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How to Deal With Teenage Cursing

by Paige Johansen, studioD

In a 2008 article published by the "Deseret News," Timothy Jay, author of "Why We Curse" and "Cursing in America," claims that casual cursing among teens and preteens has increased significantly since their parents' generation. He estimates that the average teen uses 80 or more swear words per day. Luckily, if you can figure out why and when your teen curses, you can create rules and consequences to change his or her behavior -- and maybe even your own.

Find Out Why and When Your Teen Swears

Social worker James Lehman believes that it's important to differentiate between cursing and verbal abuse. "Verbal abuse," he says, "is an attack on a person," whereas general cursing is simply talking about a situation or thing while using a swear word. Sometimes, general cursing occurs when a teen is very upset, angry or frustrated, but other times, these kinds of emotional ties are largely absent. A teen may think that cursing makes him sound more mature, she may have picked it up from her peer group or he may not even consider some words "curse words" because he hears them so often at home or on TV.

Talk About Behavior

Once you know why and when your teen curses, talk about the behavior and make it clear that it's not acceptable. Discuss the ways in which cursing does not make one sound more mature or cooler -- it hides insecurities and inhibits clarity. Talk about ways to get a point across in a more articulate and intelligent manner. For a teen who swears in the heat of anger, develop a plan of action for cooling off before resorting to swearing.

Create Clear Rules and Consequences

Make it clear what the rules are in your house for swearing -- and be sure that the adults in the family follow the rules, too. Many families successfully curb cursing by setting up a "cursing jar." In this scenario, when a family member curses, he or she owes a certain fee to the cursing jar. Teens who accidentally curse are able to retrain themselves, and those who curse on purpose realize it's too expensive to keep swearing. The most important part of setting up rules and consequences is that you maintain consistency and make sure that parents, too, are responsible for their words.

Adjust Consequences for Verbal Abuse

A cursing jar is not enough in a situation where your teen is verbally abusing you or someone else. If he or she calls you or someone else a name specifically, then the punishment should be more harsh than in the case of a slip of the tongue. Social worker James Lehman suggests creating consequences such as missing a team practice or not allowing the teen to use the phone until no name calling or verbal abuse has occurred for a certain amount of time.

About the Author

Paige Johansen has been writing professionally since 2003. She holds a B.A. in psychology and English from Cornell University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from The University of Virginia. Between degrees, she worked in the fashion industry for two years.

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