Damn it!

Last night while I was preparing supper the kids played on the floor in the living room around the corner. When I went to check on them I noticed that they had littered the floor with toys, blankets, books, and all sorts of things. As I walked back to the kitchen I picked up a large book off of the floor and sat it on the back of the loveseat, meaning to place it on the bookshelf when I came back into the room.
The book slid off of the chair and hit the floor. I heard a sweet little voice say, “Damn it!”
“Abby, what did you say?” I asked from the kitchen, incredulously.
“Damn it,” she said again.
“What?” I hear my husband ask.
“Damn it,” she tells her father.
So we asked her where she heard the word, which she refused to tell us.  We gave her a lecture about how words like that aren’t appropriate to say, how saying that word over and over could teach her brother to say it, and how if she says a bad word again she will have her mouth washed out with soap. Abby says she understands and won’t say it again.
After supper the two kids were again playing in the living room, rolling a ball back and forth. Oscar rolled the ball wildly to Abby and she wasn’t able to catch it; it hit her hand and jetted off in the opposite direction. “Damn!” she says, instantly looking up to see if we heard her swear.
“What did you say?” my husband asked her.
“I said ‘damn,'” she said, looking at the floor, realizing that she was in trouble.“What did Mom and Dad tell you about saying bad words earlier?” he asked.
“Not to say ‘damn it’ again,” my three-year-old says, looking as though she would start crying at any moment.
“And what did Mom say she would do if you said it again?”
“Noooo! Noooo! No soap!”
At this point I debated in my head whether or not I should actually give her a bar of soap, as I remembered my mother and grandmother doing. I don’t remember what word I had said, but in third grade they made me stick a bar of soap in my mouth for saying a bad word. If you say a dirty word, you get your mouth washed out with soap, they said. I believe it was Ivory, and it tasted horrid. The punishment worked though, I did not say another forbidden word in front of my mother until after I was eighteen.
In the end, I retrieved a mini bar of peppermint soap from my medicine cabinet (don’t worry, it is non-toxic and I tasted it first. It really wasn’t that bad). I made her put it in her mouth while I counted to ten, then I helped her rinse her mouth. I got down on her level, then explained to her again that regardless if kids at school, adults she is around, or people on TV say bad words, she is not to repeat them.
I haven’t heard her swear since then. I don’t know if the soap method will be as effective with her as it was on me, but I hope I don’t receive a letter from preschool about an inappropriate vocabulary and I hope Oscar doesn’t decide to start saying the word too, damn it.

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One thought on “Damn it!

  1. thecommutary says:

    Resorting to soap feels like a low point but I’ve been there too. It’s effective! But in my case my potty mouthed toddler didn’t take it like “man” and I chase her around the house!

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