Does it seem like your teen speaks in a tongue that is alien to you? Not only is it terse and completely unintelligible, it is brightly coloured with language to bring a blush to the most brazen of cheeks. Yes, swearing, cursing, and the trash talking are enough to send any parent spiralling into a full panic mode. Before you consider looking for an exorcist, however, let us try and understand some of the funk that goes on in your teenager’s head.
So, why do teens take to using foul language?
As parents, we are quick to chastise, to critique and shut down any sign of ‘bad behaviour’. Rarely do we stop to consider the cause or root of the problem. Says Dr Harish Shetty, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist, "As children move into their teen years, they experience many changes; mental, physical as well as emotional. They will be eager to test new waters, to experiment and to assert their opinion. Using swear words and expletives is just one more way to engage in a power struggle with their parents."
The influence of peers and society also plays a large part in the kind of language young adults use. Often, they do not even completely understand the meaning and implications of the words they speak. Vaishnavi, a college student says, “Mimicking the cool crowd and trying to sport a devil-may-care attitude is a norm in schools these days. There are words that I used to use frequently that I am not proud of today. When my mother caught me, she simply asked me to look up the word’s meaning online. I was so shocked when I found out; I decided to stop using words I didn’t know the meaning of!”
What can parents do?
First things first, identify the triggers that set off the swearing and cussing. Do your teens swear when they are upset, angry or agitated, or do they do it only in front of their friends? Doing this helps you understand why they are using foul language.
Sit down and have a chat. Explain to them that these words mean something quite offensive, giving them exact meanings of words when you can. Ask them honestly why they like using those words. Explain to them how using cuss words only makes the user look bad to those around him and can sometimes cause serious hurt.
Sit with your teen to come up with alternative ways of expressing emotions and appearing cool in front of their friends. Involving them in coming up with a plan will motivate them to adhere to the advice.
Kids need to know that foul-mouthing and swearing are completely unacceptable. Be firm about the rules and set strict repercussions for any deviance.
Over and above everything it is important to remember that your teenager is not completely aware of his own actions and most likely does not mean harm. Act instead of reacting, and don’t try to get into a power struggle. Also, as always, lead by example. You can’t expect your children to clean up their language when you don’t bother to watch what you say!