Parenting Solutions: Swearing
Swears; curses; uses profanity, "potty talk," bathroom jokes, or other inappropriate words
The Change to Parent For
Your child learns to understand which words and gestures are "off-limits" in your home based on your family's values, adopts your views, and learns to express intense feelings in an appropriate way.
Question: "Our 'well-mannered' daughter blurted the 'F-word' at dinner last night and sounded like a shock jock. We're petrified she'll do this in public. Should we be worried?"
Answer: It's not time to lose a good night sleep just yet, but do keep a closer eye on things. First, let your child know that she is not to use any such language in or out of the house, and let her know why it's offensive. Second, once you decide to squelch any particular bad word, be consistent and don't back down. Also, you didn't mention how old your child was, but do keep in mind that some kids throw out a term to gauge our reaction. Words can have power. So keep a straight face. And if your preschooler is the offending party, don't laugh. Letting your preschooler think for even a second that his cursing or potty talk is "cute" may encourage him even more.
We generally equate childhood with innocence, so it can come as quite a shock when a foul word escapes from the mouth of our sweet little darling. Experimenting with profanity, "dirty words," or "potty talk" these days is considered "almost a developmentally normal behavior."29 After all, a big way our kids learn is by imitating others, and there's a lot of profanity for kids to hear these days, in music, movies, public places (60 percent of adults admit they swear in public30), and of course television. A Florida State University study found that profanity during prime-time hours has increased 58 percent in four years—nearly nine out of ten of those programs contained profane words.31 Educators are so exasperated that some high schools now fine students if they utter profanity on school premises.33 And over 80 percent of Americans feel that vulgarity is getting worse.34
Regardless of the prevalence, it certainly doesn't mean you should allow profanity to become part of your children's everyday vocabulary—and most especially if those words are aimed in anger at a particular person. Swearing can become a hard-to-break habit that taints children's reputations, breaks down their character, and ruins family harmony. The best way to stop swearing is to nip it in the bud and to teach your child healthier ways to vent his frustrations. This entry provides some ways to parent for change.
Swearing Is on the Rise Among Teens
Harvard University: Research shows that the use of swearing and obscene gestures is increasing dramatically on school campuses.32 Fifty-nine percent of teachers in urban schools and 40 percent in rural areas said they daily face swearing and obscene gestures from students. A USA Today poll of high school principals found that 89 percent regularly deal with profane language and provocative insults toward teachers or other students. Chances are that your child is hearing profanity from peers, so be vigilant and keep parenting for the change you want.
Pay Attention to This!
Could It Be Tourette?
Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics, movements, or vocalizations, is often called "Swearing Disease" (though less than 30 percent of people with Tourette have the swearing tic). In children the tics usually start between three and ten years of age. For information, contact the Tourette Syndrome Association (http://www.tsa-usa. org); read Children with Tourette Syndrome: A Parent's Guide, edited by Tracy Haerle; or talk to your doctor.
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