Teenagers may start using colorful language to appear more rebellious.

How to Get a Teen to Stop Cussing

by Maria Magher

Some teenagers can develop quite the potty mouth. According to HealthyChildren.org, teenagers cuss to impress their friends, to seem more worldly and to appear a little "bad" and rebellious. However, as adults, we know that swearing can offend others and can negatively influence the way others perceive us. It is a parents' responsibility to help teenagers understand this, as well, and to learn how to stop cussing.

Have an honest conversation with your teen about why cussing is a negative habit and what the consequences will be -- and not just in your house. The Brigham Young University David O. McKay School of Education suggests explaining to teens that others see people who resort to cussing as less intelligent because they don't have the proper vocabulary to express themselves. You could also talk about how curse words can offend others, hurt their feelings or make them uncomfortable.

Suggest alternatives. The Women's and Children's Health Network notes that swearing can sometimes be fun for kids, and it can be helpful to give them other words that they might like to say in those situations. These can range from common choices like "dang it" to more funny phrases like "hoop-de-doopdie."

Set attainable goals. To break a habit, it helps to set goals. These should be small, such as not cursing for one day. When that goal is reached, it can be expanded to a week and then to a month and so on.

Establish consequences for swearing. These should range from minor to more severe so that you have options for one-time swearing and chronic swearing. Some options include losing phone privileges, taking away the car keys, cutting computer time, limiting TV and restricting time with friends. The consequences should be appropriate to the infraction, such as losing phone privileges for the rest of the day for a minor swear, or losing driving privileges for a week for cussing at a parent in anger. A swear jar is a common choice, and it requires teens to put money into a jar every time they say a swear word.

Introduce rewards. Incentives can help teens to meet their goals. For example, HealthyChildren.org suggests setting up a swear jar in which you contribute money for each day that your teen does not swear. At the end of a certain period -- say a week or every two weeks -- your teen can collect the money and use it to buy something he wants.

Understand the reasons for swearing. The Women's and Children's Health Network says that if your teen is constantly swearing, there may be a larger issue, such as unresolved anger or frustration. If you can get to the root of the swearing and address those problems, you can likely stop this bad habit.

Be a good role model. Parenting Teens Online says that admitting your own mistake in swearing and making a promise to use more appropriate language will make a powerful impression on your teen and help him to curb the habit. Even if it seems like he isn't paying attention, he is, and your behavior will have a big influence on his own.

Items you will need

  • Clear consequences
  • Rewards

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images