I believe that children need good role models. (Part 1)
I often worry about children growing up now. No, this does not apply to every child in every situation but to many and often.
As a child I feel had excellent role models and I felt safe and protected at home and throughout my primary and secondary school years. I was spoken to and treated kindly and fairly and even when in trouble (which didn't happen often) I knew I was loved. Respect was earned, given and received by all. I fear this is not now the case. It is, I suppose, possible that this has always been true and that I only notice it now.
Today, as I walked the waggiest dog in the world, I found myself appalled by the conversation of the people walking behind me. In the two or three sentences I overheard there were at least 7 swear words. I wondered, "Can't you see there are children playing round here or do you simply not care?" As I turned the corner I looked over my shoulder to see the culprits and was horrified to discover that these were children. Around the age of 10 or 11 I would guess.
These are not and will never be acceptable words in the general vocabulary of a child but they must have learned them somewhere - watching inappropriate television, older siblings, older children at the park, and most worryingly from their parents and or other family members. (I recognise this is not true of all and hopefully most families.)
This year, in the lower junior class I have taught, I have dealt with several incidences of swearing where profanities have been shouted at other pupils on the school playground. When asked where they had heard it, all of these children openly stated that their parents said it "a lot" at home and, distressingly, sometimes to them. This makes it an acceptable word to use to these 7 year old children. It isn't. I acknowledge that perhaps on occasion it could have been overheard in conversations that children should not be party to but if there is a child in the house/nearby/within earshot my plea is just don't say it. Children mimic the adults closest to them as they learn and if what they hear is in a cross tone and includes swear words then this is how they learn to communicate with others. The children did apologise to their friends for the way they spoke to them but I can't help thinking that they probably wondered why they should apologise for their use of these words when they do not hear adults apologising to each other.
Swearing seems to have become commonplace. I went for dinner with a friend this evening. We spent two hours in each others company, had a lovely time, caught up with each others lives, congratulated and commiserated and did all of this without a single swear word from either of us. The people at the tables near to us did not manage this, despite the fact it was obvious that children were also in the restaurant and within earshot. Were they so caught up in their own existence that they didn't notice the children? Did they not care? Or perhaps it has become so much a part of their language use that they aren't aware they are saying it anymore? All are equally worrying behaviours.
I do not believe that swearing is necessary at all. I understand and accept that sometimes anger or frustration takes over and swear words are used (for want of a better phrase) for dramatic effect in adult conversation. However if they are used frequently, in most sentences and as a general part of vocabulary they lose their effect and purpose and therefore the swearing becomes pointless.
In any situation, however, children should not hear these words or feel it is acceptable to use them.
I do my very best to be a good role model for the children I teach and for the children (and, I suppose, adults) I encounter in my day to day life. I treat others as I would like to be treated and speak to people in the way I would like them to speak to me and I encourage others to do the same.
As a community we all have the shared responsibility to provide children, whether they are our own children or those of other people, with excellent role models.
(This post is linked to Amy Palko's Beautiful Beliefs project)