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Q&A: How do I stop my child from cursing and using inappropriate speech?

Don't ever think that training your child's language is in vain.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


Lately my 11-year-old son has been repeating words he heard at school. Sometimes they are curse words, and other times they are just inappropriate. What can I do to stop him?

Dennis: Don't be shocked if your son or daughter brings home some words that they've heard from friends. The words used may not be bad per se, but talking about throwing up and other bodily functions in a coarse way is not acceptable for conversation. Our boys heard more than one version of a mini-sermon entitled "That's Not the Way We Talk in This House."

Barbara: You can't just let garbage run free in your home. If you don't train your children to control their tongues, they will be absolutely wild. You may be doing more harm to your children by not correcting the problem.

Dennis: Bad language is not always a black and white issue, but as a parent, you have got to decide today where you're going to draw the line on these issues. There needs to be some boundaries, so you need to set a standard and some limits.

We gave our kids some grace, realizing that in some cases, they might not even know what some of the words meant. But when certain words cause you to pause, more than likely you need to step in and say, "We don't use that word here, and if you use it again, it's going to cost you."

Barbara: And in our house, it did cost them! Many parents have used soap to wash out their children's mouths. I haven't used soap, but we used other punishments. One punishment that works with teenagers is to charge them money. This doesn't work as well for children because they have no money, but to a teenager, money means a lot. There was a time when we charged $5 for a "cut down," which is when one child said something hurtful to another, and our children would think twice about a comment before facing the cost.

Dennis: Don't ever think that training your child's language is in vain. Ephesians 4:29a says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification." In other words, we are to use language that builds up another, not use words that are unwholesome. We need to help our children realize that to cuss out another person is to use words that are inappropriate towards a person who is made in the image of God.

Barbara: In addition, at some point you need to explain to your child that quite a few curse words are related to sex or bodily functions. Take the time to explain this and impress on him or her that such language demeans the beauty of the sex act as well as the prize of God's creation—the human body.

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