This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

GIGO - dealing with foul language

(found this great cartoon here)

Garbage In - Garbage Out

Been talking to everyone about cussing lately, and I've come to realize that my kids are unusual in that they don't really cuss. I'm not saying they never cuss. They do during rages, although not as much as you'd think. I'm sure they cuss at school (Kitty delights in telling me she does), but even she has learned a lesson about that.

I grew up pretty strictly in this respect. We weren't allowed to say the "naughty words" either. These are "substitute" words like "darn," "crap," "gah"... and rude words like "butt," "shut up," "stupid," and "hate." When I left home, I went through a phase in college where I cussed like a sailor, and found I couldn't stop even when I wanted to. It took quite awhile to break the habit. I have to admit that Hubby thinks outlawing some of the "substitute" words is a bit extreme, but he still follows the house rules.

I think the fact that Hubby and I don't cuss makes a big difference for the kids.

When my kids complain that all their friends cuss, and they should be able to, I tell them the "preacher story," no idea where I heard it before, but the gist is that a preacher at an orphanage tells the kids not to cuss because the words get stuck in your brain and slip out when you don't mean them to. He catches some kids cussing, the words stick in his brain, and when he's in a traffic accident he lets the cuss words fly in front of the gentle ears of his wife and family.

A couple of years ago, Kitty had started using "substitute" phrases. Her favorite phrase was, "What the Frick?" I'm sure she used the other word when with her friends. One day she was at lunch in the tiny Christian private school and the son of the director startled her. She yelled out "What the F___" ...well, let's just say she didn't use the word "Frick." She was humiliated in front of 1/2 the school (which was only about 20 kids, but still really upset her).

Ponito had a similar episode and we ended up joining the No Cussing Club.

I have a firm belief in "Garbage In - Garbage Out." That's why I'm pretty strict about media. We listen to Christian music only both in my car and on the kids' MP3s. That's because as most people know, music is a quick way to the subconscious and repetition drives it home. The kids argue that a lot of the music they want to listen to doesn't have bad language or isn't that inappropriate (well, not very inappropriate Mom). I tell the kids, especially those with issues, that I want things going into their subconscious to not just be "not bad," but to actually be GOOD.

I have to admit I've lightened up on CDs and radios, I follow more of a "don't ask, don't tell" philosophy. Although I don't buy or allow the kids to buy "inappropriate" stuff.

Since we bought the Clearplay DVD player I'm allowing PG-13 movies in the house. Of course I'm still watching most movies first with an eye toward what might set off Kitty (doesn't always work though since it seems to be social stuff that sets her off more than foul language, violence or creepy vampires.) The tween Disney shows she watches on TV often trigger a reaction (forced speech, manic laughter, agitation). I'm thinking it's seeing kids getting away with "naughty behavior" since Kitty has black and white thinking, and this is hard for her to deal with in "real life."


I draw a line in the sand about certain things. For me it's physical violence and foul language.

I knew by letting the kids know that foul language is not OK with me I was just asking them to use it when they're mad, but it's better than hearing it all the time. I think it may have helped that I've gone overboard in what we consider bad language and included "naughty words." Bad language to me includes substitute words (darn, crap, frick, shoot...), mean words (stupid, hate, ugly...), words you wouldn't say in front of the president or old ladies (butt, fart, boobs...). By going overboard, I think the kids get a thrill from the shock value of saying naughty words and don't even need to step up to really foul language.

So here's what we did:

  1.  Removed as many bad influences as possible - following the Garbage In/ Garbage Out principle - 
  2.  I made a big deal of exceptions to the rules. I told the kids that I didn't want them to watch {XYZ show} because I'm concerned they will pick up bad language or negative behaviors that are in the show. By pointing out what I didn't want them to get from it, I made them a) consciously notice what was in the show and b) make a conscious effort to not copy the bad behavior/ language so they wouldn't lose the privilege of watching it.
  3.  Don't use bad language myself, and over react when I hear it in media. It doesn't actually upset me, but my kids work hard to keep me from hearing it in their media. 
  4.  At first we actually removed all media that didn't meet our rules. I bought the kids MP3 players that had unique cords to add media (so they couldn't plug it in to a friend's computer and download their stuff). We loaded the MP3 players with whatever the kids wanted - as long as it was appropriate (took me forever to find Christian heavy metal!)
  5.  Tell them what the words mean. It's usually an impromptu sex talk, which horrifies my children! Very effective. Ex. "That sucks" or "That blows" gets them a conversation about blow jobs.
  6.  Correct by offering the right words, "This is where you say, 'That makes me really unhappy mom. I don't like it when you tell me it is time to go to bed.'"
  7.  Offer a chance for a redo. "I must have heard that wrong. I don't think that's what you meant to say, because if you said that I'd have to {explain to you again what that word means, stop allowing you to watch the show ____ or not allow you to hang out with ______ or go to __________... because that's where I'm assuming you got that language from, you'd have to go in the FAIR Club...}. Why don't you take a minute to think about it and then let me know what I actually heard.
  8.  Unlike when my child is just making bad choices, when my child is actually dysregulated and/or in the middle of a meltdown, I just flat out ignore the language. I know they can't really control themselves at that time. If I think they will feel like they got away with something then later (after it's all over) I might give them a small consequence for the language.
  9.  Now all I have to do is say, "Language," and my child knows I'm listening and not happy. They usually turn down the media or stop using the language.

Wow I used a lot of "quotes" in this post!


Anonymous said...

My language is worse than DH's. He never uses bad language and frowns judgementally on anyone who does. Our kids are all potty mouths among their peers, BUT, their peers are too. Honestly, what's acceptable language among today's kids is vulgar. The F word is common and not even shocking.

However, I was raised by a bigot who frequently used derogotory to describe others, but my kids would never dream of dropping the N-bomb and think highly of every individual.

It's a different world... that's all.

Anonymous said...

That should have read "derogotory terms"

And, to be clear, my kids use situation-appropriate language. For example, they watch their tongues when they're with us.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you are definitely correct. When I was in school at a small school where no one swore, I never did. But when I left to move to New York, the temptation was quite great.