Posted by: cochinblogger | April 23, 2010

Teaching Kids about Adult Words

Like most young boys, my sons are crazy about cars. They play car racing PC games, religiously follow the weekly column on car reviews in the newspaper, and have coerced me into regularly buying a monthly magazine on cars.

One evening, the elder boy (10 years old) asked me to read aloud a paragraph from the car magazine. Something about the way he asked made me look at the paragraph first. It was a short review of a car pictured to the left of the paragraph. I read it rapidly to myself to see which word could have brought him up short. Ah! There it was: the car was described as “sexy.”

I’m ashamed to say that I ducked the challenge by refusing to read the paragraph aloud, on the grounds that he could very well do so himself. He tried to persuade me, but I dug my heels in.

Having bought time to think about the problem, I’ve now formulated an approach to explaining the word to him, and will talk to him about the paragraph one evening. I will explain to him that sexy is slang for “attractive,” and that he should not use the word himself. If he asks me why (I know he will), I’ll tell him that it has another meaning that only adults will understand, and kids who use the word will be sharply rebuked by adults if they happen to overhear.

Now, here’s the nub: he will not be satisfied with this explanation. He’ll demand to be told the adult meaning of the word. Is 10 years too early for sex education? Lord, I know it’s too early for this father.

Perhaps I’ll not tell him about the adult meaning; I’ll tell him it’s bad slang that is almost considered to be a bad word. I think he understands the concept of “bad word.” Or does he? Will I be opening another can of worms?

Lord, give this father wisdom. Lord, let my son not call his class teacher sexy.

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  1. I started talking about the dreaded subject with my kids as soon as they started asking questions. But… you have to answer the questions at the level that they can handle for their age. That’s the difficult part. At 10, depending on if he’s shy or extroverted, you would probably answer this differently.

    My son is 11, almost 12, and shy. This is how I would explain it to him.

    “Sexy is a word that adults use when they want you to buy something. They use it to make their stuff sound more exciting, better than anybody else’s. It’s not something kids need to worry about, and if you say it in front of, or to an adult, you’re going to probably get told off for saying it, because adults think it’s bad manners for kids to use this word.”

    I find a lot of the time that if my son thinks it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings, or is bad manners, he won’t use it. If he still wants to use it, I tell him to go to his room and practice using it in the mirror. But he’s not allowed to use it in public.

    Works with swear words. My 19 yr. old and 15 yr. old will tell you that.

    • Hi Brea,

      Thanks for the suggestion. Knowing my son, he’s going to ask why adults think it’s bad manners for kids to use the word. I suppose I’ll then have to tell him flatly that that’s something he’ll only understand when he becomes an adult himself. That will do the job, I know. I think my son and I have been here before, I think. And knowing my son, he won’t leave it at that: he’ll come up with a word that he’ll say only kids can use, and an adult like myself cannot. 🙂

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