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Kids need to clean up mouths at home, in public
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Q: My 16-year-old son has started using curse words in our home. What’s the best way to deal with this?
A: I would imagine that a youngster who has never used curse words around his parents until age 16 and knows his parents disapprove is simply testing the waters to see what your reaction is going to be. In addition, this is an ornery way of asserting his independence and letting you know that he’s grown up. What he doesn’t know is that people who have truly grown up don’t engage in gratuitous cursing, if any cursing at all.
Since independence is what he’s asserting, I suggest making his independence the central issue. Tell him that since he obviously feels free to curse when he is at home, you can only imagine the lengths to which he takes this self-assigned freedom when he’s not at home. That concerns you because when he is out in the world, he is an ambassador of your family.
As such, his behavior reflects on you, for better or worse. So because this involves what people think about you and your values, he is not allowed to leave the house again except for school and church and essential appointments until he’s managed to go two weeks without uttering a curse word. If during his two weeks of house arrest, he curses, then his rehab starts over the next day and becomes three weeks. And so on.
You’re going to have to accept that you can’t stop him from cursing when he’s with his friends. You can, however, cause him to accept that you won’t tolerate cursing while he’s in your home.
A family psychologist, Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site at
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