When do you stop swearing around a baby?

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 Photo: Getty Images

I recently read a book about baby brain development and to be honest I can't remember much. That comes with looking after six-month-old twins; most of the time my brain just pretends to be working. However, I do remember one story - a little girl was asked what her dolly's name was and she cheerily answered "A**ehole".

We all know that toddlers' brains are like sponges which take everything in and then come out at the most inappropriate moments.

Most parents watch what they say around a two-year-old, but so many of us talk about whatever the f**k we like around babies. They're just little blobs, happily blubbering away while we discuss world politics (or insert the most banal but still highly child inappropriate topic) interlaced with the odd swear word.

So far my two girls hardly know their bum from their mouth, and the sounds that come out of each aren't much different. But a few months down the track they'll form their first proper syllables and one day their first word.

You don't really want your baby's first word to be the f-word. So when do you stop talking freely around them?

The documentary The Secret Lives of Babies implies that we should mind our words much earlier than when the wee ones start babbling.

Scientists have discovered that toddlers understand way more words than they can use (which isn't really surprising), but also that they can remember them for months.

They looked at two-year-old twins Ella and Finn Burton who learned to communicate using sign language with their deaf parents much earlier than most children learn to talk.

"When they were very young, it felt at times as if you were speaking to a brick wall - you didn't get any response. And then a few months later, they would tap me and start recalling what I had told them a few weeks or months before," father Toby Burton said.

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Some parents make up alternatives and start shouting "what the duck" and "fiddlesticks" instead of using swear words.

Although very cute, I don't think that's really necessary. To be honest, we don't swear that much in our household and never at each other. But if we do swear because something swear-worthy happened, then so be it.

I believe it's much more about teaching my children that some words are appropriate in some situations but not in others, in the same way that some types of behaviour is okay at home but maybe not at Great Auntie Marge's.

Banning words just makes them more attractive and I want my children to have a large reservoir of words they can draw from to express both joy and anger. I want them to know that there are no "bad" words, but rather some that aren't polite to use and might hurt some people's feelings.

There will probably be moments when I'll wish that they never heard a "bad" word, but I just hope we embrace the embarrassment and have a giggle. 

Stuff.co.nz