Actions may speak louder than words, but we best not underestimate as a nation how the phrases we use shape the language of children we are collectively raising. I guess it is a hazard of my profession, but I regularly see and hear the world through the eyes and ears of youth and wonder how exposure shaped their development.
With regard to verbal behaviors, it isn’t always foul language that grabs my attention as much as it is “inflammatory” words – shut up, stupid, sucks, pissed off, etc. I believe these words are inflammatory in the sense that they initially get a rise out of young children and make them feel uncomfortable. However, when kids hear them continuously, in a variety of settings, not only do they become desensitized to the words and phrases, but they most likely go on to incorporate them into their own vocabulary, as well.
Most of the adults with whom I talk tell me their biggest complaint with youth is lack of respect. Respect comes in many forms and I’m thinking if we want children to show verbal respect to others, we better model this through our own verbal behaviors. For the words and phrases we use today will most likely be the ones we hear from our children tomorrow.
PS – I know this can be a generational issue and that language evolves and changes, but these phrases have derogatory and negative connotations – and I’m thinking we really don’t need any more of that than we already have.