Is swearing in front of children ever ok as Gordon Ramsay promises he never curses at home?

Gordon Ramsay and his wife Tana pose with four of their five children, he has said he doesn't practice swearing in front of them. (Getty Images)
Gordon Ramsay says swearing in front of his children at home isn't something he does. (Getty Images)

Some of Gordon Ramsay’s best - and most eyebrow-raising - moments on television involve his speech being heavily edited with bleeps and pixels to censor his colourful language. But while the Michelin starred celebrity chef may be famous for swearing on-screen, he has insisted that his famed vocabulary isn't used at home in front of his children.

In an interview with People, Ramsay, 56, shared how his kids know exactly how to push his buttons. "If they want to tell me I’m wrong or they want to critique the food, I laugh," he said. "I like it when they test me." However, his responses to his and wife Tana Ramsay’s five children do not involve swearing, he reassured the magazine.

Tana confirmed her husband's promise, adding: "It’s never been something that came home."

While fans may find it difficult to imagine their favourite TV chef adopting a rule for clean language anywhere, Ramsay’s decision not to swear in front of his children is common among parents.

Aside from teaching good manners, many parents may think that cursing freely around kids might have a negative impact on their childhood. But what do the experts say?

Read more: I'm a parenting expert, this is why it's so exhausting raising kids right now (HuffPost UK, 4-min read)

Is it ever OK to swear in front of children?

Psychologist Dr Ree Langham, from Impulse Therapy, says that in general, adults should avoid swearing in front of children. However, mistakes do happen and should be considered.

"Parents are human, and occasionally, a swear word might slip out unintentionally," she says. "I would suggest acknowledging the mistake and apologising to the child, this can demonstrate accountability and reinforce the idea that certain language is not appropriate."

Children tend to copy the behaviour of their parents and other adults around them, and will likely repeat curse words if they hear them. The younger they are, the less awareness they have about what is socially acceptable.

Helen Neale, editor at parenting resource KiddyCharts, adds: "We need to accept that this can sometimes happen, and be forgiving of ourselves if we do it."

Equally she says we need to be understanding and accepting of the child if they also swear, using it as a learning opportunity to explain why it isn't acceptable.

A young Black girl wearing a striped T-shirt and holding a crayon as she draws on paper smiles at her mother
Most parents avoid swearing in front of their kids, but sometimes, mistakes can happen. (Getty Images)

While the occasional and accidental use of swear words around children is not always a bad thing, there are, however, some potentially negative repercussions to consider.

“One example of this is when it comes to children's language development,” Dr Langham explains. “This can be hindered if they start to use swear words in place of more appropriate words. In some cases, this can limit a child’s ability to communicate effectively and respectfully.

"Emotional wellbeing can also be impacted, [as] using swear words regularly can create a negative environment."

However, there are some circumstances in which colourful language may not be such a misstep. Neale suggests that, for neurodiverse children and adults, swearing is an impulsive behaviour and cannot always be avoided.

“Sometimes, for children who are neurodiverse, it may even be beneficial for them to be able to swear at home, given the fact they have had to hold it in all day at school because of societal pressures,” Neale says.

“Here is where it is important to look at the reasons for the behaviour and be understanding about it. Kids’ behaviour is a form of communication, we just have to understand what they are trying to say. Parents are a ‘safe place’ and so swearing a little bit isn’t going to hurt anyone in the home and can be a release.”

Read more: ‘I was busted for ordering my 15-year-old an Aperol Spritz – but was I so wrong?’ (The Telegraph, 6-min read)

She adds that if a member of the family has Tourette’s Syndrome, a condition of the nervous system which causes “tics” that sometimes manifest in the form of swearing involuntarily, it usually cannot be helped and should be ignored.

What should I do if I accidentally swear in front of children?

Accidents happen, and children sometimes hear things they aren’t supposed to. But parents and guardians can still turn the situation into something good.

A white woman holds her young daughter's hands as she looks seriously at her, listening to what the girl has to say
Turning a slip-up into a teachable moment could help children learn what words are not socially acceptable. (Getty Images)

Dr Langham advises: "If you do happen to swear in front of your child, then it can also be used as a way to teach empathy; if a parent apologises for the mistaken use of swear words it can model accountability and empathy by showing that even adults make mistakes and can take responsibility for their actions.

"It’s also a good idea to take a moment to explain that the word you used was not nice or polite and emphasise the importance of using respectful and kind words in communication."

Neale says it is important for parents to notice of how they have the words. "Swearing out of anger that isn’t directed at our kids is very different from directly calling our children bad words," she explains. "The latter is clearly abusive and will have a significant impact both on the child's self-esteem and on their view of what love looks like.

"Doing this isn’t acceptable and won’t help anyone, least of all our relationship with the children as they grow."