Children don’t need the f-word to bring them into line

NZ Herald Feb 18, 2009

Derek Martin Derek Martin has an MA in linguistics. He is Academic Director of Laidlaw College.
You’re f***ing annoying, do you know that? Hurry the f*** up!” Partly out of shock, partly out of curiosity, I turned to view the person using this language in a busy public place. My shock doubled when I saw it was a mother telling off her son, aged about 4, for walking too slowly across a carpark outside Rainbow’s End in Manukau City recently.

Immediately, a myriad of confusing thoughts raced through my mind. Should I intervene and inform the mother that it was unacceptable to use such language in front of children, let alone when talking to her own child? Was it my business to do so? Is parenting better left to parents without others butting in?

Isn’t verbal abuse just as damaging to children as smacking, now outlawed in New Zealand? Was it my duty as a member of the public to do something? Would I be the target of even worse verbal or perhaps physical abuse if I intervened?