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  1. #1
    bisous is offline Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    Default What advice to give my middle schooler about how to handle bad language?

    DS had a hard time in PE yesterday. Several of the boys were using "bad words" (his words--apparently the "s" word, "d" word and "h" words) and he told the coach who told him to go back and play. He was really upset about it. For my part, I told him that maybe the coach handled it on his own and told him to play because it wasn't any of his business. He accepted that advice.

    But that event made me start thinking about what kind of advice to give him about seeing things in Middle and High School that are clearly violations of school rules. I learned fairly early not to say anything to teachers and authority figures about things like bad language, inappropriate behavior or even minor drugs if I didn't want a LOT of unwanted attention. Even authority figures didn't really appreciate being told every little infraction. It is hard because I think all of these things are fairly normal for kids this age but until this time DS hasn't been exposed to them and it is unsettling for him. As a first time mom of kids this age I don't want to teach him a double standard. I want him to still look out for some injustices including mistreatment of others, stealing or destruction of property, etc. Also, I happen to think that profanity and drugs are very undesirable and certainly against school rules. How do I teach him what to intercede in and what to tolerate? What do I teach him to do to justify not doing anything? So how DO I teach him to live in this world and not compromise the ideals we've tried really hard to instill in him?

    Anyone gone through this with a very upright, very literal child? DS1 is also somewhat immature socially for his age and definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer. He has some good friends and is generally well liked by a lot of the kids but he's not super popular because he's pretty different.

    TIA,

  2. #2
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    I think there is a big difference between profanity and drugs, so I wouldn't lump them into the same category of "badness". If my son saw drugs at school, I certainly would want him to say something to me, a teacher, etc. But I think your DS will need to get used to hearing swear words to be honest. No advice on how to do that, as I allow my DS to use profanity, but he knows not to do so in front of teachers or other authorities.

  3. #3
    bisous is offline Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by JElaineB View Post
    I think there is a big difference between profanity and drugs, so I wouldn't lump them into the same category of "badness". If my son saw drugs at school, I certainly would want him to say something to me, a teacher, etc. But I think your DS will need to get used to hearing swear words to be honest. No advice on how to do that, as I allow my DS to use profanity, but he knows not to do so in front of teachers or other authorities.
    That's a good point. It is a big jump. Honestly, I don't even particularly think the "d" word and the "h" word that DS heard yesterday are all that serious. So I guess there are levels about what is acceptable and what is not. I think that can be taught at age 12.

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    SnuggleBuggles is offline Black Diamond level (25,000+ posts)
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    Would your church have advice about this? I'd think they'd have some resources about dealing with those that don't share your values or social expectations as it's bound to be a common topic.

    I get that things are against school rules but I'd leave the disciplining to the teachers- I mean, I would let them catch it and deal with it. Hurting themselves or others merits telling an authority figure but the other stuff, like swearing, really doesn't (imo).

    I think you as a family need to think through things that typical teens will do and think about how to deal with them.

    You could also tell ds that it isn't his job to worry about others following the rules. My friend's dd was given some responsibility by the bus driver (telling kids to stay in their seats...) as she was one of the oldest kids. That totally backfired because kids were challenging her and she'd just get more upset and everyone left angry and with hurt feelings. The school told her that she was still just a kid and didn't need to take on so much. That might be another angle.

  5. #5
    bisous is offline Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnuggleBuggles View Post
    Would your church have advice about this? I'd think they'd have some resources about dealing with those that don't share your values or social expectations as it's bound to be a common topic.

    I get that things are against school rules but I'd leave the disciplining to the teachers- I mean, I would let them catch it and deal with it. Hurting themselves or others merits telling an authority figure but the other stuff, like swearing, really doesn't (imo).

    I think you as a family need to think through things that typical teens will do and think about how to deal with them.

    You could also tell ds that it isn't his job to worry about others following the rules. My friend's dd was given some responsibility by the bus driver (telling kids to stay in their seats...) as she was one of the oldest kids. That totally backfired because kids were challenging her and she'd just get more upset and everyone left angry and with hurt feelings. The school told her that she was still just a kid and didn't need to take on so much. That might be another angle.

    I particularly like the idea that it isn't his job to worry about other people's compliance with the rules. That is a really concrete idea I can teach to DS.

    I need DS to be compassionate, nonjudgmental, and understanding about the behavior of other teens without necessarily thinking that what they are doing is okay for him (because swearing, drugs and promiscuity is not okay to our family). And I think it is a rather socially complex idea. I will poke around on my church website to see if they have any resources for how to start having this conversation with my teen. Thank you.

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    I often ask my fifth graders, "Are you trying to get someone in trouble or out of trouble?" Telling on kids who are using unsavory language = trying to get them in trouble. Reporting drug usage (that they have actually witnessed and not just heard about through the grapevine) = trying to help someone who is making an unsafe choice.

    It's about the intent of the reporter, IMO.
    Green Tea, mom to three

  7. #7
    bisous is offline Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Green_Tea View Post
    I often ask my fifth graders, "Are you trying to get someone in trouble or out of trouble?" Telling on kids who are using unsavory language = trying to get them in trouble. Reporting drug usage (that they have actually witnessed and not just heard about through the grapevine) = trying to help someone who is making an unsafe choice.

    It's about the intent of the reporter, IMO.
    I think that's what I'm grappling with though. DH really feels almost personally offended by bad language. So he isn't trying to get people in trouble so much as trying to get people to stop, because it bothers him tremendously. So in other words, he's probably overly sensitive to something he'll encounter quite frequently.

  8. #8
    toby is offline Gold level (500+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by bisous View Post
    I think that's what I'm grappling with though. DH really feels almost personally offended by bad language. So he isn't trying to get people in trouble so much as trying to get people to stop, because it bothers him tremendously. So in other words, he's probably overly sensitive to something he'll encounter quite frequently.
    You mean DS and not DH, right?! I think you have gotten a lot of good advice. In terms of DS feeling personally offended by the bad language, I think that you are going to have to help him understand that things like this are going to happen quite a bit in the "real world" (language, racist jokes). This one is difficult, because in the "real world" one might cope by removing himself from the situation, but DS is not able to do this. He might have to cope by noting that he doesn't like it and then talking to you about it later... Sorry I can't be of more help!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Green_Tea View Post
    I often ask my fifth graders, "Are you trying to get someone in trouble or out of trouble?" Telling on kids who are using unsavory language = trying to get them in trouble. Reporting drug usage (that they have actually witnessed and not just heard about through the grapevine) = trying to help someone who is making an unsafe choice.

    It's about the intent of the reporter, IMO.
    I like this advice.

    I am not a fan of bad language as DH and I rarely use it, but I know other families where the parents curse all the time and don't even have a problem with the kids doing it. If I was to hear DS1's friends using bad language at our house I would tell them to stop as that is not ok in our family, but at school I think I would tell DS to ignore it or remove himself or to tell his friends they really don't need to swear all the time as it's just not necessary. In life, you'll always be around people who swear so I think not being personally offended by it is a good thing.

    Also, I grew up never drinking alcohol or doing any kind of drugs even though all my friends did. I tell DS this and told him he'll either have to remove himself from the situation or just get used to people offering and saying no. There will definitely be pressure and he'll have to learn to cope. I've told him he can contact me at any time if he's at a friend's house, etc and feels uncomfortable with what is going on. He knows that DH drinks alcohol and I do not and I think hearing how I dealt with certain situations helps.
    Latia (Birth & Postpartum Doula and Infant Nanny)
    Conner 8/19/03 (My 1st home birthed water baby!)
    Parker 5/23/09 (My 2nd home birthed water baby!)

  10. #10
    trcy is offline Ruby level (4000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Green_Tea View Post
    I often ask my fifth graders, "Are you trying to get someone in trouble or out of trouble?" Telling on kids who are using unsavory language = trying to get them in trouble. Reporting drug usage (that they have actually witnessed and not just heard about through the grapevine) = trying to help someone who is making an unsafe choice.

    It's about the intent of the reporter, IMO.
    I really like this advice!


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