Dear Your Teen:
What is your opinion on tweens/teens cursing at home? Is there a right age to allow them to do so? I feel like in the real world they would probably use swear words, so why should we limit them at home?
EXPERT | Sean Grover, LCSW
Whether parents allow cursing at home or not, the ultimate goal is to establish a family that communicates thoughtfully. Parents should strive to provide leadership by modeling appropriate ways of relating. For example, being considerate of each other’s feelings, interacting with their children mindfully, and fostering a home environment of mutual respect.
The problem with allowing teens swearing at home is that it undermines more creative ways of expressing frustration. Many parents have confessed in my psychotherapy office that they deeply regret allowing cursing at home because it created such a negative and disrespectful atmosphere. They also were embarrassed when their kids started cursing in public or in front of other parents. Once they allowed cursing at home, to their horror, profanity became a habit that was hard to break and led to many humiliating experiences.
More importantly, they found it actually increased hostility and clashes at home.
So, before you decide to allow cursing or not, consider these three recommended guidelines:
Elementary and middle school:
Absolutely no cursing at home. For young children, behaviors at home become imprints for behaviors in the world. Small children are not able to distinguish what’s appropriate in different environments. When they get in trouble for cursing at school, they may feel confused and publicly humiliated or blamed for behavior they thought was appropriate.
Cursing is sometimes allowed but never to degrade or bully anyone, in or outside of the family. Some parents allow their tweens/teens to curse out of frustration, but forbid profanity-filled name calling. There is a big difference between cursing because you stubbed your toe and cursing at someone in a degrading way.
College and beyond:
Children are mature enough to decide for themselves. Surprisingly, the thrill of cursing fades with age; however, no matter what their kids’ ages, parents will always have the right to prohibit cursing in their home.
When it comes to using swear words at home with tweens and older, a flexible approach is often best. One family that I worked with in therapy allowed three curses a week per family member.
The idea was that cursing could be saved for something extremely frustrating, rather than spending curses frivolously. This fun approach was surprisingly effective and eliminated the need for the parents to punish or reprimand.
Every family is different. Find a healthy balance, experiment, talk it over with your kids, and hold a family meeting. But be warned: if you decide to allow unlimited cursing at home, it may become a bad habit that’s hard to break.