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Faithlink - Parent Zone :: April 2009
By Alan S.L. Wong

As an educator of teens, I am at a loss as to how to stop them from spouting vulgarity. Please advise.

"Vulgar" has been defined as "coarse, lacking refinement, cultivation or taste". "Vulgarities" then may be understood as coarse language that is conspicuously and tastelessly crude, indecent and obscene.

Teens are not the only ones who spout vulgarities. One is likely to be bombarded with vulgarities as a recruit in the Army. Why do people use vulgarities? They may hold the perspective that others see them as macho and cool when vulgar words flow from their mouths. Others use vulgarities to voice their anger and frustration. Yet others do so because they do not know how else to express their negative feelings.

So how can an educator of teens stop them from spouting vulgarities? Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Ask, "Can you explain what you just said?"

    It is likely that some teens do not know the meaning of the vulgarity. My advice to that person is "If you donít know what it means, donít say it!"

  2. If the teen understands the meaning of what he said, ask him/her, "Do you mean what you said?"

    Here are some relevant Scriptures.

    "Ö treat people the same way you want them to treat you Ö"
    Matthew 7:12a

    "Let no unwholesome (literally rotten) word
    proceed from your mouth,
    but only such a word as is good for edification
    according to the need of the moment,
    so that it will give grace to those who hear."
    Ephesians 4:29

    "With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and
    with it we curse men,
    who have been made in the likeness of God;
    from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.
    My brethren, these things ought not to be this way."
    James 3:9-10
  3. Ask, "Why did you use those words?"

    1. If the teen thinks it is macho and cool to use vulgarities then ask (those who are present), "What do you think of So-and-So using vulgarities?" It is likely that there are some who think that the teen is rude, immature, bad-tempered and uncouth.

      If appropriate, also ask (those who are present), "Should So-and-So speak vulgarities aimed at the target personís relative (perhaps, the mother)?"

    2. If the teen is angry or frustrated, acknowledge his/her feelings and teach the teen to give voice to his/her feelings without the use of vulgarities. For example,

      "I feel [emotion] because you did/said [reason] ..."

      Teach the teen to state facts and not to judge i.e., not to draw conclusions about the other person's motivation and character based on action(s). Next, give the other person the opportunity to respond to his/her grievance.

  4. You canít stop vulgarities overnight. It takes time to change a (bad) habit Ö so pose a challenge. Tell the teens that vulgarities are unacceptable in your class / presence. Every time a person uses a vulgarity, that person has to contribute a dollar into the "Mind Your Language" Fund. At the end of the year, use the money from the fund for an agreed fun activity or sumptuous meal. Make a commitment to cover any shortfall.

    It is not possible to list every conceivable vulgarity for the challenge. Therefore, there will be occasions when a new "vulgarity" would pop up. Moreover, some words such as "sh*t" may be debatable. What should you do? Such first offences should not be "fined" because "where there is no law, neither is there violation". Discuss as to whether this new word should be added to the list of vulgarities.

  5. Every time a vulgarity slips out, help the teen to rephrase the statement using the suggested format in 3(b) above.

Children nowadays are left to run about in a store while their parents are busy browsing around. How can godly parents educate their children to refrain from doing so?

The simple and best solution is to leave your children at home (with your parents) when you go shopping. Seriously, (young) children run about in a store because they are bored with shopping unless their parents are at a toy store or a bookstore (for children who love to read). Another solution is job specialization - one parentís responsibility is to engage the children while the other shops.

If you really have to go shopping with children alone then here are a few suggestions.
  1. Before you go, establish some rules such as "stay within sight", "no running", etc. If they keep the rules, promise a special treat.

  2. At the store, ask your children to help by pushing the cart and/or in selecting an item.

  3. Engage your children in conversation.