Teens and Inappropriate Language: Where to Draw the Line

Warning: foul language ahead

My oldest is 15 years old and I’ve never heard him use inappropriate language. Not with his friends, not on the soccer field. I’m not naïve, I’m sure that he knows the words. He just opts to not use them around my wife or me. Overall this is a good thing, as I assume he uses the same restraint around other adults.

I am not going to take credit for ultra-strict parenting either. I give him (and his 13 year old brother) lots of leeway to come onto contact with inappropriate content, believing that they are going to come into contact with unsavory words or images sooner or later. Plus, I don’t want them feeling like they have to hide anything from me.

We were at my mother in law’s house for Easter. They stayed an extra day, I came home solo. While there the kids helped me cut some firewood and we built a fire. The topic of roasting marshmallows came up and while I didn’t say yes, I didn’t say no. I would have had to go to the grocery store, and decided against it since the kids were filing up on Easter candy anyway.

teen-text-foul-languageAfter I got home, my son and I exchanged the text message conversation in the picture.

My issue isn’t that he knew the word, or that he used it. I expected to hear some foul language come out of him by now, at least when he’s hanging out with friends, but haven’t. I’m wondering whether we have reached a tipping point where his view of his status has changed. If so, is that his status with me, or his status in the world? Either way we were going to have a talk about it as soon as the coniditions permitted.

Fast forward to today.

I spoke to him last night when we had some one on one time.

Me, “Do you remember the last text you sent me the yesterday?”

Him, “Uh, yeah.”

Me, “Did you think it was OK to use that inappropriate word?”

Long pause…

Him, “Well, I thought it was OK with you. I’ve heard you say worse and it was just between us.”

Me, “Do you think it would be OK for you to use that language around a teacher or other adult?”

Him, “No. It was just you.”

Feel free to disagree, but basically, I’m all right with that exchange. I believe him. I’ll be watching, though. I understand there can be a point when you are too friendly with your kids, particularly as they grow older, such that it becomes more difficult to be the enforcer when required. The most important thing for me at this point is to know that he understands the line he must not cross. Like I said, I’ll be watching.


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