Rarely a day goes by where I don’t hear young children and teenagers speaking in an extremely disrespectful manner toward their parents, even cussing at their parents. What I find most amazing is that the disrespectful, inflammatory language towards their parents often goes completely ignored. Not so much as a parent firmly telling their children not to speak to them that way, that such language will not be tolerated, followed by appropriate punishment to really drive home the point. I shake my head in disbelief and complete disappointment in parents these days, who are shirking their responsibility to be tough but loving, teaching and training their children in matters of respect towards parents and other authority figures. Parents who don’t get this problem under control while their children are still very young, are in for a real shock when they reach the “surviving the teen years” stage.
Parents tell their children not to whine, complain, throw a temper tantrum, hit their brother or sister etc, but when the parents are upset or frustrated about something, profanities start flying without hesitation. School teachers struggle to maintain decorum and control of classrooms full of disrespectful children and teenagers, only to be told by parents that their job is to teach math and science, not subjective morality. Women who used to flinch at the utterance of coarse language are more commonly using the very words previously thought of as repulsive and vulgar.
Gone are the days of men controlling their use of cuss words and other vulgarities in the presence of women. Parents who verbally abuse each other, calling each other hurtful names, using profane language with each other, are equally guilty of abusing their children by such speech. Is it any wonder that our society is filled with children and teenagers who have zero respect for any form of authority, especially their own parents? What is a parent to do?
Set the right example-
Television programs, movies, actors and actresses, children’s cartoons, video and online games are loaded with profane and vulgar language, yet parents don’t pay close enough attention to what they’re children are learning from them. Teaching children how to be respectful towards others, controlling their emotions and dealing with their problems, cannot be learned by regularly exposing children to such things in the media or from their own parents mouths.
I recently overheard my eighteen year-old daughter talking on the telephone to one of her classmates saying, “Dude, I can’t believe you just said that to your mom. My mom would kill me if I talked to her that way!” Although I’m not one to “kill” my child for any reason, my children learned from a very young age to speak and behave in a respectful manner to everyone they came in contact with, maintaining zero tolerance of disrespect or cussing for any reason. They were taught to learn new words to convey their thoughts, emotions and feelings, without resorting to vulgarities. My biggest concern was not “surviving the teen years” with my children, but was more broadly focused on not raising “children who refuse to grow up” and making sure they grew up understanding that there is a difference between “helping and enabling” children, so they would grow up to become self-sufficient adults.
It is my firm belief that cussing and swearing, whether by children or adults, is simply lazy language skills. Cussing and swearing puts an immediate point across, leaving its meaning and tone very clear to anyone in listening range. Just because such language is more commonly used, and supposedly some of its harshness has been lost, doesn’t make it alright. Striving to build ones vocabulary with words that communicate just as clearly and effectively doesn’t have to become stale, monotonous, tedious, boring, trite or lackluster.
James O’Connor, author of Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing (Three Rivers Press), suggests teaching children alternative words such as shoot, darn it, phooey, for crying out loud, and my old favorite dognabit. For young children who are just beginning to use cuss words, it’s important not to laugh about it, but get down on your hands and knees and look them in the eyes and say, “We don’t use words like that in our family” and mean it. Parents who need to learn to curb their own tendencies towards such language do well to openly apologize to their children when making a slip into vulgarity, with genuine promises to continue doing better.
Appropriate discipline needed-
Linda Metcalf, author of Parenting Toward Solutions (Prentice Hall), recommends “make the word, not the child, the culprit to give him a chance to move away from the behavior”. If the child persists in using such language, Linda emphasizes the need to “show him you mean business with appropriate disciplinary action”. For very young children, it may mean a time-out or taking away a favorite toy. For older children it may mean spending some time in their room (preferably a room without a television or computer) where they can analyze their behavior.
But most importantly, parents must set the right example for their children, themselves behaving and speaking with proper respect toward others, without resorting to the perceived “easy way out” of cussing.
Raising Children with Tough Love
Surviving The Teen Years
Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing
Parenting Toward Solutions: How Parents Can Use Skills They Already Have to Raise Responsible, Loving Kids