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How to Stop Swearing
Q: My 12-year old son is swearing a lot and no type of punishment seems to faze him. What can I do?
A: If you do not allow swearing in your home, your son must know that his language is unacceptable. If you decide to tackle the problem, you must be very clear in describing to him what words or expressions you define as swearing. Sometimes a word that finds its way into common speech on TV and in the community may not seem like a bad word to kids. Once you define the terms, set an appropriate punishment -- but one that is not abusive. Washing your son's mouth out with soap does not help him learn to control his impulsive, bad language.
It is important to figure out why he is swearing. For many kids, it's the thrill of taking a risk (a minor one at that). For some, swearing gives them the attention they want from a parent, even if it's negative attention. For others, anger brings out their worst behavior, which can include swearing. Sometimes, the act of defiance fuels their behavior.
The key things to remember are setting limits (swearing is unacceptable), being consistent in your reaction and punishment, and identifying other words or behaviors that are acceptable when situations bring out the swearing behavior.
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Judith Lee Ladd is a former president of the American School Counselor Association, a national organization of K-12 and post-secondary school counselors.