This post was inspired by the following question posed on the Facebook Group, “Parenting Rules.”
I have friends that think it is cute to refer to parents as “breeders”. How do you advise I handle this tactfully?
If you have a moment, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.
We taught our kids that words only have the power we assign them. If the context is pejorative, the word takes on that meaning. We taught them that sound-alike curse words were no different from the real thing if all you’re doing is substituting one for the other. What really matters is the intent behind the words.
“Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.”
As an example, I know the slang, “breeder,” can be used in a derogatory way. In fact, I find the term amusing rather than insulting or demeaning because I don’t identify with labels, and I don’t know anyone who has used it with the intent to hurt or demean me. And besides, it’s a pretty accurate description by way of my offspring.
Growing up, we called each other names all the time and nobody ever went home and told their parents, “Johnny called me a so and so, and on the process demeaned my family and me.” Half the time, we didn’t know what the word meant.
In case you don’t realize how many every day words can be considered insensitive by some and downright offensive by others, here are a few ethnic slurs according to Wikipedia. Have any idea who you’re insulting when you say these words? Yeah, me neither. And no, I am not making any of these up that you know of.
ABC, Apple, Aunt Mary (with apologies to all real Aunt Mary’s out there), Banana, Cheesehead (sorry my friends from Wisconson, look for lawsuit coming any day now), Coconut (This one’s OK cause I hate that pie), Eight ball, Flip, Fuzzy-Wuzzy (yup, I said it), Hairyback (ewww), Jerry, Mau-Mau (I thought that was fish), Peckerwood (that’s what she said), Quaker, Skinny, Yankee (do much for doodle dandee) and finally, Dandy (I was going to pass this one up until I listed, “Yankee” which only seems fair).
One more than one occasion, I remember a neighborhood boy calling me a “fag when we were very young.” I went home and asked my mom what it meant. She told me it’s a cigarette in England, but a derogatory word for homosexual in most cases here. After explaining why I was asking, she walked with me to the neighbor’s house and asked my friend what he thought the word meant. He simply replied, “it means someone’s a jerk.” The families discussed the matter briefly, it was explained to us the word could be seen as offensive to some, but not others depending on the meaning. I probably learned a bigger life lesson from that than either parent intended.
I think we spend too much time teaching our kids, “bad words,” and not enough time teaching the very trickier rules of context and interpretation. But that takes empathy, common-sense, reason and precious time when educating our young – four things that seem to be in short supply everywhere you turn these days.