Monday, April 25, 2011

Unschooling Thoughts: What the hell?

Sometimes my husband treats me like I'm his child. He "forbids" me from doing certain things and tells me that I'm not "allowed". One thing that he "forbids" me from doing is using profanity. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not running around letting four letter words slip from my mouth with every fleeting experience of anger and frustration. I probably average a "dammit" or a "what the hell?" about once a week. I cannot help but wonder, however, if I say these words just to annoy him... just to show him that he cannot control what words I use. Just like he couldn't control me when I got my "forbidden" nose ring. I am in control of my words. And sometimes I might choose to use offensive language. And sometimes I might make that choice simply to rebel against him. Sad, yes. But true nonetheless.

A couple of years ago Ronin had been hearing the word "dammit" quite a bit thanks to a certain conservative talk show host that we listened to frequently when in the car. Sure, she heard it from me a couple of times too. But mostly, this was something she had heard from Rush. Well, she seemed to enjoy using the word. (I find it to be more satisfying than other words, myself, actually when it comes to expressing frustration.) Her dad tried telling her that it was a "bad" word. He told her not to use that language. He "forbade" her from saying it. Didn't work. But eventually she did stop saying it.

Lately we are watching some television programs with "inappropriate" language. I have started pointing out the "bad" words to the kids. I tell them, "Hey, that word _____ is an example of language that is offensive to some people. Your dad is included in that group of people. I am not offended by that word but many people are. You can choose whether or not to say that word but keep in mind that you might want to avoid offending and upsetting others." End of conversation.

Yesterday Ronin figured out how to find the song "What the Hell?" by Avril Lavigne on Pandora for my iPod. She came into the kitchen singing it over and over and over again. I noticed that when she'd get to the "What the hell?" part of the song, she'd hum over it. I didn't say anything. She asked me what I thought the song meant, I told her. She then asked me, "Do you know why I'm not singing that part?" I said, "No, why?" "Because that language is inappropriate and I don't want to use inappropriate language." "Hmm, good for you for making that choice for yourself." End of discussion.

A little later we were sitting outside having a nice little round of singing songs from "Go Simpsonic With The Simpsons: Original Music from the Television Series". We were singing and quoting the part with Cletus. In the clip on the cd, Cletus yells, "Hey Ma, Get off the dang roof!" When we got to that part, Ronin said, "Is that an inappropriate word?" I said, "What? Dang?" She said, "Yeah." I said, "No not really. I don't have a problem with it." She said, "Okay, I didn't want to use a word that was inappropriate." Then she proceeded to sing and quote.

Just a few moments ago she was singing "Backin' Up" from AutoTune the News. There is a part in the "lyrics" that says, "I'm backin' the hell outta there." When she got to that part, she said the words and then stopped and said, "Oooops, I shouldn't say that word." She then started over and said it with "heck" instead of "hell". And she also skips the "Oh my God" part as well.

It seems that giving her the power and the permission to make her own choices has launched her into naturally wanting to do the "right" thing. Instead of labeling and controlling and punishing, I have equipped, informed, educated and accepted my child. I had faith that she could make the right decision for herself. I'm really impressed with this five year old and I'm more encouraged than ever that "unschooling" does work. At least for us.
I wonder what would happen if my husband decided to handle my use of "inappropriate" language differently? Would those words simply disappear from my vocabulary if I no longer felt like I was rebelling and trying to avoid being controlled?


  1. We have the same thing going on here. Jeff really hates that I say damnit. It's my favorite, too. I say it anyway and he's just had to get over. Although he's never expressly forbade me from doing anything, he has excessively high moral standards. And for Elly, instead of giving any set of words a stigma of being "bad," we called them "grown up" words. That way she knows that WE aren't being bad by saying them but that they aren't typically appropriate for her to say, that some people think kids(or anyone else) shouldn't be saying those words. She's even figured out the differences in usage. Like it's ok to say "Hell is the opposite of Heaven" but it's not ok to say "Go to Hell." I've been pretty proud of her figuring out how and when to appropriately use different words.

  2. You probably didn't mean it to be funny, but I literally LOL'd at this post. My husband tries to tell me what to do too. You'd think after 15 years he'd figure out the reverse psychology already, but nope, no chance.

    :) Kudos to your dd.

  3. How cool to see your parenting techniques pay off. Great job, I really need to strive to be more laid back and let kids make more decisions on their own. That's what we want them to do when older so it makes total sense to encourage them in the same way now.

  4. I love your way of handling things. I like how you say I'm not offended by the word, but other people might be. There really is variation to what's acceptable to people.


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