Swearing and Parenting: Goes Together Like Mac N Goddamn Cheese


Adrian Kulp thinks the dirtiest part of parenting might be the words that sometimes come out of his own mouth.

As far as I remember, I didn’t grow up with a foul mouth. As kids, my parents didn’t really shield me or my brothers from bad words, but they certainly didn’t duct tape us to chairs in the basement and make us watch George Carlin videos either. I guess we just understood that certain words were in poor taste and that we shouldn’t use them.

Bruce and the author laying foundation

Bruce and the author laying foundation

My dad’s been a bricklayer all his life. He’s spent the better part of forty years on construction sites and I’d be willing to bet that he’s heard it all. Those sites are a breeding ground for cutting edge cursing. I remember going in to work with him once as a teenager, riding in his weathered Ford F150 work truck with the tool bin behind the cab and bench seat covered in dust, listening to Howard Stern…finally feeling like a man. He brought me with him so I could make a few extra bucks, carrying mud (concrete) back and forth, rolling up his plumb line and basically making sure that no bees flew into his open Coca-Cola can.

Along the scaffolding, there were a dozen other guys with trowels, jawing back and forth with each other. The conversations were really nothing more than a cluster of ‘fuck’, ‘shit’ and ‘asshole’ with a conjunction or preposition here or there connecting an occasional reference to a lady or a car. These guys made Stern and Dice look like altar boys. The point being, that I now realize it was a challenge for my old man to bite his tongue once he was settled in at home with his kids.

My mom only ‘hates’ two things (aside from the word ‘hate’) and it’s foul language and guns. So as boys and men, we were basically screwed.

In retrospect, my dad was pretty decent at toning down the profanities while at home.

I’m not saying he was perfect at it—but who is? I mean, it was inevitable that he’d fire off a ‘Goddammit’ or ‘sonofabitch’ after I’d clobbered a rock with the mower blade just minutes after he finished hand sharpening it on a stone in the garage. And who wouldn’t belt out a ‘who the fuck is using the water!?’ if we were upstairs flushing a deuce while he was in the shower downstairs after ten grueling hours of working outside in the sun. Could you blame him?


Years later, working on the creative side in entertainment, my wife and I both have pretty foul mouths. It seems to go hand in hand with the territory. It’s become second nature to use curse words to emphasize an action or get a point across. SHE continues to work in that capacity today and occasionally comes through the front door, still on a call with someone, using words like skank or dipshit while bending down to kiss and hug our kids. But THIS guy (Fonzie thumbs tilted back towards myself) is now at home all day with the kids…. kids that are starting to or have already started mimicking everything I do.

Daughter-inflicted black eye

Daughter-inflicted black eye

I never thought it would be this tough to catch myself from using foul language.

And much like my father and probably most fathers, I’ve had my moments.  Did I lose my cool last fall after locking myself outside the house with two toddlers inside and then scream ‘fuck’ through the neighborhood after having to punch a hole in the front window to get back in? YEP. Did I let a ‘motherfucker’ slip when Ava was going through a phase where she whipped her head back hard enough to fracture my nose and blacken my eye? I DID.  And did I sing a ‘holy shiiiit’ after scraping my jewels on the top of the baby gate after jumping over it instead of taking three seconds to open it? YOU BETCHA.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve got to try harder. Maybe I need to call dad and see how he managed to do it? And these thoughts I’m having aren’t unfounded. They aren’t preemptive whispers in my head that have been nurtured or pleaded over for several months. All it took was one moment last week.

My 3-year old daughter Ava (such an innocent name for a delicate flower of a girl), accidentally snapped a crayon while coloring, threw it against the wall, punched the sofa and delivered an ‘oh fuck’ to the rest of the living room.

Ahhhh…. hold up a minute. Not cool. What am I doing here? She learned that from me (or her mom, who I’m normally comfortable throwing under the bus, but for purposes of this article let’s say me). I’ve got to be more conscious about my language. I’ve got to make some changes. But how? How do I manage my anger in those brief moments of physical agony or frustration?  Cursing has always been an amazing tool to ease the pain after slamming my finger in the car door or getting poop on my finger while changing a diaper.

Am I forced to become one of those parents who makes up words like ‘motherfudger’ or ‘swizzlesticks’ and disguises them as a sneeze while releasing them into the night or do I just hold it in and silently cry on the inside, manifesting years of pent-up rage and converting it into an early heart attack?

The swear jar is doing nothing but collecting beer money and self-restraint is often a joke…

Am I the only one sucking on a bar of soap at the end of the day?

for more from Dad or Alive, check out (Co) Sleeping With The Enemy


About Dad or Alive

Adrian Kulp is a full-time stay-at-home dad for two toddlers, Ava & Charlie. He writes the blog “Dad or Alive” as well as for The Huffington Post. Circle of Moms ranked him #4 on their Top 25 Daddy Blogs of 2011. His blog has been optioned for Television by Sony Pictures/ Happy Madison Prods and Adrian’s first book with Penguin Publishing debuts in bookstores May 7th, but is currently on sale as a pre-order. He is also the former VP of TV Development for both Adam Sandler & Chelsea Handler, as well as a comic booker for “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” on CBS. He currently lives just outside of Washington, D.C. with his family.


  1. Dalissa says:

    My name is Dalissa, I am a native New Yorker and I cuss like a sailor. My daughter is now 7 and like you I had that eye opening moment while my daughter was three. For her it was a block tower that came crashing down to which her response was ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ Needless to say I realized I had a potential problem on my hands. I was often able to downshift to things like Shut the Front Door and God Doggit. However, the car was my kryptonite and continues to be (especially given the fact I live in the Washington DC area where I am convinced people obtained their liscenses from Cracker Jack boxes). But I digress. I realized something rather quickly, part of my problem is that the only reason I don’t want my child to use a curse word is because she will be put in trouble for it when she went to school. I come from the school of thought that people can be horrifically cruel while using perfectly acceptable words which to me was vastly more damning than me cursing because I slammed my finger into a door. Where I landed was teaching my daughter that curse words aren’t always an acceptable way to release frustration and that it was up to us to find better words to use. I also essentially gave her full permission to call me to the carpet when I curse. The reason is, I really didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I knew I wasn’t going to stop cursing, but didn’t want her to start. So empowering her to tell me I was wrong for the words I chose gave her both a reason to not use that language and the sense that I wasn’t playing by a different set of rules. The first time I cursed in the car after being cut off, she was very quick to say – Mommy, you need to find a better word. I asked for her help and tried to incorporate her word for the point of frustration moment. I am a lot better with the impulse curse than I used to be, but my daughter is a great word police around finding a solution to my potty mouth. Again for someone who doesn’t care about curse words and would rather hear her daughter say “holy shit” over calling someone else “stupid” this seems to be a healthy middle ground where we talk about the fact that “how we use words” is JUST as important (if not more important) than the words we chose to use.

  2. OMG…great post! My father always thought he was “sneaky” by cursing in Italian. Of course we all knew exactly what he was saying. I admittedly have a potty mouth. I would do my very best to restrain myself in front of the kids but he would be the first one to get after me…pot calling the kettle black and all.
    One day my little cherub daughter knocker her sippy cup off her high chair tray. Out popped this perfect little “Ah Fangool”. I just turned to my father and said…”She didn’t get that from me”!

  3. I feel your pain! It’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime, especially when the words just jump out of your mouth automatically! From almost as soon they could talk, ours were like little echo chambers, & repeated everything, Ellie especially. “Bugger Becca” (long story) was an early favourite, & she several times has yelled “Shit!” in context, at least once in company. We both have mostly worked in environments where swearing is frowned upon, so it”s less of a problem for us I guess, but still something we have to work on.

    Lately we’ve got very good at taking a deep breath then saying “rude word!”. Which, of course, gets repeated.

    Great post!

  4. That was fucking funny! Yeah, I have a big potty mouth, and even though my kids are now older (12 & 16) I still try to hold it in even though I’m 100% positive they swear in school. (I know I did at their age.)

    A few years ago we were at a party and a girlfriend of mine was pretty tipsy and kept dropping the F bomb when talking to my son. He had a look of horror on his face. She said, “What the matter? Doesn’t your mom ever say fuck?” And he answered, “Only in anger.” He didn’t really know people talked like that when they weren’t mad.

    And that story of your daughter and the crayon… classic!

  5. oh fuck yeah! I am glad I am not the only one!

  6. OMG, you are not the only one. My bad habits come out while driving. As much as I like to think I say my chosen curse words under my breath, some of them do reach my boy. When I hear shit and dammit come out of his mouth, I sure know I am doing something wrong. I do believe he has said fuck as well. My bad. At least he hasn’t said, goddamnmotherfuckingprickbastard. I will try to keep that one to myself.

  7. I love the fact that there’s really no lesson here. Sometimes you curse. We all do (if we’re cool, anyway). The important thing in my house was that the first curse word my daughter repeated she got directly from my wife. I dropped a glass jar of salsa in the grocery store and my wife let out an “Ah shit!” For the rest of the trip, my daughter happily repeated “shit… shit… shit” as we went from aisle to aisle. My wife was mortified. I thought it was hilarious. And thankful it wasn’t my fault.

  8. My wife was incapable of tightening the lid on any container.
    My 4 yr old daughter was in the kitchen with me as I did the Thursday evening frig clean out & toss.
    I reached in and grabbed a bottle of something by the top to check behind it,
    off came the lid and the contents were 1/2 in the refrigerator and 1/2 on the floor.
    Rather than curse I consciously said ARRRGGGHH.
    My daughter piped up “God Damn It! Right Daddy?”
    I pray I remember that on my death bed.

  9. Aub Barton says:

    Haaaa oh this was great! I was raised very strictly on no cursing (raised in a cult) so when i left i found a wonderful new life of saying whatever i damn well please and knowing lightning wasn’t going to strike my ass. lol A couple years later along comes our beautiful baby ‘Glory lynn’ … at two years of age her curse of choice tends to be ‘dammit !’ learned from my husband who tends to say ‘goddammit’ lol she left out the god part. The first time was hysterical … she was fighting with a container of playdoh trying to get the stuff out and it wasn’t cooperating as most everyone knows playdoh is guilty of. She stops … sighs … screws her face in an adorable pissed expression and says ‘dammit naydoh!’ lmao then she picked the container back up with renewed enthusiasm and got the playdoh out. We have not curbed our language around her and she has only picked up the one word as her own. She has heard and repeated a few handfuls of different words and laughed after she heard us or someone say it … but she likes the word dammit for personal use and only uses it when it is appropriate. Maybe once or twice a week. One of my favorite comedians is Alphie May .. i LOVE his skit about cursing and kids … so true. I think if you make a big deal about telling them to stop doing something … they do it more. I want her to have a healthy outlet for frustration and not feel the need to do damage to herself by holding everything inside. It is so funny too … one day we were at walmart and she likes to put the items on the conveyor belt herself … we had an almost 100 year old cashier lady and when Glory dropped something she was trying to put on the belt and said ‘dammit!’ the look of horror on her face was hysterical .. we just laughed along with glory as she tried again and continued with the other groceries.

  10. It’s fucking hard, man, to stop swearing. My twins are four, and they haven’t picked up on mine yet (somehow), but I’m sure they will. If you can’t stop, the next best thing would be to talk honestly w/ the kids about when and why it happens, and the societal consequences for doing it? I don’t know though. . . I’m mostly just talking out my (fucking) ass. . .

  11. Randy Strauss says:

    Adrian, you are not the only one tasting soap at the end of the day. I find driving on long country roads with nary a stop sign or traffic light a peaceful, almost Zen, experience. Put me in town with traffic and I curse a blue streak that’d make Dennis Miller raise an eyebrow.
    While driving around with my daughter, I have to consciously make an effort to censor those filthy diatribes. It takes practice. I make an effort to substitute things like “Heavens to Murgatroid” and “What a maroon!” even when I’m not around my daughter. Still, my curse jar is full of IOUs.
    I’m just thankful that my daughter hasn’t dropped the F bomb yet.

  12. Worst one for me was at the kitchen, 4 yr old daughter in other room playing with her cars, and I hear, “What the fuck are you doing?” “No, what the fuck are you doing?” Umm, honey…”They’re driving like you, Daddy.”

  13. My kids say I should cuss more, so I’ll fit in with extended family. I tell them swearing isn’t required but can be used for emphasis or humor or pain relief. I’ve done well setting the example, and on the rare ocassion I yell out bullshit in the middle of dinner… Well, it’s funny! No bar of soap required. Thanks for the fun article 🙂

  14. Funny article, it cracked me up godamnit! Sounds like our house. Thanks for making me laugh!


  1. […] Swearing and Parenting: Goes Together Like Mac N Goddamn Cheese – full-time stay-at-home dad Adrian Kulp addresses how difficult it can sometimes be to keep those “potty-mouth” words under wraps in the presence of the kids – and what happens when they accidentally slip out. […]

  2. […] Swearing and Parenting Goes Together Like Mac N Goddamn Cheese […]

  3. […] This article originally debuted on The Good Men Project. […]

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