%&$#?@! Parents share stories and tips about their children's swearing

What's a parent to do about children overhearing vulgar language or bad messages in pop culture? Or swearing themselves?

Readily Apparent, Alex Mason's occasional look at parenting issues on CBC Mainstreet, discussed the issue — properly and cleanly.

Here's what Mason and other Nova Scotia parents had to say.

Editing sweet

Mason had recently added the song Cake by the Ocean by DNCE to his playlist at the urging of his wife, and was surprised to discover that the song contained the F-bomb, as he calls it, more than half a dozen times.

Confronting his wife about the explicit lyrics, she said the kids were so noisy when music is on that she only ever heard the melody. The kids are young enough at this point to be oblivious to bad messaging and to do their own BLEEPing when they encounter swear words.

Still, Mason said he relies on technology.

"If I really like a pop song, I sometimes use an audio editor to bleep words or reverse them so they can't be understood," he said.

20 questions

Suzy Hansen has six children and says when she gets a question about a song lyric, sometimes she'll play dumb and pretend she doesn't know what it means.

That way, they analyze the song together until her kids just want to drop the whole thing.

"They don't really care for that because that means they have to talk through the song and they don't get to listen," she said.

If her teenagers are listening to songs with sexual content, for instance, she'll pick through the song: "Does that even make sense? Why would they say that? And so by the time we break it down and we talk about it, then they literally go, 'Mom. Mom. Never mind. I don't even want to hear that song anymore now.'"

They may still listen to it — she doesn't ban any songs -— but not around her. 

Protecting your mind

Lisa Harrington said she tried from an early age to explain to her kids that by choosing wisely from music, movies or video games, you're doing yourself a favour.

"Because sometimes, even as a grown-up, I might see something that is disturbing to me and it might bother me for several days, after I see it or hear about it," she said.

"And so it's important for me to protect my mind from things that are disturbing, and it's also for children to learn how to protect their own minds from things that bother them. Because once you see something, you can't unsee it."

Harrington said she and her two teenage boys have lots of conversations about pop culture choices, and "so far so good."

Ship shape

Becky Keen was listening to Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl, which repeatedly includes the line, "This my s--t."

She told her kids it was a song about a ship.

Her son Jack took her at her word, until one day he was playing with a friend.

"That song came on, and Jack's just singing along, and he's singing about the ship with a P," until he was set right by his fellow six-year-old.

That old chestnut

Earlier than that, Keen leaned on an old standard: she washed out the mouth of both her children's mouths with soap, a decision she now regrets.

"I wanted to be the type of parent who if they say something they follow through with their actions — you know, there are consequences," she said.

Keen said she believes she used a bar of Dove on her daughter.

"Talking about it, I can still feel my heart racing," she said. "Like, I did not want to do it, but I felt like I was in this parenting moment where if I didn't do it all hell was going to break loose and I would have this child who would never listen to me again."

She did the same with her son — this time her daughter was demanding justice for the same transgression — but much more meekly: a touch of soap on a washcloth, then on the lips.

Keen said now she's reconsidering whether cursing is worthy of any punishment at all.

"The fact is I swear all the time, and maybe it really isn't that big a deal to have children who swear," she said. "Maybe I need to open my eyes up on this one."