Swearing, ‘bad words’ not so rare at home

The taboo against explicit language in family settings is not so strict anymore. But then, some say, what is the point?
Last Updated 23 October 2019, 03:54 IST

Many families are now comfortable with language once considered offensive, and say swear words often emphasise emotion. A vast majority, however, still believe swearing and use of sexually explicit language is hurtful and disrespectful.

Itisha Peerbhoy, a certified therapist and life coach, says children are less afraid if they can speak without inhibition in the presence of parents.

Counselling psychologist Dr Sreevathsa, on the other hand, says swearing is best avoided in a healthy relationship.

Isabelle Thomas, a 24 year old auditing professional, recalls how she uttered an expletive in a conversation with my mother. “At first she was super shocked but eventually started mocking me by repeating the words back,” she says.

Shreya Pandey, a 21 year old college graduate, says her parents have always sworn in front of her but she hasn’t even accidentally let slip any such words in their presence. “Once when I was much younger I repeated the words my father said, they sat me down and explained to me that these were ‘adult words’ and I wasn’t allowed to use them,” she says. She searches for alternative words, and, she says, “they don’t always communicate what exactly I’m feeling.”

Laxmi, a master’s student, felt she could talk about ‘anything and everything’ to her parents once they were okay with her swearing. Dr Sreevastha, however, says you don’t need to swear to speak the truth. Like experts, parents are also divided. Sneha, a mother of two children under 13, does not use explicit language in their presence.“When I get angry and I lose control. But I never aim those words at them but use them only to emphasise anger,” Sneha says.

She makes it a point to apologise later. “In fact, now they’ve understood these are unacceptable and they call me out on the usage,” she explains.

Sareeka, mother of three children between five and 15, says many words considered offensive become acceptable as times change. “My father would give me a stern talking-to if I said ‘shit’, but to his grandchildren it’s a mainstay in their vocabulary,” she says.

Rose, mother of two boys aged 13 and 9, says she doesn’t even accidentally use swear words in front of them. “Even if I let slip a word like ‘shit’, I correct it to ‘shucks’,” she says. If they pick up such words in school, she stops them from using them at home. Itisha says using swear words to insult others must always be discouraged. “Parents verbally abusing children, and vice versa, is always dangerous. It creates a disrespectful atmosphere,” she says.

Parents admit it is impossible to limit their children’s exposure to such words. “Making these words taboo creates confusion. They will be exposed to these words, if they have a question about it, they should be able to go to their parents,” says Itisha.

She says adult children not being allowed to swear in front of their parents is an example of “typical toxic Indian parenting”.

Explicit language


Makes communication open.

Emphasises emotion.


Hurts people not used to it.

Many believe it reflects lax discipline.

(Published 22 October 2019, 14:52 IST)

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