Helping Teens to Overcome Profanity


Picking up our son Nikhil one afternoon from school (he was in Grade 12), I noticed that he did not look his normal self.  After driving for a few minutes, I enquired as to what went wrong at school.  A bit surprised with my question and being in no mood to give the answer, he said it was OK.  The answer by itself was evidence enough that it was not all that good.

After a few minutes he came out with the agony he had to face during the group presentation that morning.  Two of the students in the group came unprepared and they had a bad presentation.  He was not feeling good about the entire incident.

There were four students in the group and two of them had really put in a lot of efforts and two had not.  During the lunch break, after the presentation, the boy who had put in a lot of effort literally had the unprepared two on the mat and Nikhil said he did enjoy the show, but did not speak a word.  He added that he wanted to see how silence is golden and also to accept a failure, (even though not due to his fault) with all the humility and also enjoy the way the other student was castigating the other two.

He explained all these with a lot of North American teen adjectives and prepositions – all those spicy words which most sons would not throw at their dads.  I listened patiently and did not utter a word.  I was not all that happy about the coarseness of the language being used, but decided not to react.  I try and avoid immediate reaction as the children at that stage are never ready to listen and see any logic in what we say and will only help to push up our blood pressure and leave a bad after-taste.

While having lunch on reaching home, I said to him that yes, he did not have all that a good day at school and he had been wise enough to accept the failure, but the language he used to explain the same should be avoided as much as possible.  I explained to him that bad language is never a problem solver, but will always end up as a frustration enhancer.

To this he said “Dad, the hormones are kicking in, and as a Teen, I have no control over it”.  My mind went back to the National Defence Academy (NDA) days, where we used the same expressions with our friends to vent out all the frustrations we had after a horrible event or a bad day.

As children grow up, they tend to experiment with inappropriate language and dirty jokes. In most cases, it is an imitation of an adult whom these children have seen at home, in movies, in television shows, or in the community. The need of the hour is to make the children realise the appropriateness of language they use and its impact on the listeners.

Many teens resort to inappropriate language to demonstrate that they  have turned into a matured adult. Parents have to explain to the children that inappropriate language is never an impressive trait and would never fetch any credit, but only disrespect. It is very easy to preach, but when a careless driver cuts you off or when a heavy object falls on your foot, some profanity is sure to slip out of your mouth. As a matured parent, it is one’s duty to acknowledge that one used an inappropriate word and must have avoided it in itself is a good learning for any kid.

Over-bearing and over-controlling of teenagers by the parents results in the children wanting to break the rules and to release the parental pressure. Also to prove that they are ‘cool’ in front of their peers, these children mostly end up using swearwords.

It is the parent’s duty to train their kids in appropriate and correct language use. Some tips which I effectively used are:-

  • Listen, Listen and Listen.  Always make it a point to give a patient listening to your children.  Show keen interest in what they are speaking and provide them with feedback.  If you do not listen to your children, please do not expect them to listen to you when they are teens or youths.
  • Never Laugh it Off. Most children would take it as an approval and will ensure a repeat when the child wants to steal the spotlight.
  • Do Not Over-React.   Your over-reaction will only help to reinforce the behaviour. The child is most likely to use it again to gain attention or to irritate you.
  • Do Not Confront. Anything said to an angry person will only upset him further. Hence it is advisable to explain to the kid an alternative to inappropriate language at a calmer time.
  • Watch Your Words.   When at home or while going out with kids, ensure that you use the most dignified language. Always remember that your kid will pick up your one swearword a thousand time faster than a hundred good words you uttered.
  • Beginners Do Not Realise.   Any kid beginning to talk, often does not realise the meaning or inappropriateness of a swearword. Scolding them or punishing them would serve no purpose. It would be prudent to ignore it and generally they do not repeat.
  • Explain to a Grownup. A simple explanation to a middle or high school kid about the inappropriateness of the word would often ensure good results.
  • Punish Only When Needed. Award of a time out, suspension of certain privileges or grounding for profanity will surely reduce the use of swearwords, especially by the teens.
  • Create Expressions. Encourage the teens to develop a collection of effective expressions to use in place of swearwords and apply it to inescapable situations.

Parents got to set examples for the children at home and help them overcome the need to use swearwords.

Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” Mark Twain

4 thoughts on “Helping Teens to Overcome Profanity

  1. A very good reflection which every parent can or will eventually relate to. Having two teens boys of my own, I was initially caught off guard with the new “norm” in my home with changes in language and behavior. The impact of fluctuating hormones and peer pressure or teens is very real and is just a part of their transition to adulthood. The behavior is quite normal and requires patience and understanding on the part of parents….and our ability to relate to them on their level. Thank you for sharing this post…and your recommended tips will definitely come in handy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Reji, As usual you have done good job. Very informative for people who may face such situations. Should review/ edit before posting to avoid small mistakes highlighted in the attached Regards GP

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s