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Choice Words: Tackling Four-Letter Words with My Teen

Posted by Lola Howle

I’m proud to say I have seen a glimmer of hope with my 13 year old son recently. Deciding to start small, I began addressing his bad language. Like most people, I slip occasionally and let fly a curse word or two in his presence. (Sometimes related to something he did or didn’t do.) I sat him down a few weeks ago and told him to clean up his language because it sounds (and is) disrespectful to me, his grandmother and anyone else who happens to be within earshot. I explained that I would participate in this with him, as well. (Doesn’t hurt to set a good example!)

He tends to use various four-letter words even for minor annoyances during games or difficult projects. I have been stopping him every time I hear specific language. Inevitably, he launched into a speech along the lines of, “No one cares about those words. Everyone says them. This is how people talk now. You are just old-fashioned/stupid/mean/in a bad mood.” (Choose your favorite excuse). Ignoring the bait, I don’t argue. I just state the rule of “no more curse words” and tell him what the price will be for another instance. I always choose something immediate that he’s doing or wanting to do that day, such as renting a game at Blockbuster or going out to eat. If he curses again, I calmly carried out the consequence without screaming or lecturing. He lost out on a lot of perks at first. The other day, I passed through the living room where he was playing Xbox and heard the beginning of an exclamation sure to end up as a curse. I heard him start the sentence, hesitate, then substitute a different non-four-letter word! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him glance at me. I continued past, breaking into a huge private grin as I entered the kitchen. At bedtime that night, I made a point of praising him for making a good choice.

This is the start of something big, as we both learn to make better choices. I may still need training wheels, but I’m picking up speed.

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