Choice Words 2: Battle of Bad Language Continues

Posted December 1, 2008 by

A little while ago, I blogged about starting to address my 13-year-old son’s offensive language. The changes started slowly, but he showed some improvement with consistent feedback. Whenever he slipped, he lost a specific video game or went to bed earlier. But the issue still hangs on. We both need more practice.

I am working on Lessons 2 and 3 in my Total Transformation program, trying to replace my ineffective parenting with more successful parenting roles. I must admit to seeing myself in the program’s description of parents with “bottomless pockets” who over-negotiate, scream and play the martyr. Yep, that’s me. It’s been very helpful, however, to read the workbook and remind myself that my own parental shortcomings do not excuse my child’s inappropriate behavior. In addition, I can’t blame other people or things for his aggressive reactions. He needs to take responsibility for how he solves problems, and I need to help him develop problem-solving skills.

In working to reduce his use of bad language, we talk about “choice of words” daily. I either warn or praise as I hear certain things. I made a specific “hit list” of which words he can get away with and which ones I will not tolerate. He’s a self-appointed authority on almost every subject we tackle and this one is no different! Of course I got the argument that I’m just behind the times. No one cares if he uses those words, he insists. I made the point that I am offended by some words and Grandma is offended by them even more. I said, “We may have different standards than other people, but our standards apply in our home and in our presence outside the home.” I pointed out that the more a person uses rough language, the less they realize it. By meeting a certain standard of respectful speech, he could develop a style of speech less likely to accidentally offend or anger someone in a social setting somewhere down the line. That would help him in all kinds of situations in the future, I said. Little did I know, my point would be reinforced very soon.

My son has computer lab for one hour each day at school. They use an online learning tool that includes an email program. My son decided to send his friend in the same class an email, all in good fun. He called his friend “b—-“ as a nickname. Various other inane comments and jokes followed with texting abbreviations throughout. The school has content filters, which intercepted his email, sending it directly to the teacher. It removed the original recipient’s name, making it appear as if he addressed it to her!! My son ended up in the principal’s office with a note in his file about threatening a teacher with profanity and abusive language. Luckily, the teacher vouched for him, saying he didn’t really send it to her. He got off with six days of in-school suspension. Unfortunately for him, using the wrong words in the wrong situation yielded tougher consequences than just an earlier bedtime.

And by the way, at home, my son lost use of all video game systems until Christmas break. If he makes it another three weeks with no detention or suspension, he can earn them back. Since I don’t have game time to use as a consequence for cursing until then, I am looking for other consequences and rewards. I am considering a sort of family curse bank, but the typical 25-cents-per-curse contribution jar might not work well, because my son never has quarters on hand. My idea: start with a $5 pot, add $1 money daily for no cursing and subtract 25 cents for individual offenses. At the end of each week we could use the bank for ice cream or some other treat. Let me hear from the Empowering Parents readers. Is this a good idea? Or should I just give my son quarters to start with?

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