How to Stop Your Tween's Cursing

Caucasian mother lecturing son
Blend Images - Kevin Dodge / Getty Images

They're trying to fit in, look cool, and appear grown up. They hear bad language every time they turn around—at school, on television, and maybe even at home. It's no wonder that kids cursing is such a problem these days. If your tween has suddenly added a few salty words to his vocabulary, it might be a good time to curb his cursing. Below are a few pointers on how to stop cursing and help your tween clean up his language.

Model Good Behavior

Your child's peers do influence his behavior, but despite what you may think, you're still the most important influence in his life. If your goal is to keep your tween from cursing, you'll have to be careful about the words you choose to use when you're angry or upset. Curbing your own cursing may be difficult, but if you do, your tween will notice and will likely follow your good example.

If you do let an expletive slip every now and then, don't beat yourself up about it. If your tween heard, acknowledge your slip-up and apologize for using bad language to express yourself.

Acknowledge Reality

There's no way to shield your child from the realities of growing up. Chances are your son or daughter has heard quite a few curse words on the bus, at school, or around the neighborhood. Acknowledge to your tween that you know he's hearing these words, and ask him if he has any questions about what they mean. Take the time to explain why these words are offensive and shouldn't be repeated out of respect for other people. Explain that many people find cursing very uncomfortable to hear and that it's rude to create an environment that makes so many people feel uneasy.

Also, point out how people look to others when they curse. Tweens need to understand that cursing in public may send others the wrong message about them, one that they may not want to send.

Be Clear About Your Expectations

If you don't want your child to curse, say so. Be very clear about your expectations. For example, you could say, "I know you hear bad language at school and on the bus, but I expect you to behave better than your peers and to find more appropriate words to use when you're angry or trying to make a point."

Tweens are tempted to curse or talk back in front of their friends in order to look cool and gain acceptance. But you can tell your child that the other children probably won't even notice that he's choosing not to use bad language. Other parents and adults, however, will notice. And will think highly of him for not cursing.

Give your child pointers on how to avoid using foul language. He could, for example, imagine that his grandmother or little brother are present as a way to avoid bad behavior. Or, he could try to impress his peers by using sophisticated (but appropriate) words that they may not understand.

Define the Penalties for Cursing

Sometimes the best way to make your point is through a reward and penalty system. Reward your child when he finds acceptable words to make his point, and penalize him when he doesn't. You could fine your tween for every bad word he says, say $1 per word. Or, you could take 15 minutes off of his curfew for every salty word you hear. Find a system that works for you and your child to prevent kids cursing, and stick with it.

Look Beyond the Words

Sometimes tweens curse in front of their parents or other adults as a distraction. They're hoping that you'll focus on the words they're using, instead of their actions. If your child curses because you're upset with him for bringing home a bad grade, or failing to do his chores, don't allow his words to take your focus off the real issue, his behavior.

Sit Down and Talk

If all of your attempts to curb kids cursing fail, it's time to sit down and talk to get to the bottom of your child's behavior. Tweens may curse simply for attention (even negative attention) and it may be your attention that he's trying to catch. It's also possible that your child is deliberately trying to hurt your feelings. If you think you need to enlist the help of a counselor to get to the bottom of the issue, contact your child's school counselor. Or, contact your child's pediatrician for additional assistance and recommendations.