More than one in 10 staff have seen an increase in the number of children swearing in their nurseries, according to a new survey.
The poll carried out by the leading reviews site for nurseries, daynurseries.co.uk, found 13 per cent of nursery staff said they had seen an increase in the number of children swearing, with 12 per cent often hearing children swearing. A total of 1,125 nursery staff took part in the survey.
A spokeswoman for daynurseries.co.uk, said: “These findings are not a surprise as swearing seems to have become more socially acceptable, and if young children do not hear it at home, they can hear it in pop songs or on YouTube.
“However, despite it becoming more prevalent in society, it is still shocking and incongruous to hear profanities coming from the lips of a young child. There is a real power to swearing and when a small, seemingly innocent child swears, the words have even more resonance.”
Emma Byrne, author of Swearing Is Good for You, believes profanities are an essential part of our language and perform a vital role in human development. She think taboo words allow people to let off steam and reduce pain.
She says: “The research shows that swearing causes a strong emotional reaction in our brains. This means that children will, unfortunately, be much more likely to notice and remember swearwords that they hear.
“No matter how careful you are, your kids are going to hear swearing at some point. As parents, we need our children to understand the emotions, and the brain activity, that goes along with swearing. Helping even very young children to name their feelings has been shown to help them manage their outbursts, whether they are tantrums, sulks, or swearing.”
'We need to bring back the innocence in children’s lives'
However John Warren, who has worked in the childcare industry for over 30 years, from nursery practitioner to Ofsted inspector, with roles at Asquith Nurseries and Kidsunlimited, believes we “need to bring back the innocence in children’s lives, awe and wonder, the tooth fairy, father Christmas, unicorns and fairies. Let them have fun with language, invent new words and don’t be so quick to jump on the child who says ‘poo, fart and bum’ and then giggles. We need to introduce the children to story books that are full of words to add to their vocabulary.”
He adds: “Swearing is definitely more accepted in today’s culture and the word ‘shit’ has replaced so many words, for example, ‘this is good shit’ ‘I have trod in shit’ ‘people know their shit’ ‘shit for brains’ ‘lucky shit’ or ‘unlucky shit’. So rather than introducing children to a world of beautiful language we are introducing them to a language, well that is shit.
“And this language is not reserved for less affluent families it is also quite happily used on giant billboards for children to view such as the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ campaign.
“Some people will use terms such as ‘we need to educate parents’. We don’t need condescending remarks like that, what we need to do is support parents and give them the tools and advice to support them with using new vocabulary. It’s our future we are investing in and we really all should ‘give a shit’.”
He recalls a former job he had working in a playscheme in South London where a child had been swearing when they were out on a visit. “I spoke to his mum and dad in private when they came back. They couldn’t understand where he had acquired those words. The mum called her son over to us and then reported to me in front of him “I don’t know where the fuck he got those words from” - she then looked down to the child and said “if I catch you fucking swearing again there will be no sweets”.”
Children need to be taught the rules
Cheryl Hadland, managing director of Tops Day Nurseries, agreed with the findings and feels swearing has become generally more acceptable in society. However she adds that children need to have guidelines. She says: “We are also preparing young children for school and for learning that there are different rules in different locations, so learning to refrain from swearing at day nursery ‘because we don’t use that word here’ is acceptable in my opinion.
“Certainly, my own daughter knew virtually all the swear words available when she was under five because she had teenage brothers, but she never got into trouble for swearing at school because she learnt the ‘rules’. I personally don’t swear in front of small children, but I do occasionally swear in a staff meeting, because I can.”