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286: That’s So Gay: Talking To Kids About Hurtful Language

Raising our kids to understand and share our values is a central part of being a parent. But so often when we send them out into the world, they come back using words or acting in ways that conflict with the things we’ve tried to teach them. Recently, a Mastermind mom shared that her six-year-old came home from playing at a neighbor’s house and called something “gay” like it meant “bad.” This resonated extra strongly with me. All three of my own kids, when they were younger, heard the exact same thing on the playground. As tough as it can be to hear that, it’s also an amazing opportunity to help strengthen your relationships with your kids while also reinforcing the values that your family holds dear. 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to instill your family’s values without resorting to “because I said so.”
  • Why it’s worth pausing to inform yourself when your kiddo is asking why.
  • The lifelong closeness you can nurture when you’re not afraid to have tough conversations with your kids.

And much more! 

As always, thanks for listening. Head over to Facebook, where you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community. We post tips and tools and do pop-up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!


About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

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Randi Rubenstein: [00:00:00] My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast. At Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. 

Hi everyone. How are you this week? Have you ever had a kid come home and use a word and you’re like, you didn’t learn that in this family. Where’d you pick that up? Where’d you learn that? And you’re all of a sudden, you know, realizing that you’re sending your kids out into the world and you are not going to be the only one that, that influences them.

So I think most of us have been there, whether it’s when your kid at a young age maybe starts using potty language or just, you can just tell there’s some new behavior they’re trying out. What we say in my family is they’re trying out some new shtick. [00:01:00] And quite often. It’s I’m like, that’s not our kind of shtick. We’re not doing that. 

Well, I had a situation recently where mom she asked for some coaching and she’s been dealing with neighborhood issues. So they moved to a new neighborhood, they moved from the city to a suburb, everything sounded so great. The kid, you know, it’s going to be so safe and the kids are going to play like, you know, 1970s, 1980s style, you know, Goonies, that was what was in her mind. Like the kids are going to be on bikes, they’re going to be a pack. It’s it’s going to be amazing.

 And she’s started to experience that while it has been amazing in the sense that her kids want to be playing with neighbors all the time. And for this family, two busy working parents, their [00:02:00] kids stay at an afterschool program. So like on the weekends to like, be looking forward to playing with all their neighbors and loving this neighborhood. There’s been some, you know, huge benefits in that way. 

But now the mom’s realizing that their kids are, since her kids are spending so much time at other people’s houses, what’s happening in other people’s houses is influencing her kids. So she started to notice some behaviors that she doesn’t love. And one of which she said, so the neighbors across the street that our kids play with a whole lot, they have different values, and I didn’t ask her to go into all the different values.

But what happened was her daughter, who was six, was coming home and saying things like, that’s so gay. She was using the [00:03:00] word gay, like to mean something negative. And I went through this with each of my three kids at different times, sometime during elementary school. And it would usually happen out on the playground. 

You know, it’s, it was interesting to me, this mom that came to me, and her daughter was saying it and, and where she picked it up was at this household where it’s two little girls. So I’ve always kind of thought that this is something that typically boys on the playground, some child somewhere hears it from their probably, probably closeted father who’s, super homophobic. 

Cause really, why are people homophobic? I’m like, Hmm, usually we judge people, which judgment is typically a self projection. Take that in and think about it. But [00:04:00] I have a theory that the most homophobic people are usually the most closeted people and they’re too scared to come out themselves. Of course, I haven’t tested this theory, but that’s just my theory. 

And so at some point, there’s some third grade boy on the playground who is calling other boys gay as an insult. And each of my kids have faced this at some point. And I remember with my two boys, it was a little more nuanced, um, but at some point each of my three kids has come home and reported a story like this.

So I think this is pretty common and that’s what prompted me to share this as a podcast episode because I’m like, if it happened with all three of my kids, now this Mastermind mom is bringing it up. It’s not just a boy thing. Her daughter heard this at this household where there’s two girls. Sounds like a very two neighbor girls [00:05:00] from a very conservative household. 

In my family, my kids, especially my two older kids, I mean it was a very different time. Alec was born in 1998 and since I happen to have a gay brother and a gay sister, my kids have always grown up with the belief that some men are in love with other men and some women are in love with other women and some men and women love each other, fall in love with each other. And so that has always been the conversation in my household. But what we realized is that that is not the conversation in lots of other households. 

So I’m going to share a little coaching clip with you guys. As I coached this mom through her daughter coming and saying, you know, she was using this word gay. She was using it in a negative way. The mom was letting her know that that was not okay. And then the six year old, you know, I love six year olds. Kids are, you know, especially [00:06:00] like, like before around seven or eight, it’s like all they are is truthful. And so she was like, well, what does it mean, mom? And this mom was kind of stumped.

She was, she kind of had heard me, I think, say like, you know, the thing about men and men and women and women. And, um, and, and then this little girl was like, But what does it mean? And she was really pressing, like she was getting angry about it. What does it mean? What does it mean? 

And so I thought this would be a good clip to share with you guys, because I think, you know, 

so often we’re scared of, you know, when I say like, we’re families that can talk about all the things, everything and anything. But then when our kids come and they’re trying out some new shtick and it’s not aligned with our values and that prompts us to have a conversation with them. 

And not a conversation from a place of like, just don’t say that. It’s not nice. [00:07:00] Right? Like that doesn’t really give a kid useful information. Like think of a conversation as if it’s a massage. Like we have time, we have space, you, no one’s putting a gun to your head. If you need some time to think about it, like you can really take some time to think about it. You know, listen to some resource to different resources. do a little research, talk to a friend about it. Like really think about what, what your stance is on something. 

If something, if your kid comes in and tries out some new shtick and you know it’s, it’s not aligned. And so you’re sensing there’s an opportunity to have a conversation, to really teach your values. You know, you have this impressionable young mind who is being impressioned in a way that you don’t agree with. So you have to counteract that. and so if you think about these [00:08:00] conversations and doing it in a spacious way where you don’t have to feel panicked, you don’t have to have all the answers, but you know how you feel about things. 

And so when this mom was pressed, but what does it mean? Right? And so then she came and she’s like, I didn’t know what to say. But she was very clear that in their family, the word gay is not negative. It would never be used as an insult. Like this mom knows what her values are. 

So when we start to have these conversations with kids, I think it’s just a matter of like, that’s why I have the productive conversation format is we don’t have to tell them all the things. It’s really more about asking good questions, asking what and how questions, and then hearing what, I mean, kids are so smart, like hearing what they have to say. And then listening, reflecting [00:09:00] back, and sort of guiding them to what you believe, right? Well, this is what we believe in our family. All families are different. I’m not going to tell someone else what they need to believe. And this is who we are. Right. And this is who we are. 

And so I’m sharing this because I don’t know, I’m just, I was just thinking if I went through it with all three of my kids, I’m imagining there’s many of you who are noticing whether your kids come home using the word gay as an insult, or using language. Like I remember I had one mom who was saying that like her son who was like in fifth or sixth grade was picking up all kinds of things that were not okay with her from friends at school and also from playing Fortnite with other kids. Like he started using, like talking about, like saying things about his dick.[00:10:00] 

Um, I hope everyone has AirPods in and none of your kids are listening to this conversation, but. I, I was, she was like, she was like, I don’t even know where he’s picking this stuff up. I’m like, kids are going to pick things up. And then when we follow it up and we have a conversation, which is what’s going on with this new, all these new words, like you’re trying out, tell me, tell me a little bit more about that.

And we have, and so we have these conversations. What does it mean? What did you think it meant when the girls were saying it? Do you think it was, they were saying it as a compliment or do you think they were saying it in a negative way? When they were calling people gay. You know, your kid’s probably going to say negative. Yeah. So if, if gay means a person who ends up having a crush on like somebody that is the same gender as them. [00:11:00] So you’re a girl. You have a crush on a girl. 

Now, look, this conversation might be outdated and tone deaf just in and of itself, because I’m not talking about,gender non binary and frankly, I think it would be easy to say, you know, we just believe that humans can love other humans and it would never be a negative. Like whoever a person loves, there’s nothing insulting. I’m like, why would you use that as an insult? There’s nothing about that that’s insulting. And I can’t even imagine why somebody would believe that would be an insult. It doesn’t even make sense. And that’s, you know, that’s who we are in this family. 

So some kids are getting very different messages. And when we hear people using words that are not okay with us, like, just know, like you could say, I don’t think that’s [00:12:00] nice. I think it’s rude. Right? Some people are gay. It’s not an insult. 

Now, you might have a kid that’s like, I would never say that. Like my boys would say, I would never say it. Well, how would you say? And then you just, what and how again? Well, how would you say it? I mean, like, especially with Corey, he’ll say, well, I don’t know. I might say, and he would say whatever. 

And I’m like, well, that sounds way better. See, you know, you know this stuff better than I do. What am I teaching you? Anything? Maybe you should be teaching me. It can be playful. It doesn’t have to be serious as a freaking heart attack, but this is how we instill our values.

You know, people talk about instilling the values. Like, it’s in these real life moments when we take the time to have a spacious sort of luscious conversation. Luscious. I know it sounds crazy to think about a conversation like that, but I think 

most of us shy away from hard topics, but how are our kids going [00:13:00] to learn all the things? Right? How are we going to offset other people’s values being taught to them that we don’t agree with, unless we’re willing to step into this level of pack leadership. 

When we hear content coming out of our kids mouths that we don’t agree with, we have to be willing to like say, Hey, I noticed you’ve been using some different words lately or what’s going on with that? What’s, where’s that? What’s happening there? 

You know, or I knew I saw, I heard you call your brother gay. What was, what was that all about? It sounded like you were using it in a way that wasn’t very nice or you were trying to insult him. What was, what was the deal?

Where’d you hear that? The girls across the street. So, okay. So let’s talk about that. What do you think gay means? I don’t know. They just say it. Do you think they mean it in a good way or a bad way?


[00:14:00] so when we have these luscious conversations, we’re not in a hurry. We don’t need to shove our values down our kids throats or do it in a way where we’re chastising them. It’s almost like, like comedians that are like doing a set for the first time and they’re seeing what lands and what doesn’t. Like, our kids are trying out some new content. They’re seeing what lands and what doesn’t. They hear other kids using this content. And now we’re, we’re intervening to let them know, yeah, cut that out of your act. 

So yeah, we can’t be scared to talk about things. And things that make us uncomfortable, it’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it right in a second. And if your kid’s like, what does it mean? What does it mean? You’re like, I want to explain it to you in a way that makes sense. So we’re going to pause [00:15:00] this and I’m going to get back to you, right? Because you do deserve to know all the answers. So I’m going to go do a little mama research because I want to, I want to explain it in a way that makes sense. I promise. I promise you we are going to circle back and have this conversation. I just need to go do a little mama research. Stay tuned, right? 

You can, you can always pause. If you find yourself fumbling, fumbling, fumbling, and all of a sudden your kid loses interest, you’re like, did I just get boring? Are you done with this conversation? Are you over it? Okay. We can be done. Wait, but tell me real quick, what about all the things I just shared feels like an important thing to remember? Just tell me, share it with me. And I promise, I’ll stop talking now, you know? 

And so you ask, if you want to teach your kids values, we have [00:16:00] like, this is the way a conversation is effective, right? We’re not shoving lessons down people’s throats. We’re not chastising them. We’re also not just saying, well, that’s just not nice. Because it’s like this six year old. She’s like, but what does it mean? I want to know. I’m a little kid. I got a lot of curiosity. I want to know, please teach me. 

Yeah. Teaching our values. I mean, this is all good stuff, everything you’re talking about is how do we reinforce and teach our values? Why, what does it mean? You know, like, I want to know. So just know this is something that you can proactively bring up later. And like, this is really how we teach our kids, our values. 

In our culture, gay is a word that is used for people who, are who want to be [00:17:00] like boyfriend girlfriend, right? Like want to be romantic when they get older, when they get much older, like when your body starts to change and you go through puberty and you have all these racing hormones, boys and girls, I would implant that now. When you grow up and your hormones start changing, and it comes, and you’re a teenager, and you’re like, have a crush on someone. Some girls have crushes on boys. Some girls have crushes on girls. Right? And the same thing with boys, some boys end up having a crush on girls and some boys end up having a crush on other boys.

Um, so our culture, our society, when a boy ends up having a crush on another boy, being interested, and then maybe even falls in love when they grow up, and when they grow up and they end up wanting to marry another boy, and some [00:18:00] girls grow up and end up wanting to marry another girl. Our culture calls that gay and there’s nothing wrong with that. Do you think there’s anything wrong with that? Right? No. Is there anything to make fun of there? What about that is something bad? Is there anything bad about that? If she’s like, no, you’re like, yeah, no. Right. And if you grow up and, and you end up liking, you know, having a crush on a girl. Will I think there’s anything bad with that? No, absolutely not. Right. 

And what I think you’re hearing from them is that some families are raised by people that think there’s something bad about that. In our family, we do not. We love and accept all people and we’re happy, we’re happy. [00:19:00] If you, whoever you love, we’re happy for you. We just believe in love. 

Now, when kids say the word gay and they, and you can tell they mean something negative by it, right? They mean something negative by it. Why? It’s because in some families, they don’t understand. They think it’s wrong for girls to have crushes or to fall in love with girls and that for boys. That’s not what our family believes.

We’re not going to tell other people what they should believe. Each family, families are run different. Families have different religions. Families believe different things.

Our family would never use the word gay to mean something negative. It’s not something positive. It’s not something negative. It’s just, it’s just [00:20:00] something, you might end up liking girls. You might end up liking boys. We’ll see. When your hormones start going crazy and you start, and you turn into a teenager and you’re growing into a woman, we’ll see.

These are the conversations that shape a human being. These are the conversations we take the time to have a luscious conversation like this.

You know, people always wonder when your kids are growing to teenagers and young adults, like what keeps them coming back? You know, like last summer we went to to Santa Barbara for, we rented a house for a month and worked out there and Avery was in Santa Barbara. And then summer before, Avery had internships in San Diego and I was out in San Diego and, and Lindsey’s always like, wait, so, okay, so your 21, 22 year old daughter and her boyfriend, he, the boyfriend’s coming over to that when she has class [00:21:00] he’s coming over and having dinner with y’all? 

And like she can’t believe you know she’s just like the constant interaction. The constant hanging out. My 18 year old son who, asked me to drive him to prom. Or yesterday, you know, says to me, I just want to hang out with you tonight and I want to watch a movie and I want to make cookies from scratch. Which we’re not making, we don’t make cookies from scratch, so we had to get the recipe and I want to, and I’m procrastinating and I need to do this hard English assignment. I want you to read it over and see if it makes more sense to you. I kind of get it, but it’s kind of, I’m just feeling unmotivated and I, like, he basically was like, I just want to be next to you, mom.

And I was like, come on. And I was doing a bunch of projects in my office slash closet and he, he was there and then me and him and Scott went to Trader Joe’s and then we did this and then blah, blah, blah, [00:22:00] made the cookie batter and then we watched the movie and then his girlfriend came over and then they’re snuggling on the couch next to me. There’s a lot of togetherness time. 

People dread the 18 years. We only have 18 years with them. And I’m like, no, no, no, no, no, no. We have 18 years to set the foundation for a life long, beautiful relationship with our children and our adult children who will be adults far longer than they spent the 18 years in our house. And, we get to build a foundation for a relationship for life. 

We’re their parents as long as we’re alive. We’re their parents even, our legacy will live on even after we’re alive. If we have long luscious conversations [00:23:00] like this when our little six, seven year old daughter is like, but what does it mean? And we’re like, well, we’re going to talk about that. And I’m going to teach you all the things. Because I’m your mama, and that’s my job. 

Understanding your kid needs some help with social skills. Your kid needs some help making a friend. Your kid needs guidance. Your kid needs structure. This to me is what parenting is really all about. We’re teaching them how to be alive. And yes, a lot of times they do need guidance. 

Here we have an opportunity to work our asses off to do it differently for the next generation. And we can continue whack a moling all the problems in our life, [00:24:00] or we can step into true pack leadership and take this shit very seriously. And instead of being reactive, we become proactive. 

 Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips, tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household, I want you to go to my website and check out We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you.

And, as always, we’re on all the social channels under mastermind parenting, on Instagram it’s mastermind_parenting. And, you know, periodically I do pop up on [00:25:00] different Instagram lives, Facebook lives where I give you teaching and coaching and I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better, because when they feel better they do better, and I love, love, love getting to know you guys. 

So thanks for listening. If you like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super super appreciative

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by Randi Rubenstein