Insights from the hood
(Parenthood, that is) / 3
How to get your teenagers to stop using bad words
By Mona Andrei
It happened overnight.
One day my kids were all sweet and polite and dimples, with no sign of hormones anywhere. The next day I was dealing with trips to the store for pimple cream and attitude. The day after that, my teens had taken to swearing when I was in another room. They thought I couldn’t hear them but what they didn’t realize was that as their mom, I HEAR EVERTHING.
If you have kids of your own, you know what I’m talking about. It’s just one of the many symptoms of being a parent and it goes something like this: Have kids. Develop bionic hearing.
It’s also the reason why people all over the world refer to parents as “demi-gods”. (Or possibly that’s just me.)
So how did I react when my teenagers started swearing behind my back? I ignored it. Why? Because, many years ago, I learned the importance of picking my battles. At the time, my kids were going through the terrible twos.
So how did I react when my teenagers started swearing behind my back? I ignored it.
Then when they grew into teenagers on the verge of developing bad language habits, I learned to not cringe, both internally and externally, and hold my face in place when walking into a room after profanities had been flung about. With F-bombs still sticking to the walls like pasta during a food fight, I’m imagining you imagining that this took some practice.
Also, I may have unconsciously programmed my brain to automatically bleep out all words that begin with the letters b, f, and sh. And let’s not forget that I too was a teenager at their age. Just the fact that they were doing it “behind my back” meant that there was still hope.
One of the saddest aspects of being a parent to sweet children is that they morph into teenagers. That’s when things get tricky. They start coming home with new ideas… opinions… words. Suddenly, snuggling under a blanket and watching a Disney movie together isn’t “their thing”. They want to watch YouTubers and zombie movies and they want to do it by themselves, in their room with the door closed. (But feel free to come get them when there’s FOOD.)
‘… I may have unconsciously programmed my brain to automatically bleep out all words that begin with the letters b, f, and sh.’
And of course, they will test us. That’s what teens do and that’s why we have them – so that we can excel at passing these tests. It’s our rite of passage into adulthood. Don’t say you heard it from me, but teenagers are our very own personal incentive to growing up.
But all is well. I have my black belt in parenting and I’m about to share a secret with you. It’s a method I developed years ago when my teens had just crossed the threshold into who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-my-angels.
It’s a proven two-step process for getting your teens to stop using “bad words”.
We all know that swear words are a healthy part of a balanced vocabulary. They help us cope with frustrating situations and they alleviate stress. And since we all want our teens to grow into healthy adults, the secret is not to eliminate swear words, but to replace them.
Here’s how the two-step process works:
Step 1 – Introduce new words.
Step 2 – Make said new words sound badass.
‘… since we all want our teens to grow into healthy adults, the secret is not to eliminate swear words, but to replace them.’
I know what you’re thinking: “It sounds too simple. This can’t possibly work.” Trust me. It does. And to help get you started, here’s a list of suggested replacement words. (Let’s see if you can figure out the original phrases.):
What the what?
Cheese n’ rice!
Stop talking junk!
You can also use one word to replace all swear words. Here are some examples using the word ‘Fish’:
Fish off! *
Go fish yourself! *
Shut the fish up! *
* Use of exclamation mark is optional but highly recommended.
As a mother, you can imagine how proud I am when I’m reading quietly on the living room couch, or folding towels in the laundry room, and I hear my teens yelling “God-fish-it!” or “Fish you!” It really is quite endearing.
And just another small win on the parenting frontline.
From Mona Andrei’s forthcoming book, SUPERWOMAN: Confessions of a Single Mom, a funny, messy, reflective look at single motherhood.
Mona Andrei is a digital copywriter, writer, and social media strategist with over 20 years of experience, both on the advertising agency and corporate sides of the communication spectrum. When she’s not working on client projects, she likes to write irreverent posts for her personal blog, Moxie-Dude, where she writes about life updates gone wrong. Or right. She’s undecided. You can connect with Mona on Twitter or email her at Mona@MonaAndrei.com