOT REAL?!!!?

      I love the Santa myth. My sister and I put out milk, cookies, carrots (for the reindeer) every Christmas until we moved out of our parents house. Oh, wait. I still do that… I get that other parents don’t “do” Santa, but we really enjoy it. I figure if anyone tells my kids that Santa isn’t real, I’ll simply tell them that Santa only brings presents to kids who believe in him 😉


  4. We don’t say stupid. But, mostly that’s because my kids have a way of finding one word and pounding each other with it. They were allowed to say it to describe things as long as it was not a person–even if they were stupid. But alas, mine found it a tasty word to aggravate each other with and it has been banned for now.

    The other day, my seven year old was playing with his cousin and repeatedly came into the room to tattle on the bad words my nephew was throwing around. He’d said the “S”-word, the “C”-word, the “D”-word, and yes, the whopper of all times, the “F”-word. I nearly fell on the floor laughing (after he left the room of course) when I discovered that these words: stupid, crap, dummy, and fat had each apparently earned their own “letter of recognition”. It made me realize that I might be going at it a little heavy handed as the word police. So, now I try to make it more about how the word makes another person feel–no matter what it is.


  5. Posted by Rhonda on January 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I find this post so interesting since the “appropriate words” topic has been a big one in our house lately. It all began when I was offended by a facebook “friend” who posted a comment about her school district being “retarded” due to the way they ran something. Word usage in this situation was not referring to a particular person, however, the “R” word makes my skin crawl and I couldn’t help myself but let her (polietly) know how this word, regardless of usage, is so offensive to me. It became highly offensive when my third son was born with Down syndrome four years ago. We had a family dinner discussion on why I was upset and how this facebooker person was surprisingly deffensive at my comment regarding usage of this word. Our older sons (3rd and 1st grade) then shocked me by informing me that they hear this word used often at school (Christian school) or on the bus. Neither one of them knew what the word meant, but I explained that their brother is considered (in medical terms) mentally retarded and when someone uses this word it’s implying that something or someone is stupid. Which…then opened up the use of the word stupid. My third grader let me know that he is the ONLY third grader in his school that isn’t allowed to use the word stupid:) My feeling is that if I allow my kids to freely use the word stupid, it will eventually be used on a person. I’m not naive to think that as my kids get older they will use lots of words that I disapprove of and would shudder to hear them say…but if when they are young I can impress the awareness that all words have meaning and can be hurtful to others, I’d hope it will become less common place that they use the word out of context or towards someone.

    My husband and I disagree on this topic and which words should in fact be taboo in our home. I in fact grew up using the words stupid and dumb (on the nice end since as Caryn mentioned, a lot of things and people in this world are!) and embarrassingly even the “R” word. I guess my ramblings here are to add food for thought on the subject. I know I’ve stretched it into a whole new arena with the “R” word; obviously a sensitive button for me. All this to say that words can be hurtful, even though the people using them mean no harm. I’ve heard that many times when I enlightened people using the “R” word, “but I didn’t mean anything by it”. All words have meaning and based on someones life circumstances, can be hurtful.

    I’m a long time reader and a first time commenter. Thanks for entertaining my scattered thoughts; I’m definately NOT good at writing them on paper!

    P.S. We use the word butt in our house…I can’t figure out a meaning that anyone would take offensively; it’s a body part:)


  6. I’m so glad you brought up the “R” word, because I think that enters into another area. I grew up saying things were “retarded” and, more frequently, “gay” (and honestly, this still enters my head every now again and when something is lame…). I would probably smack (not really) my children if they said either of those. Because it’s a derogatory use of a word that describes a group of people. Not nice. Totally disrespectful in my book. Totally with you there.

    I was going to say how I didn’t have a problem with my older two using “stupid,” but I just remembered how they call each other “IdioNts.” They mean “idiot,” of course, but I don’t stop them because it’s HILARIOUS to hear one child thinking he’s calling the other an idiot, but in fact getting the word wrong. Like an idiot. ; ) Maybe it’s mean, but I figure one day someone on the playground will call them out on their incorrect use and that’ll fix that.

    But words are powerful–and kids DO need to learn their power. Nice to have you commenting, Rhonda. : )


  7. Posted by Heather on January 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve joked for years that I’ll be the mom who’s son gets kicked out of kindergarten for using the word “ass.” We’ll find out this fall!


  8. Posted by Steve B. on January 7, 2010 at 7:21 am

    A few years ago, a friend of mine convicted me on my liberal use of the word “love”. He asked me if I really loved a particular sports team, movie, food, etc. – as I had claimed. Without being too judgmental, he shared with me that early on, he and his wife taught their kids about the importance and the power of the word “love”; that they should not love things or food or toys. That they should only love God and love people. After I got over feeling like a complete tool for being a lifelong abuser of the word, I talked about this with my wife and then with our daughter. They got on board immediately and honestly, it has profoundly changed my understanding of love.


  9. oh my word there are just so many things I don’t even know where to begin.

    stupid is totally fine as long as they’re not using it to hurt others. Like, telling the antisocial girl in school that her hair is stupid would be a no-no. Telling the cat she’s stupid because she just clawed up your leg is fine. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, they can tell the cat she’s a stupid bitch as long as they keep the “grown up words” at home 😉

    and we prefer ass thank you very much


  10. it seems like the conversation on this post moved quickly to the deeper issue of awareness of the “why’s” of parenting. We discuss at length with our children why it’s fine to tell daddy jokingly to get his ass out of bed but not ok to tease someone at school by calling them an ass. Kids get it. They really do. Unless they’re VERY concrete thinkers (some kiddos i’ve worked with who have Aspergers struggle with that kind of nuance), even toddlers can understand that concept…which is sort of sad considering I know lots of adults who will speak disparagingly about the Latino community in town but damn near have a conniption if a kid says butt.


  11. We were vacationing with my parents and my teens kept on saying “Holy crap!” I don’t know where they got that one. ahem. okay, maybe I do know. My mom’s eyebrows were more than raised–they were pretty much at one with her hairline. She wanted to know why I let them use language like that. Sigh. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just something that sometimes slips out and they picked up on it. Apparently they hear it frequently enough at home and at school that they didn’t realize it wasn’t exactly a nice thing to say, esp. if they are merely expressing surprise or indignation.
    Rather than banning words, we tell our kids to be kind to each other. “be kind” seems more positive than “don’t say stupid” or whatever. it also addresses attitude rather than just words.


  12. Heather – you’re not serious right?


    • Posted by Heather on January 13, 2010 at 9:55 pm

      I am kidding. We went to Harris Bilingual Immersion School kindergarten info meeting tonight…so even though I don’t see much diversity living down here on the south side of town, I know it exists. 🙂


  13. Hi Caryn,
    Oh yes we can handle that! 🙂 My best Eucharist story was when one of my kids (I think it was Ian, now 11) was about 2 1/2 and he went up to the rail and received the host but not the cup. On the way back to our pew, he said (VERY loudly), “Oh shoot. They didn’t give me the beer.”


  14. this is a great post and even better comments. I have no problem with the word “stupid,” either, and don’t understand why it has become such a thing.

    i’m glad the “R” word was brought up, though. I used that word frequently as a kid and even as a younger adult, but would never now and wouldn’t allow my kids to use it.

    I like the overuse of the word love comment. In fact, this whole post, while it started out funny, has really got me thinking…


  15. great post and even greater comments! we do not avoid salty language in our house, so i’ve often worried about my kids being the only ones who might blurt out “damn it!” when they forget their lunch at home or something. but growing up seeing a huge dichotomy between what my parents TOLD me to do and what they actually DID makes me not want to do that in my house. like my parents would drink and throw parties and cuss at each other when they got mad but then at church acted like they didn’t do any of that stuff. and if we ever said a “bad” word we were in big trouble. even as teenagers.

    so as someone with an english degree (who taught high school english and now copyedits and basically loves language) i like the idea of teaching our kids that all of these words are part of our language, and as long as they use them appropriately, as many of you have already said, then it’s ok with me. except i do tell our kids that most of the words dad and i use are words they aren’t allowed to use yet until they are older and really DO understand how to use them. they seem to get this.

    at school, though, the teachers have told them not to use certain words, so one night aedan (my 6 yo) said to me “gillian (my 8 yo) just said the ‘s-word.'” i gasped and said quietly “she said ‘shit’?” and he said “NO mom, she said ‘stupid’!” so it pays not to try to guess what those “forbidden words” are, as someone else has pointed out already. 🙂


  16. Posted by jaime on January 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I’m brand new here – straight from Hollywood Housewife, and this discussion is so interesting to me. We frown on the word “stupid” in our house. And it isn’t really because of the word itself, but because of the very distasteful impression it leaves me almost every time I hear one of my older kids use it. They first heard it in one of our favorite (kid) movies, and started using it toward each other, and then in general when they are not happy with a particular situation or instruction. So, for me, it’s far more about the REASON they use the word. At the risk of sounding WAY more square than I am, I really did start to feel like they were using that word (1) as a lazy way to replace verbal expression (something I probably emphasize a little more than is necessary), and (2) to be hurtful to each other. Kind of like Caryn’s experience with “Messiah.” 🙂

    Now, what I find hilarious in all this is that my 5 year old daughter abides by the rule, and my 2.5 year old son affirmatively does not. So, regularly my daughter runs into the room saying “Mommy, Brother said the Bad “s” Word.” Except that I ALWAYS think she’s telling me her brother said the “bad ass word.” And so then I giggle. And she doesn’t understand, because we haven’t gotten to “ass” yet…


  17. I’ve banned stupid in our house…not because I’m opposed to the word, but because I’m opposed to the nasty looks that good moms might give me if they hear my precious bundles uttering it. But I use it all the time.


  18. Posted by Judy on January 29, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I’ve banned stupid very early on & my daughters eyes BUG OUT anytime other people use it; it’s hilarious. But I’ve explained to her that it’s okay (i.e., they don’t have to tattle) if another child uses it refering to objects or things. It’s absolutely NOT okay to call someone “stupid”. The reason we’ve banned it entirely is because we, my husband & I, believe that if they want to make a comment about how something is “stupid”, thay can find a way to better express themselves. I’m big on vocabulary. I want my kids to be able to sift through their emotions or thoughts and be able to put into words why they feel something isn’t worth their time (instead of stupid). Plus, to me, “stupid” is such an easy word to say, almost explosive, so as children, they might get upset & say “You are SO stupid!”. Are they really expressing themselves? No. They’re anger & frustration is coming out but without any restraint or real thinking going into it. It’s not a good outlet word & accomplishes nothing but diminish their ability to express themselves properly.

    All that being said, I don’t judge parents who allow their kids to say it. It’s their choice & would never think they or their child is “wrong” & because of that, it has allowed me to have many great conversations with my kids regarding when something IS wrong, acceptance of others even if we’re not 100% the same, etc.


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