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Swearing and Bad Language

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Hearing swearwords from your child is proof plenty that words alone can make us cringe.

Swearing is a phase many teens go through as they begin to assert their independence. For many teens, it's not a question of if they'll use bad language, but when.

This question remains: What do you do when you hear your sweet sixteen-year-old use words that make you blush?

Remain Calm

"Paradoxically, teens struggle with the need to fit in at the same time they're struggling with the need to stand out" (Cline and Fay 176).   
Sometimes teens start swearing to rebel, and sometimes they swear because that's what everyone else is doing. Swearing is most likely a phase for our children as they make attempts in adolescence to try to become more adult and mature.   
If we respond with anger, the lesson is generally that the rebellion worked, or that we are out of touch with what "real life"? is for them.   
The calmer and less shocked we remain, the better.

To Create and Destroy

We know that words have power: "by the power of his word man came upon the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word" (Jacob 4:9). We understand that words have power to create, and know that words can also destroy.   
Words can destroy reputations, chances for employment or education, self-esteem, and so on. A teen who is swearing is typically not taking any of this into account. It's probably that a teen who swears simply does not yet understand the power of words.   
You can approach swearing and bad language like you approach other lessons you teach your children: matter-of-factly and with love.

"by the power of his word man came upon the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word"   
-Jacob 4:9


We get to teach our teens that words have power. The world is certainly not going to teach them this lesson: unless it's in the form of showing them that words can be used to mock, degrade, and scorn.   
These lessons can take on many forms: examining the effects of harsh words on others, looking at the effect of degrading words on ourselves, or understanding the effects of swearing on our chances at feeling the Spirit.

Some people find that breaking the habit of swearing is easier if there's an immediate consequence. One easy way to enforce this is for the teen to wear a rubber band on her wrist and snap it when she slips up and uses a bad word.

Keeping language clean really comes down to self-control and self-mastery.

If a teen is swearing or using bad language, we are not powerless. We can teach them about the power of words. We can also use these moments as a chance to work with them on developing self-mastery, and help them feel the power of self-control.


Cline, Foster and Jim Fay. Parenting with Love and Logic. USA: Pinion Press, 2006.   
Latham, Glenn I. The Power of Positive Parenting. Logan, UT: P&T Ink, 2006.