Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedure (CAPP): How to Get Your Kid to Not Use Inappropriate Language

Reminder:
Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:

1. Be cooperative

or

2. Suffer the consequences of not being cooperative

Either way, we can be calm and empathetic because we do not allow this third option to exist:

3. Do whatever you want, develop bad behaviors, and become a person people don’t want to be around

The possibility of allowing choice C is what makes us angry, excitable, and sometimes irate because we love our kids and we know where kids who get to use choice C often end up.
Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedures like this one take into account all possible ways that kids will try to get to choice C. We stop those channels to C and reroute back to either choice A or B. We do this all without ever trying to control that which we cannot control.

Here We Go…

Parents often become frustrated with the inappropriate language of their kid(s). Publicly, it can be embarrassing, and when exhibited in private, the use of inappropriate language can make parents feel that they are raising an angry sailor instead of a well-mannered kid.

An important point to clarify at the outset, before we get into more helpful territory: it is more helpful to see language as inappropriate, depending on a parent’s unique value structure, instead of being inherently “bad.” Kids can be held accountable when they use whatever words parents find to be inappropriate in any given situation. Many words can be inappropriate in one situation, while they are fine in another. This CAPP simply demonstrates, step by step, how to set and enforce limits regarding kids using inappropriate language.

What Not to Do

When we repeatedly tell kids, especially difficult ones, to not use certain words, but we take no action, what kids hear is, “You are allowed to say those words.” Therefore, we should not warn kids about their language.

Do not threaten kids with specific consequences or punishments laid out in advance of possible inappropriate language use.

Do not confront the kid with anger.

What to Do: Setting the Limit

Tell your kid that you are sorry about any lecturing or anger that you have used in the past regarding the use of inappropriate language. Let her know that this will stop immediately.

Tell her that, to avoid confusion, you want her to know that the words she is using are not inherently “bad”, only inappropriate. They are inappropriate in your estimation because of your value structure, and that you are requesting that she abide by this value structure, vis-à-vis your use of that language until is 18 or stops living at home, whichever comes first.

Also, you may want to add that in your estimation and experience, when people often use language considered to be “swear” or “curse” words, others may think that those are the only words that they know. This, you may want to say, is part of why you have such an aversion to those words.

You may also want to add, that these words may be appropriate in extreme situations in certain locations, when it is necessary to show extreme displeasure in order to make a point. Of course, this will depend on whether or not you believe this. If not, don’t say this.

Tell her that, from now on, you will simply require that she either use appropriate language, or that something will be done. Apologize again, and end the conversation. If she asks what will happen, only say, “You may just need to find out.”

What to Do: Intervention #1

If you are so inclined, when an inappropriate word is uttered, you can set a limit with a limit-setting statement: “Feel free to stay with us as long as you can use appropriate words.” Be careful with this one. Perhaps only use this once per lifetime for the use of words that are clearly and obviously inappropriate. More often, use this when your kid(s) are experimenting to see where the line is. It is best to only use this statement once per word. Otherwise, it is best to go straight to consequences.

If any inappropriate language is used after this statement is employed, you can ask your kid to please leave the room and come back if and when she is able to follow the family rules for language. Repeat as necessary.
In addition, if there is ever a repetition of inappropriate language, consequences will follow at some point in the future.

If your kid refuses to go to the separate room, simply go to consequences and ignore your child. If they become belligerent and annoying, and are small enough to carry, carry them to their room. Let them know if they can be pleasant, they can come back. If not, they can stay in their room. Repeat as necessary.

If the child is too large to carry, simply tell them that you are sad and that you will be doing something about this later. Later, have your kid practice going from wherever they were refusing to leave to the room that they were supposed to go to over and over and over. Give a choice about how many times the kid needs to practice this movement. If they don’t choose within five seconds, choose for them.

What to Do: The Consequence

Consequences are usually necessary for inappropriate language. Do not be too cautious about going straight to consequences, according to the above guidelines.

The best logical consequence for the use of inappropriate language is for the kid to be restricted to activities during which he can be easily monitored by adults. This time will be considered practice time, during which the kid will, at every moment, be practicing using appropriate language. The logic behind the consequence is that a kid using language in public that does not represent the value structure of her family is not acceptable, and using this language may embarrass the family. Therefore, we will take that opportunity away from the kid by restricting his activities to ones in which parents and teachers can monitor the kid’s language. Until the kid has shown that she is able to avoid inappropriate language, she should be restricted to be at school during school hours, and home during non-school hours. Friends should be able to come over to the house, but only while in the presence of a parent or other trusted authority figure.

Let your child know that how long she will have to practice using appropriate words will depend on how successful she can be at using appropriate words. Any more inquiries on the length of time for this consequence should be met with the same two words: “You’ll see.”

During this practice time, you should be noticing the positive behavior (the non-use of inappropriate language). Simply use the phrase, “I’ve noticed that you have been using appropriate language.” Your kid will likely then ask if she will be able to resume normal social activities. Simply say “no,” but that they are getting closer to being able to be successful with their language.

Once you feel that your kid has successfully practiced long enough, ask them if they feel like they are an expert at using appropriate language. On the off chance that they say “no,” express empathy and then ask them how much more practice time they think that they need to become an expert. Accept any answer.

If they say “yes,” congratulate them and let them know that you are proud of them, and that they can resume normal social activities. Do not ruin the lesson that they have learned with any lectures or warnings.

If the kid uses inappropriate language during practice time, simply say, “Oh, boy. Looks like practice time is going to have to be reset.” Don’t leave out the “Oh, boy.” It shows that you are not angry, and that you can patiently wait for as long as it takes for your kid to master using appropriate language.

Notes

• Err on the side of your kid doing a lot of practice instead of not enough. There is nothing wrong with a kindergartener practicing appropriate language for two weeks, or a high school senior practicing for a month. These long periods of time might be best if the consequence is needed more than once, but they are always an option.

• Don’t forget to be kind, calm, and empathetic.

• Proper use of the consequence demands that it not be turned from a consequence to a punishment mid-stream. It must make logical sense. Don’t resort to punishing: Don’t take a video game system and don’t take away television, for example. These things have nothing to do with her practicing using appropriate language.