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Father's Foul Language

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My husband swears a lot in front of our sons, ages nine and ten. When I ask him to use different words, he tells me that they talk a lot worse at school. I then reply that it is wrong, no matter where they hear it, but he feels that he can talk any way he wants to in his house and that I shouldn't preach to him.
I do not want my boys growing up thinking that foul language is acceptable!

Do you have any advice?

A: You and your husband need to be on the same page when it comes to the use of foul language in front of your children. My guess is that your husband knows that it is inappropriate. His telling you not to "preach" to him about this and saying he will do whatever he wants to in his house sounds like there's a lot more going on than just the cursing issue. Unfortunately, your kids are getting swept up in the tension and arguments that you two have over his language.

Perhaps you could say something like, "I know that you don't want to set a bad example for our kids by using foul language in front of them so much. You're a good dad, and something must be really bothering you if you can't keep your anger and language in check in front of the kids. What's really going on here? What's bothering you?"

Has he always used foul language in front of your kids? If this is new behavior or if it has gotten worse, then my guess is that it's a response to something that's going on in his work life or family life. How are the two of you doing as a couple? Could this be a result of some problems the two of you are having?

Clearly, your attempts to reason with him are not getting a rational response. Perhaps he sees stopping the foul language as a loss of power. If he swears in front of your kids in the presence of a family member or friend that he respects, you might want to enlist them to mention their concern to him about his language.

Seeing a counselor could be a big help, but I would be surprised if he will agree to that idea right now. Let him know that you believe him to be a man who is better than the language he is using and that you'd like to know why his language doesn't match the good father and husband that he is. He is angry inside and he needs to reveal the reasons for his anger before he stops his foul language in your home.


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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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