Teaching our kids slang

Amy teaches her daughter that some words have multiple meanings

Jack Kesselman

Talia has an early evening cooking class, and we’re trying to squeeze in a few errands beforehand.

“Ok, Tal,” I say. “We’re going to drop off books at the library. And then we’ll go to the grocery store for a quick shop. We need to get cake mix for your birthday cupcakes. Then I’ll drive you to cooking class.”

Quickly, Tal gets her coat on. “We’ll have to go really fast or we’ll be SCREWED,” she says.

(Screwed? Yikes. I’ve never heard her say that before.)

“Mom, what does screwed mean?” she asks.

“Um…it means you would be in trouble,” I say.” If we took took too long at the store, we’d be late for cooking. And we’d be in trouble. We’d be screwed.”


“But it’s kind of a slang word,” I explain. “You can say it to your friends, but not a teacher. That would be rude.”


“Sometimes ‘screwed’ means something else too,” I say. Then, as delicately as possible, I explain the other meaning.  (We’ve had the birds and bees talk before).

Oh man, this is so darn complicated. Starting at a young age our kids hear all kinds of language on the playground. And by high school, they’ve pretty well heard it all. Our kids need to understand the language of their peers. Or else they are incredibly vulnerable to teasing and bullying. And they need to know the rules about when to use what words. But how on earth do you teach this?

Your turn. Any words of wisdom on teaching your kids slang?

Stay in touch

Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.