Monday, September 30, 2013

Published 6:53 AM by with 9 comments

Should I Let My Daughter Listen to Music With $#*&%@ in the Lyrics?

Yesterday evening Harmony and I were driving home after a long day. Harmony began to fuss, so I turned on the CD we had in the car, which instantly calmed her down. The CD was Mumford and Sons "Sigh No More", on loan from a friend. I'd been listening to the band's music for the past week every time I got in the car because I'd fallen in love with their sound! Besides enjoying the music, the lyrics have been delicious to unravel; Mumford and Sons has some incredible songs.

Suddenly the song "Little Lion Man" came on. "I really ****ed it up this time, didn't I my dear", go the chorus lyrics. Of course, Harmony was peacefully staring out the window, ignoring the words and simply listening to the tune, I'm sure, because she is fifteen months old. But now I was faced with a dilemma: would she grow up with swear words as part of her vocabulary due to listening to music with swearing in it? I'm not a prude nor a stickler for perfect language, but I generally don't swear (for several reasons, which I won't get into here) and don't want Harmony thinking that she may use crude language whenever she pleases. Would she, though, get that impression from a song?

I have to admit, one of the first things that crossed my mind was Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird" saying to her uncle, "pass the damn ham".

This parenting thing is a grey business: it's not easy to decide whether all issues are black or white.

As Harmony gets older, she'll hear plenty of swearing all around her, at the grocery store, from other children, from other adults, etc. It's not like I think she'll NEVER be exposed to it. And at some point she is going to be the one who needs to decide what words will come out of her mouth. Until that time comes, however, she will need to abide by the teaching of her parents. And what am I teaching her by listening to a (very catchy) song with the "F-bomb" in it? Is it really that big of a deal? 

For other parents out there: what is YOUR perspective? How have you handled this topic in your family? Please let me know what you think!



becoming claudine said...

This post made me smile!! These are important things to think about. Though I think my practical approach would be to simply turn down the volume for that one word.

Lyssa said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Claudine! I'm going to post here several other responses from people who wrote on Facebook:

Brenna F: It depends on the message of the song, and how much profanity is in there. One thing I believe God has revealed as I have gotten older is that cuss words are just words. They aren't necessarily pleasant words, but there are a lot of "okay" words that aren't pleasant, either. Should you try to use pleasant words? Yes. But sometimes you can communicate more clearly and effectively while using an unpleasant word. (i.e. "#%&@ cancer" carries more emotional communicative power than a mere "I hate cancer.")

So my personal opinion is that cuss words should be treated like hashtags - sparse, and to accentuate an important point.

Lyssa said...

Helen K. on Facebook: Let her listen to anything you dont mind hearing her sing.

Lyssa said...

Heather S. on Facebook: No, don't let her grow up listening to those words. I can still remember the deep sense of shock and shame that came with hearing my grandfather utter the word "damn" when he hurt himself... as an adult I know that his character was such that he rarely used such words. I know that I would do the same thing. But having grown up not being exposed to or using such words, I've learned how to make my words mean so much more than just shock and awe for the sake of shock and awe... sometimes I use words like that to just express my anger. Stop me if I use them, I need to be more thoughtful in how I communicate. HOWEVER, I think M&S's uses the word very precisely (you'll notice that swear words are missing from most of the rest of their lyrics) and I don't begrudge them the use of the word in that song... it conveys exactly what it is meant to convey: anger and disappointment. Expose H to some of their music as she grows, it's good, and rich and deep. But maybe that song gets skipped in the car?

Lyssa said...

K. S. on Facebook: I don't think cussing is the end of the world, and it's not a hill I would die on, but words have both denotations and connotations, and those are real. I grew up being cussed at violently every day, and cussing like a sailor myself. Old habits die very hard. I don't want to be someone who cusses because it's not fitting for who I am in Christ. And I wouldn't intentionally let my little children hear cussing. There will come a time when they can exercise discernment, and we will not limit their exposure as much.

Lyssa said...

Paula B. on Facebook: I do believe that people have smaller vocabularies than people did a couple or more generations ago, and I also believe that overuse of swear words for every little annoyance (and for being annoyed and taking things personally all the time) does not contribute to personal growth. Honestly, a line at the checkout (as you know!) does not merit the f word all the time! Overuse diminishes meaning and saturation equal ineffectiveness. I have been known to use a choice word or two on occasion...and then my family knows to get out of the way! I seem to see that, for many, entitlement and self-centeredness leads them to believe that they must unleash the full artillery every time they get cut off in traffic. Sheesh already. Enough.

She will be exposed to it and, therefore, repeating it, long before you want her to. It's so unavoidable in our "culture"; can't there just be a place where children can still be children? Give her more adjectives in her vocabulary and perhaps the vulgarities will lose their charm as descriptors. (Personally, the vulgarity bothers me - but it bothers me *more* that most people seem to be reading less and vocabularies seem to be shrinking. In flute lessons, I'll ask students how their week was or how their work on a particular piece is going, and I do not settle for "fine," "okay," or "good." I want more descriptive adjectives!!!) And if she hears something vulgar or a swear word, even if you don't think she heard or absorbed it, you can rest absolutely assured that she WILL find the most sensitive, embarrassing situation possible in which to share it. As in, while visiting Great-Great-Aunt Cecilia in the nursing home, "Aunt Ceci, I dropped my ice cream! I really f***ed up!" LOL! Yes, it happens!
FWIW, I *love* Mumford and Sons, I got this same CD soon after it came out, and if I happened to be listening to it when Amberlyn was around (14 months now), I would most certainly skip that track.

Lyssa said...

Christian H. on Facebook: Swear words, like any word, need to be taught their proper usage--yes, I do think swear words have a "proper" usage, if we can call it that. Actually, it might be more correct to talk about their improper usage, such as not using them with every other breath and such. I'll let Stephen Fry do my talking:

t is the job of children to embarrass their parents at all times. And damn right it's unnecessary, as if that should stop us from swearing. Indeed, that's the point Fry was making: it's the unnecessary things that make life interesting--hell, make it bearable.

Michel Ge said...

I'm not a parent, but as a kid myself, I think I can offer a different perspective on things.

I've met some peers of mine, as well as older adults, who seem to use cuss words as a natural part of their language, as if cuss words were essential words without which they couldn't form sentences. I think this might result from being exposed to a lot of cussing during their younger years, like in infancy, as a toddler, or as a small child. A kid's brain is growing tremendously during those years, and to me, shaping it to accept cuss words as a natural part of language will only set them up to sound like uncivilized speakers later on in life.

However, I think cuss words are actually a very vital part of our language. They allow for powerful expression of emotion, which is useful for both creative writing and angry ranting in real life. If we didn't have cuss words at key moments during our lives, such as when we're extremely angry, I think that emotion could possibly escape through physical force and other, more dangerous, means: but if demonstrate that anger through words, even dirty words, that's much better than most alternatives.

So I would say, let nature, and society, do its work. Don't expose kids to cussing at too early of an age, and let them know early on that cussing is not appropriate in most situations. But when they come home one day in middle school or high school and tell you how @*$$%& they are because their friends and their teachers and the whole @#$! world is taking a %$@# on their face, maybe the best thing to do is not to correct them but to smile, calm them down, and seek to better understand the position that they're in. After all, that's what language is for.

Lyssa said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response, Michel! I appreciate you visiting my blog : )