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Should Christian Parents Call Their Children “Kids”?

gerencser grandchildren 2021
Our thirteen grandchildren, Easter 2021. What a wonderful herd of goats.

Snark ahead

Fundamentalist Christian Nancy Campbell says Christians shouldn’t call their children “kids.” Campbell, who operates the Above Rubies website, had this to say:

The most common word for “children” in our society today is the word “kids.” Is this a word that God has chosen to call our children? We do not see it anywhere in the Bible in relation to children. In fact, if you check the 1928 Webster’s Dictionary you will not find this word for children. “Kids” is a modern word, which has been added in later years.

I have to confess that for a long time, I also used this word. I did not like the word and never felt that it was right, but I succumbed to the trend around me. How easily we do things just because everyone else is doing them, without thinking whether it is actually the best thing to do!

However, there came a time when I was challenged. I read an article about a sheep farmer in New Zealand. This farmer had diversified into raising goats, as well as sheep, and he noticed an interesting comparison. The ewes remained close to their lambs, watching them while they fed. He noticed, however, how the goats herded their young together in one spot on a knoll of a hill and left them while they went off to forage for the day. They did not provide the same individual attention which the sheep gave to their offspring.

My mind ticked over as I read this, but before I accepted it, I thought I should check out if it was really true. I asked my father who is an authority on sheep. He was the World Champion Sheep Shearer in his younger days and has shorn over a million sheep in his lifetime.

“Yes,” he said, “Sheep will never go further than earshot from the little lambs.”

I was very challenged. Has “kids” become the accepted word for children today, because we have become a generation of “goat mothers”? Instead of staying close to their lambs, thousands of mothers drop them off at nurseries and daycare, leaving their little “lambs” to fulfill their own careers. This is “goat mothering.” No wonder we call our children “kids”!..

…After realizing all this I decided that I did not want to be part of the goat company. I did not want to impose the goat character upon my children. Our children should be different from the children of the world. I therefore made an effort to stop using the word “‘kids.” And now I hate to hear other people using it.

Let’s start a revolution and eliminate the word “kids” from our society!

I’ve got a better idea. Let’s start a revolution and eliminate crazy Fundamentalist ideas from our society! I just checked an old Webster Dictionary and it didn’t have words like computer, Internet, website, or blog. Using Campbell’s dictionary logic, shouldn’t Christians refrain from using a computer, accessing the Internet, building a website, or having a blog?  Oh Bruce, that’s stupid. Yep, it is, just like Campbell’s assertion that calling children kids is akin to saying they are goats.

In Part Two of her anti-kids-word article, Campbell lists a number of “Biblical” names parents could call their children:

  • Gifts
  • Blessings
  • Heritage of the Lord
  • Fruit of the Womb
  • Beloved Fruit of the Womb
  • Rewards
  • Arrows
  • Olive Plants
  • Sons who are Mature Plants
  • Daughters who are Polished Cornerstones
  • Signs and Wonders
  • Lambs
  • Work of God’s Hands
  • Godly Seed
  • Glory
  • Crown

Campbell forgot one . . . tax deduction.

Fundamentalist Catholic Marian Horvat thinks calling children kids is vulgar:

It was in the 1960s and 1970s that a slang term began to be introduced in certain circles that were trying to be up-to-date and modern. I am talking about the introduction of the word ‘kids’ used to refer to children…

…The word is all-pervading – “Buy Big Kids or Little Kids shoes or boots.” The implication, of course, is that we are all kids – frolicking little goats that never grow up. Then there is the “Big Songs for Little Kids” – gospel music for little goats?

Even nice restaurants, museums and exhibitions have taken to using the term: “Kids’ meals available,” “Kids under 12 enter free.” Book titles justify the word for parents and offspring: we have Real Kids’ Readers, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Everything Kids’ Cookbook, and so on.

I realize that there will be critics who think I am overstating the ills of saying kids and not children. “There she goes again, making a mountain out of a molehill, nitpicking about what to call your kids as the world falls apart around us.”

Children, not kids, please… No, I am not just being finicky and pernickety. There are certain principles at stake in the matter.

Today we hear much about the importance of the dignity of man. At the same time, we adopt language, customs and dress that persistently reduce the dignity of men and women.

Need I recall the daily clothing of men and women – the unisex sweat suit, the tiresome blue jean and t-shirt, the perpetual tennis shoes – that diminish the dignity of men and erase differences in professions and social levels? Not to mention the immoral women’s fashions that give even teenage girls the appearance of women of the street, not children of God.

Our customs have likewise been transformed: Gone are the formal greetings, the polite address of Mr. Jones or Miss Greene, gentlemen opening doors for ladies, and so on. The list is interminable and gloomy for those – like my good Readers – who oppose the hippy Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and do all they can to oppose and fight it in the ambiences of their own homes.

But the Cultural Revolution does not just influence customs and clothing. The same leveling, vulgarizing trend has found its way into daily language, habituating a generation to accept common and egalitarian forms of speech. Men and women are addressed ambiguously as guys. Persons are said to crack up instead of laugh. They are no longer described as blushing, but turning red. Instead of distinguishing an event with an appropriate adjective, everything is cool – to the point that the word has no meaning. And children are, of course, just kids.

Young goats… Unfortunately, the term applies in many cases. Many children prance around, careen and react spontaneously to every stimulus or feeling like mountain goats, instead of well-disciplined boys and girls. Perhaps there is a lesson in the tendencies to be learned here: If you anticipate your children acting like young goats, call them kids. If you want your offspring to behave with decorum and Catholic manners, please call them children…

The damnable 1960s and 1970s, they are to blame for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  We baby boomers sure have fucked up the world. Children are now routinely called kids. Surely this is a sure sign of the coming goat apocalypse, a time when children who were called kids turn into zombie-like goats and cause untold havoc and destruction.  I beg parents to stop calling their children kids before it is too late!!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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41 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ahab

    Call one’s offspring “arrows” or “olive plants” implies that the children are weapons or possessions instead of people. Then again, that’s exactly how the Quiverfull subculture sees children.

    “Godly seed” just sounds gross.

    • Avatar
      Appalachian Agnostic

      Yeah, I can’t decide if “Godly Seed” or “Fruit of the Womb” is more disturbing. Christians seem to hate goats almost as much as snakes.

      • Avatar
        August Rode

        “Christians seem to hate goats almost as much as snakes.” …but they should not. When the Jews chose Barrabas to be released and Jesus to be crucified, they were re-enacting the ritual described in Leviticus 16:7-10, a ritual involving two *goats*. One, the goat of the LORD, was sacrificed as a sin offering and the other was set free.

  2. Avatar
    August Rode

    Kids ought to be raised to be able to come to terms with the world they’re going to have to live in. They ought to have the curiosity and drive to explore, knowing that there is a place of safety and security for them to harbor in as they need it. They ought to be raised as kids, not as lambs, and they should be raised for *their* sake and not for the benefit of the parents.

    Every one of the alternate names in Campbell’s list is about the parents, not about the children.

  3. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    These people need to Get Lives. Honestly! Language changes. Clothing changes. Going on some sanctimonious rant because you don’t want to keep up with what are ultimately minor adjustments makes you look foolish. Calling children “kids” when everyone knows what you mean is not belittling. Wearing jeans does not reduce someone’s dignity. What is belittling is treating one’s offspring like property, not allowing them to have likes/dislikes/opinions of their own. What reduces people’s dignity is treating them as though they have no acceptable agency unless they parrot the words of your religion. Conservative Christians, of both Protestant and Catholic stripes, tend to be guilty of these egregious behaviors.

    Meanwhile I completely support the wearing of denim to protect the knees of rugrats.

  4. Avatar
    exrelayman

    Those women aren’t kidding around. It’s enough to get my goat. Ok, I’m outta here – probly shouldn’t have butted in.

  5. Avatar
    Kerry

    OK I see a lot of “Nanny Goats” here but no “Billy Goats.” What gives? I don’t know “Wethers” this is important or not? Ha! Get it? OK I too am out of here…and I will not say anything gruff!

  6. Avatar
    Lisa Ham

    when Nancy puts it like that, I like the term kids! It implies that children can be trusted to be independent and don’t require constant surveillance to grow up to be successful adults. Unlike those poor lambs in the quiverfull movement who can’t be trusted to make any decisions on their own, lest it not conform to their parents beliefs.

  7. Avatar
    Troy

    I always assumed the colloquial “kid” was derived from the German “kind” (from which we also get kindergarten). When I see Christians splitting linquistic hairs like this I always think they must think God speaks English (rather than Aramaic!) It also explains how the King James version of the Bible somehow is truer than any other translation.
    I recall reading an equally absurd essay about the common sports exclamation that a player had “redeemed himself”. I can’t find it but if I remember correctly it had a similar thesis on respecting the sanctity of the English language–yes absurd.

  8. Avatar
    Katiehippie

    I’m going to start calling my boys “Mature Plants” I’m suuuuuuure they will like that. Or Fruit of the Loom, I mean, Womb. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  9. Avatar
    Jo

    People are compared to sheep and I wonder if anyone has observed a goat and a sheep slaughtered for eating? They hang the animal upside down by its hind legs.

    A goat screams and hollers and wrenches its body in every direction, fighting to get free.

    The sheep hangs there like an idiot and never makes a sound. Like sheep to the slaughter… it’s real easy, they don’t fight back.

    I’ll be a kid over a sheep any day of the week!

  10. Avatar
    Jinx

    Wtf. I was born in 1956, the fourth child. We were always kids. I never heard friends, neighbors, even my grandmother demur.
    Online it’s listed as coming into common informal use for children in the mid 1800’s.
    How old is Nancy Campbell anyway?!?

  11. Avatar
    felix mmahi onu

    My honest concerns are, who really invented the kids as a reference to children, why really was it introduced and could it be as opposition to the same reason the Lord Jesus refers to his own children as sheep and lamb? I really suspect the Satanist movement, which also understands the spiritual principle that says, you can create or recreate your world with your own words.

    • Avatar
      Astreja Odinsdóttir

      Felix, my understanding of the etymology of the word “kid” is that it’s been applied to human children since the 1500s and may be even older than that.

      One possibility is that a crying child and a crying goat sound a little bit alike.

      Another story is that there was an old scam where a goatherder offered to steal a baby for a childless couple, took their money, and left a baby goat at their door the next morning. (This is also the origin of the word “kidnapped,” apparently.)

      See? You don’t have to resort to Satanic conspiracy theories and see everything in us/them terms. You just have to look it up. Google. Is. Your. Friend.

    • Avatar
      John Arthur

      Hey Felix,

      Take a few deep breaths and relax. Why not concentrate on spreading compassion, tender mercy and loving-kindness to all you meet instead of spouting mumbo jumbo from a so-called holy book?

      Why not make kindness your religion? Kindness needs no holy books, no temples, no religious gurus to tell us what to do. Just relax and think kind thoughts and seek to be a person who uplifts and inspires all that you meet on your life’s journey. Why waste time trying to parse a holy book which is utterly contradictory and has a good deal of brutality commanded or committed by its so-called god?

      Fancy wasting time splitting hairs over such a trivial thing as calling children kids. I ask my sister how her grandkids are going. There is nothing sinister or Satanic in this. You need to lighten up.

  12. Avatar
    GeoffT

    Felix, Astreja’s excellent response addresses the matter of ‘kids’ but I want to mention your reference to Satanism. There is, undoubtedly, a genuine satanic cult throughout the world. They are, however, a tiny cult, irrelevant in every way (they don’t infect governments and businesses, which have far more important issues to consider). The satanist movement to which you refer, however, is a parody; it’s a name given to counter the unconstitutional incursion of Christianity into all of public life (which is where damage is being done to government and business). The name satanist is used as it represents the thing Christians supposedly hate most, so has the effect of making them sit up and react. The satanist movement is actually a source of considerable good in society.

  13. Avatar
    Messenger

    If you believe in God’s Word about the power of the tongue you would believe it has the power to bless or curse.
    Proverbs 18:21
    Jesus likened goats to those who will be cast into hell, and sheep to those accepted to his kingdom. Therefore, to call children “kids”, implies they are offspring of what their parents truly are.
    Matthew 25:32-46
    Of course, the Bible also verifies that those who consider His Word foolishness to those who are perishing.
    1 Corinthians 1:18
    I used to think like most of you. My life so i said i would live it my way. Once you understand that you will be accountable for every thought, every word, every secret act you think was not seen you will see you need Christ. God gave us the human conscience to be His witness on the day of judgement. Please repent of your sins and turn to Christ while you still have breath, you never know if tomorrow will be your last. I didnt even grow up believing btw.

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      Messenger: “I didnt even grow up believing btw.”

      Zoe: And you’re an expert now?

      I always wonder what it is that goats did to get such a bad name. I wonder what the Holy Spirit inspired writers had against goats?

      • Avatar
        Brian Vanderlip

        Goats tend to be into whatever’s available. They will strip your bushes, trees and whatever is reachable. Sheep tend to forage on the ground and are easier to herd because they get finicky when separated from the group; much easier to control, you see.
        In Christian life, I learned as a youngster to act invisible as a sheep and that by being noticable I was going to get into trouble like a goat. My dad preferred small churches to preach too, not over a hundred sheep. We had many farmers in the flock.

    • Avatar
      Astreja

      Oh, goody — yet another pretentious mortal pretending to speak for an old book that pretends to speak for a god. (Funny how said “god” never gets off its duff to speak to us in person, innit?)

      Listen up, Messenger: Your “Christ” is either dead and in a mass Roman grave with other crucifixion victims, or totally imaginary. Dead people do not come back to life, regardless of what it says in the Bible. Your attempt to frighten us into submission has been noted. You should be deeply ashamed of and embarrassed for yourself, both for employing the logical fallacy of argumentum ad baculum and for uncritically tying your life to an execrably stupid old myth.

      “Repent and turn to Athena, or She’ll turn you to stone with Her Medusa shield.”

      “Repent and turn to Allfather Oðinn, or the Einherjar will use you for target practice before you’re thrown into Niflheim.”

      “Repent and turn to Tiamat or She’ll eat your car.”

      That’s how you sound to us.

    • Avatar
      John Arthur

      Hi Messenger,

      So you’ve caught that deadly Fundamentalist virus, haven’t you? Your aim seems to be to use the power of the tongue to bring the message of Fundamentalist oppression. No thanks! Why not use the power of words to inspire and uplift people, instead of threats of judgment?

      You Fundamentalists don’t love people for being human. Your aim is to dehumanise people with your religious propaganda. No thanks!

      Why not try a loving-kindness meditation like some Buddhists practice? You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice it. Just breathe in slowly; hold your breath, then breath out slowly and focus your mind on kindness. You might find it helpful. Kindness will uplift you, give you dignity and, if you practice it towards others, you may uplift, inspire and encourage them. Isn’t this better than trying to brainwash people with Fundamentalist propaganda?

    • Avatar
      Benny S

      You’re right, Messenger. Let’s remain biblical and call children what they really are:

      “filthy little sinners who deserve to be without worth regarding God’s love and are destined to burn in hellfire forever and ever and ever unless they realize that someone else was whipped to the point where his skin was ripped away from his body and beaten and spit upon and pierced with big nasty nails in his wrists so he could slowly suffocate and bleed to death which should have actually happened to them instead because that’s what they deserve.”

      Or something like that. /s

  14. Avatar
    BJW

    Oh brother. Once again, fundies nitpick about the not-important, while the church could be doing good works like the Bible said. But no, they are instead focused on slang words while having hard hearts and unkindness to anyone outside their group.

  15. Avatar
    Matilda

    She seems to be saying sheep are the perfect parents and goats are feckless. Maybe she’s insecure about her destination, secretly fearful she ain’t jesusing hard enough and she’ll be classed as a goat at the pearly gates. She needs to observe nature, some in the animal kingdom need to nurture their helpless babies for monthe – like joeys in mother kangeroo pouches, whilst baby guinea pigs are born able to eat carrots. The goats I observe, as I live by the headland where one of the UK’s only herd of wild kashmiri goats live, are just fine parents, protective and nurturing of their mainly twin offspring….and I’ve never seen a dead or injured kid at the foot of the sheer drops all over their home area. In fact they’re so prolific, nannies are rounded up annually, and given a contraceptive implant to keep the herd down to a number the grazing can sustain. Sheep, OTOH fall of cliffs, get onto roads and do all manner of silly sheep things here that result in their demise! Learn a bit of biology silly woman!

  16. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    After decades of working on it, I think I’ve finally convinced my husband that English is a living language, and that using words or phrases in ways that don’t match what we were taught in grade school (we both graduated in 1976) is not the end of the world.

    Not that words don’t matter. I read the summary of a Reddit post today, where the poster wanted to know if they were in the wrong. They’re trans and belong to a group of trans and trans-ally friends. As such, they all introduce themselves for the first time with their pronouns. A nonbinary newcomer announced preferred pronouns of it/its. The poster objected, saying that to refer to a human person by ‘it’ is a slur. The responses were mixed, some people insisting that you should use someone’s preferred pronouns, others agreeing that the poster shouldn’t be required to use a slur to refer to someone else when the neutral they/them is in such common use.

    Having lived my life in the US, where people of color are still sometimes referred to as ‘it’ when the speaker thinks they can get away with it, I would be very uncomfortable using that pronoun for a person. There’s some evil history behind it. But if there was ever any evil history behind calling a child a ‘kid’, it’s lost in the mists of history and pretty irrelevant. I think what’s really going on with these word police is that they simply don’t have anything better to do with their time, because they live in these tiny, self-imposed religious bubbles that frown on really being useful in the world.

    (Although, I have my own English hill to die on: the Oxford comma, which I refuse to relinquish.)

    • Avatar
      MJ Lisbeth

      Karen–I would not refer to anyone as “it” unless he/she/they/it insisted on it. Even so, I am not sure I would ever be comfortable in using it. Hey, I’m still not crazy about referring to anyone as “queer,” even though I know some people who describe themselves that way–and some colleges even have courses, and programs in “queer studies.”. In my generation, however, “queer” was a slur, and I still recoil at the memory of being taunted with it.

      Oh, and I won’t give up the Oxford comma, either!

  17. Avatar
    Sage

    You have got to be kidding. I think when people call kids “kid” it is very obvious they mean kid, and not kid. But, I can read between the lines, and I see this is really about people knowing their place and using words to define a “proper” social structure.

    But, I support this lamb idea. And I also suggest we not just stop there. Let’s call men “rams”, I am sure men would love that. Women will be ewes. Boys can then be ram lambs…very masculine certainly. Girls will be ewe lambs.

    The whole family can be ram ewe ram lamb ewe lamb.

  18. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    Wait, she doesn’t object to ministers referring to her as one of “the flock” but she doesn’t want to use a common word adopted for children because of its association with sheep and goats?

  19. Avatar
    Emersonian

    Of all the Christian bloggers I was introduced to via No Longer Quivering, I have to say that Nancy Campbell is the most certifiably nutso. Her ability to home in on some meaningless bit of trivium like this and proceed to beat it to death with her Bible is unmatched.

  20. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Well, I don’t know the exact date of “kid’s” origin, but I suspect it was around long before the KJB, as Astreja says. And its origin, as Troy says, is probably in German–which God (if you believe in him/her/it) was as unlikely to have spoken as he/she/it was to have dictated the Bible in the English of the KJV.

    When a child is removed from an abusive home, does the caseworker’s report say that the parent “smote” the little lamb?

  21. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Sweet Lord, fundies are still going on about this? In the late 70s/early 80s there was a super fundy family at our Southern Baptist church and fundamentalist Christian school. The mom was intimidating as hell – even my grandma was scared of her though this woman was a couple of decades Grandma’s junior. The dad was sweet though, poor fellow. The 2 girls went to my school, and they had all sorts of super fundy ideas that were even beyond the school’s own IFB inspired ideas. One idea was that we shouldn’t refer to children as kids because we are humans made in God’s image, not goats. Goats are always referred to negatively in the Bible as opposed to God’s beloved sheep. Therefore, we must resist calling children kids like those worldly folks do. None of that caught on, even at the fundy school.

    This family also made the whole family give up lunch every Wednesday to give the money to charity – believe me, you did NOT want to be around those girls on Wednesdays….. That mom also made an effort to create a special class on Saturday mornings to teach us older teen girls a course in Biblical womanhood AKA how to be a proper submissive wife by giving up your opinions, dignity, and agency.

  22. Avatar
    Brocken

    I’m being sarcastic here but in some ways I think Marian Horvat may have had a good point. When the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy was being covered by Fox News, the scroll on the bottom of the screen stated that( I’m paraphrasing this) ” kids were among the victims. ” Some of the injured children I Believe belonged to Roman Catholic parishes. The scroll on the bottom of the screen should have said ” Children among the injured”. That way no one would be confused in thinking that some goats were injured in the parade. I hope none of the injured children pass away from their injuries. Actually I hope there are no further deaths due to the carnage that the driver of the red van caused in Waukesha Wisconsin on November 21, 2021. I know that I have to be careful about what I write. Some person involved in Democratic politics in DuPage county Illinois made a bitter discovery in that department recently.

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Bruce Gerencser