My eldest son is 6 years old. He's mentioned a few times that there are boys in the playground who "know what the f-word is" (his words). He knows it's a bad word and not to be said, but doesn't know the actual word itself. I'm concerned that by adding a layer of mystique and playground one-upmanship around the infamous f-word he's more likely to want to use it as and when he inevitably hears it, or hold those who use it in high esteem.

In the spirit of keeping an open dialogue about anything with my kids, I'm keen to talk to him about it, and tell him what the word is (perhaps not what it means), why it's not very nice and that it's no big deal whether someone knows it or not, because ultimately it's not a word that should be used in every day life (avoiding the "it's a grown up word" thing for fear of further adding weight to it).

Obviously this approach carries risks (he tells other kids, joins the "i know the word" club, or even starts using it).

I should add that he has a very strong sense of right and wrong, and I think it's important to trust him with this kind of thing (if I don't show that trust his judgement, how will he ever learn to?), but is it too much too soon?

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    He'll learn it sooner or later. Fuck, our little 18 month year old has even said it a few times. Oct 11, 2013 at 12:17
  • Unnecessary comment filter: @Dave Clarke, that is f'ing hilarious.
    – Valkyrie
    Oct 11, 2013 at 13:48
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    My son heard this word at 4 years old and kept asking what it meant. I told him I would tell him when he's double his age. He periodically asks again. At 5 years old he told me he would just look it up on the internet if I didn't tell him. I said NO DON'T DO THAT! Luckily he never did!! Now he's about to turn 8 and reminding me about our pending conversation... 8 seemed so far away back then! Now I still feel uncomfortable explaining it all to him. Who knows what's the right time...
    – at01
    Oct 11, 2013 at 19:02
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    "No don't do that!" = instantly looks up on internet Oct 12, 2013 at 4:54

3 Answers 3


You know your kid best. I personally vote for trust every time, because it was a big deal to ME when I was a kid when my parents trusted me enough to confide something like this in me. "I know you are mature enough not to use this word in your everyday language, so I'll tell you what it is and why people use it, and why we choose NOT to use it." Also, you telling him WHY you trust him not to use it encourages him to live up to your perception of him, and not use it.

Just anecdata, but thanks to a military background on the part of my husband, both our kids knew that word (and several others) VERY early on. We just call them "Daddy's upset words" (okay, fine, or "Mommy's basketball words") and emphasize that we don't say them because they aren't nice words to say, and don't we want to be nice to the people we love?

If they DO say them, they get a "please don't use those words; they make me sad" reaction versus a "OMG! Time out! Grounding!" reaction, because we don't want them to think it's a "HUGE DEAL OMG THE WORLD WILL STOP SPINNING" kind of thing as opposed to a "ugh, yuck, who would say such words" kind of thing. Your reaction will help him determine (a) how big a deal such language is and (b) whether he can push your buttons by using such language. Since we don't like foul language but don't freak out when they do it, the kids get a reaction to saying "Mommy's basketball words" that just doesn't pay off enough for them to do it again.

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    In our house, Pop-pop is mildly demented and has a tendency to swear like a sailor at high volume. We explained to our kids that those are 'impolite' or 'rude' words, and that we use nice words in our house—except Pop-pop, of course, but he can't help what he says, so let's use that as a learning experience.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Oct 11, 2013 at 13:50

Yes. Tell him.

Tell him the word and what it means

Also... Tell him who gets to use it and why it's not for 6 yr old boys.

What I told/tell my kids:

Look... you won't get in trouble from me if I hear it from you, but it's a bad habit for a kid your age. If you're chillin with your friends, droppin it here and there because it's funny, you're going to slip at the wrong time. And what do you think is going to happen if you slip in front of one of your grandmothers? Right, you'll have to hear it from them . . . and so will I, and since I don't want to deal with that either, just stay in the habit of NOT SAYING IT.

And then my daughter dropped it while ALL the grandparents were over. The grammy's looked at her in shock, then they BOTH looked at me in disdain.

"See?! Numbskull? What'd I tell you?"

[edit] I knew I had seen something like this before. Similar, but I wouldn't call it duplicate.

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    My brother took this approach with his daughters. If I cursed and apologized they would say "It's okay, we understand the words". They are now 30 and I have yet to hear them curse themselves. If you take away the mystique of anything like this kids tend to lose interest. As an added benefit, those words won't affect/trigger them as much when they are adults. By NOT teaching them you are giving bad language more power over them.
    – Bill K
    Sep 18, 2018 at 17:37

Oh come on. If you don't tell him, you will never hear the end of it. What bad could happen? Yes. It is a bad word. Not appropriate for a 6 year old kid. Does it hurt them? No. Chose your battles, or you will have more...that's what I always think with my kids. I have 3 year old triplet girls, and all of them have asked about the f word, blame pre school, I suppose. But not one of them has said it once, never! I told them what the word was, I wrote it down for them, just like I do with any word, good or bad. I did say what it meant (call me a bad parent!) and they took it on board, no offense. And I said that it's not a nice word to say publicly, just like you wouldn;t do it publickly...huh? And I think that if I hadn't explained then, it would still be a n issue in the household. And it's not. Just my two cents. Cami :)

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