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Parents should insist children curb tongue

Tonia Holbrook The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal

Parents send their children to school expecting them to come home with newfound knowledge of math, science and grammar, but sometimes they’re taken aback when their children come home using profanity as well.

It’s a common problem, as students are growing up in a cursing culture, says Jim O’Connor, a public relations professional who founded the Cuss Control Academy in Lake Forest, Ill., to help people curb the habit.

Children pick up expletives from any number of sources, including television, movies and music. But new social settings, including school, also can be a culprit, he says.

O’Connor says he has talked to many teachers and some say they have given up trying to clean up language used in their classrooms, while others demand, “not in my classroom.”

“People say they’re just words; what’s the big deal?” O’Connor says. “But it’s not the words themselves … it’s the attitude.”

Cursing carries a tone of complaining and hostility, he says. O’Connor says it’s important to tell children that using swear words is unacceptable before it becomes a habit.

If swearing is allowed to persist, it becomes part of a person’s vocabulary to be used in lieu of more descriptive, yet appropriate, dialogue. In other words, O’Connor says, “it’s just lazy language.”

Before you break out the soap to wash out that dirty mouth, O’Connor suggests you:

• Ask your child where he heard the word.

• Tell your child that you don’t want her to use the word, and explain why.

• Ask whether your child knows what the word means. If the child doesn’t know, there’s no reason to be overly concerned.

• Consider why your child used the word. If he said it out of anger or frustration, deal with the underlying emotion first. It’s more important to know why your child is speaking of someone with hostility than focusing on the words used to express it.

If your child swears as a form of name-calling, discourage the child from making derogatory remarks of any kind about people, regardless of swearing. For example, “stupid” may not be a curse word, but it’s still mean-spirited.

Set a good example by not using foul language in front of your child. But if you let a curse word slip, apologize to your child for using it. Say, for example, “I got angry, and now I’m OK. I’m sorry I used bad words.”

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