As parents, we all have standards for what words may be used in our homes around our children, and then as our children get older, we set standards for the language they use. I remember using the word “bottom” instead of “butt” until one day when my son was about two I gave up on that Victorian decorum and went all Sponge Bob on my family. Now butt is far more likely to appear than bottom, but heiny still makes the occasional rounds. “Crap” still hasn’t seen the light of day around these parts, but “darn’ and “crud” slip out from time to time along with “hate,” a word that I, of course, hate.
But what about words that aren’t cuss words or dirty words or even not-so-nice-and-shouldn’t-be-said-in-front-of-Grandma words?
The other night I had finally had enough and decided to ban the word “yebut” from my home. I simply could not take hearing it from either child even one more time. Not familiar with the word? Let’s take a look at it in context…
Mom: “Noah, you know that it is time for bed. I asked you to put away your cars. Did you hear my words?”
Four year old Noah: “Yebut, I wasn’t done playing with them.”
My daughter is also quite proficient with her use of this word, and she creatively uses it not only against her father and me, but against her little brother as well. In fact, I suspect that is how he came to add this nasty word into his sweet little boy vernacular.
Noah: “Emma, that’s my toy. I was playing with it!”
Emma: “Yebut, you played with my Zhu Zhu Pet one time four and a half months ago, so I get to take what I want from your room any time I please.”
Make it stop!!!
So as parents, can we really ban these sorts of things in our home? It’s not as though they’re hurting anyone or dropping the F-bomb while watching Sesame Street and eating their Cheerios.
You know what? I think we can. And I think we should. Here is why…
1. It inspires creativity: Children…heck, all of us…easily fall into ruts when speaking, writing, interacting. I overuse the word “awesome” and the exclamation mark among other vices. My husband began every closing paragraph in every paper in college with the phrase, “In the final analysis” (he’s now going to ban me from blogging). Children are learning the joys of language, so why not inspire them to be more creative with their language by forcing them to take a break from those words they fall back on like an annoying and whiny old crutch?
2. It forces careful word choice: Most of the times that I hear YEBUT ringing through my home, the offender is not even fully paying attention to what they are saying. It happens while looking in the mirror and brushing teeth, while playing with a toy on the floor, while watching a television show. If I make that little Cesar Milan dog whisperer “Tsch!” noise the second the Yeb… starts to fly, suddenly my child is aware that a.) they are speaking and b.) they’ve got to find a new word. Yebut is simply not going to cut it.
3. It develops responsibility: When my kids intend to say “Yes, but…,” what they’re really trying to do is avoid responsibility. They don’t really want to acknowledge what I have said or the rule that has just been decreed from on high. They would like to keep the television on, the toy out, the contraband item in the house, the shoes on…you get the picture. By taking away the way that they make excuses, I’m asking them to stop making excuses entirely.
So can this really work?
I’ve used this rule twice before with some success, and I’m praying for similar results this time. A couple of years ago my daughter got into the habit of changing her mind approximately thirty seconds after announcing her decision. Thirty seconds can be an eternity when you’re pouring a drink, serving a food, throwing away an item, and it can lead to tears and frustration the second you realize that you’ve made the wrong choice. To keep our daughter from constantly having us do things twice to her little heart’s content, we instituted a “first choice is the only choice” rule. It worked. Suddenly she thought through her decision before blurting it out and she had far fewer tears and incredibly less frustrated parents.
The first time was when I banned my husband from using the words “nice” and “fine.” I had had enough of “That’s fine,” in response to questions such as, “Would you like to book a vacation to Walt Disney World and spend a small fortune while dragging our children onto a plane and spending six nights in a hotel.” I wanted an actual opinion to major decisions, and banning a few key and incredibly boring words was the way to get it (if the previous mention of my husband didn’t get my blog pulled from the internet, this one should).
So parents, I am giving you permission to remove entire words from the English language! What word will you choose first?