But what about that other S word – and its four-(or more) letter cousins? For many teens, swearing is a rite of passage, right up there with getting a driver’s license (only it happens much sooner). Teens who have heard adults use foul language see it as a grown-up thing to do. Once they hit puberty, they can’t wait to try it out.
The first thing you should do as a parent is check yourself. This is one area where you can’t fall back on “Do as I say; not as I do.” Whether you regularly use obscenities or merely let fly with an expletive in anger or pain, if you swear, you can expect your kids to do the same. But it’s not just your words that matter; obviously, we’re hearing bad language in all forms of entertainment.
The next thing is to let your teen know it’s not allowed in your house – or at least in your hearing. When it happens, one thing you can do is simply ask, “What did you say?” If your teen repeats the sentence but omits the swear word, you can simply respond with, “Oh, good. I thought I heard a no-no word in there, but I’m glad I was wrong.” If your teen repeats the sentence with the swear word, you can say, “Sorry. Please try again, only this time with appropriate language.”
But if your teen swears at you in the heat of battle, it’s not the best time to make an issue of it. Wait til later when you – and your teen – have cooled off, and then you can mention your rules about cursing and have a discussion about respect. In the heat of the moment, you can either pretend you didn’t hear it, or you can say, “I’m sorry you’re so angry. We’ll discuss your language later; in the meantime, please stay in your room until you’re calm enough for a reasonable discussion.
By the way, I usually hear another S word when I’ve reprimanded a student with “Language!” – that word is “Sorry!”