How to Deal With Your Foul-Mouthed Teenager

Dear Kid Whisperer,

What do I do with a 16-year-old son who swears all of the time? I can’t stand it, and I’m at a loss. -Karen, Harrisburg, PA


This presents a good opportunity to make an important point: which behaviors are OK and which behaviors are not OK is determined by individual parents and their values. My opinions about “taboo” language, or the opinions of other parents on this subject, are irrelevant.

Your family, your values.

The only person whose opinion is more meaningless on this issue is your son’s. Again, YOUR family, YOUR values. Perhaps your son will have a family in the future, and perhaps he can teach them to swear like pirates*.

So, as the leader of your family, you can’t allow behaviors that do not match your values. These types of behaviors will make you resentful of your kids, and if done in public, will probably make you feel embarrassed. So, here’s how I would handle this with your kid if I were you.

Kid: Hey, I have an idea, Mom, Dad, brother, sister, other brother: why don’t you guys all go &^%$, and while you’re at it, make sure you *&^% and ^%$# the &^%$ when you *&^%  the ^$#@?

Kid Whisperer: Yikes.

Kid: What up, you &^#$?

Kid Whisperer: Yikes. This reminds me. I need to talk to you about something. I have been getting really upset about your language lately. As you know, I’ve been warning and lecturing you about it. That must have been really annoying, and I apologize for that. It won’t happen again. At this point, you have heard all of my thoughts on this matter and don’t need to hear any more. From now on, I am just going to require only appropriate language that is in accordance with our family values. If you choose inappropriate language around the family, I will just see this as you telling me that you do not yet know how to use appropriate language and will therefore be embarrassing us while in public. In this case, I will stop allowing you to go into public until you can show me, at home, that you can be appropriate with your language according to the values of our family. I’m sure you will now have something you wish to articulate.

Kid: %*#@ you.

Kid Whisperer: Yikes. Okay. You can start going into public as soon as I know you won’t embarrass our family with your language, or you turn 18 and move out, whichever happens first. I’ll love you no matter what. I know you are ready for public by whether or not you are able to talk appropriately in our house.

Kid: But I have a date tomorrow and you said I could borrow the car.

Kid Whisperer: I don’t know what to tell you.

*I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the entire pirate community for suggesting that pirates use unpleasant language. Offended pirates may feel free to send complaints to the email below.