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Q&A: Bad Words

Q&A: Bad Words

My third grader came home a few days ago and asked me what a “blow job” was. When I asked her where she heard that, she said that some boys were saying it on the bus. I told her that wasn’t a nice word and that no one should say it. Then I called the school and told them what was going on and suggested they have a monitor on the bus to prevent that kind of language. Kids of all ages are on the bus, so I’m afraid she’s going to pick up all kinds of bad language. I wish she didn’t have to ride the bus, but we both work, so neither of us can pick her up. What else can I do?

I’m afraid you might not like my answer—or maybe you will, because it will provide some peace of mind: Answer her question and don’t worry about the other language that she’ll learn. Our discomfort around sex and various sexual acts is our own.  Our kids aren’t born with it.  To them, it’s just information—like any other information. Your daughter heard a term and just wanted to know what it was.  By telling her that you don’t want to talk about it, you’re sending the message that there are questions you don’t want her to ask you.  Sooner or later (probably sooner), she will learn what a blow job is, and later, when she needs to ask someone about sex, she will remember the moment you closed the door.

But you can very easily open it…now.  Don’t wait.  You have a wonderful opportunity to provide two very important messages: 1) You can talk to me about anything, and 2) Sometimes I make mistakes and I can admit that to you.

Here’s what I would do.  Obviously, use your own words. You know how you would talk and what your daughter will think makes sense. At some point, casually (don’t make it a big “talk”), mention to her that you were thinking about what she asked the other day, and you realized that you were wrong not to answer her question.  Tell her that it has to do with sex (assuming she knows the basics about sex) and that often adults are uncomfortable hearing language about sex come out of kids’ mouths.  Explain that it’s silly, but that’s the way a lot of adults were raised.  So sometimes they act weird about sex.  At this point, a lot depends on what you’ve already said.  If you’ve only explained sex in terms of reproduction—and, thus, only said that it has to do with a penis and a vagina—this is a good time to expand.  Explain that sex isn’t about just one act.  There are lots of things people do within a loving adult relationship, like kissing and touching.  And then say that one of the things some people like to do is called “oral sex,” where one person’s mouth touches the other person’s [genitals]—here’s where you really need to use your own language. Use the words that you’ve always used, but explain in the end that a blow job is when one of the partners puts the other’s penis in his or her mouth.

You’ll likely get any of a number of reactions: “Ewwww!! That’s gross!!” would be an obvious one.  “Do you and Daddy do that?!?!”  is another one to be expected.  For the first, I would say something like, “That’s exactly how I would think you would feel. I felt the same thing at your age. That’s why it’s something adults do and not kids.”  For the second one, you can decide for yourself what you want to reveal, but it’s perfectly reasonable to say something like, “Actually, sex is kind of private, so I don’t like to talk about what I do. Most people don’t like to share what they do with someone else because it’s kind of a secret between them. But I don’t mind talking about other parts of sex.”

One last thing, don’t forget to mention that lots of adults don’t like their kids knowing and talking about sex, so your daughter shouldn’t be the one telling all the other kids about this.  If you’ve talked about language before (like cursing or hurtful language), just make it like that.  I’m sure she knows about words that are OK and aren’t OK to say in school and with friends. This is just like that.  But don’t make any of this too stern and serious. The whole idea is to keep the lines of communication open.

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