When your toddler stomped her foot and called you a “poopy head,” you probably were amused. But when your teenager swears at you, it’s an altogether different feeling. However, says parenting expert Amy Speidel, both actions are coming from the same place in our children. In video, Speidel offers parents a helpful way to respond when a teenager swears at you.
Transcript: When your child first swears at you, there’s a good chance that they’re still small enough that you take responsibility for that. They heard it from somebody. You’re not exactly sure who—maybe it was the neighbor kid—but there’s a good chance that you understand that they’re just trying out new words.
However, when they get to that tween/teen age and they use a swear word, it feels personal. So we start to have this response to it that says: “I don’t deserve to be treated this way by you.” And there are a couple different ways that kids use swear words. One of the main ways that we use a swear word is it slips out when we are emotionally entangled ourselves. So just like adults, teens use those swear words when they feel at a loss of how to feel empowered. So think about the time when maybe a word slipped out of your mouth. That’s what happens for them as well. They feel the pressure of that moment when they don’t have anything more relevant to say to plead their case and then it’s, “Well, you’re a fill in the blank.” And when that happens, we feel attacked, instead of recognizing they’ve gone over the edge and the emotional upset is just that great.
How do we how we respond to that? You say to a teenager who has just said, “Well, you’re just whatever it is they just said.” You recognize they are in an emotional state and they’re having a challenge right now. So instead of joining them in that and giving them your lecture about how you don’t talk to me that way and I’m not putting up with that crap from you and perhaps even swearing back at them. Stop. Take a very deep breath and say, “I don’t appreciate being spoken to that way. It seems like you can use a moment to just regain yourself. And then we’ll talk again.” So give them a moment to step away and ask, “Is this the person I truly want to be?” rather than blaming and shaming them in that moment. Let them have that moment.
Amy Speidel is a Certified Parent Coach at Senders Parenting Center and an instructor in the Conscious Discipline Philosophy for parents and teachers.