Are you grappling with an incessant stream of profanity flowing out of your ADHD teenager’s mouth? Do you wonder how your sweet kiddo started swearing like a sailor?
It can be a shocking and disheartening experience for any parent. But fear not, in this article, we discuss not only why your ADHD teen(or kid !) might be swearing, but also, how to get your ADHD teenager to stop swearing(or at least swear less!) without resorting to punishments or strict rules.
Before we can figure out how to get your ADHD Teen to stop swearing, it’s important to look at what methods don’t work and why they’re swearing in the first place.
The solution for Swearing that doesn’t work
In doing some of my research for this post(Because like most of the posts I write, I need this advice for my own family.), I was surprised at how many of the solutions were punitive. Suggestions ranged from taking away screen time to getting your teen to put money into a jar every time they swore.
Punitive solutions like these can work – but only in the very short term.
In the long run, solutions like these will, most likely, do the opposite. We’ve known for a long time that punitive measures never address the root cause of a situation and therefore, will not work to solve the problem of swearing.
In fact, punitive measures may have your teenagers swearing more because they’re gonna be so angry at you and frustrated at the whole situation.
We want our kids to realize that there are social repercussions for swearing and that swearing in many situations – like at school or on the job is – in most cases, not acceptable. We are looking for greater understanding, some learning on your teen’s part and a broader, big picture solution for swearing.
In order to get your teenager to stop swearing, it is very helpful to think about why they are swearing in the first place.
Why do ADHD teens swear?
Foul Language is all around them, all day long
The social landscape has changed drastically over the past 5 to 10 years. Exposure to swearing and foul language happens on a daily, if not hourly basis, as our teens scroll social media. Their world can quite literally be saturated with negative language.
Both your teen and their peers are mimicing what they hear, then texting it, sharing it, snapping it to eat other, creating a big continuous swirl of not-so-great language.
Unfortunately, in many ways, and in many social circles, swearing has become normalized.
It’s a Way to Fit In Socially
Teenagers are navigating a pivotal phase of their lives, where emotions run high and a desire for independence clashes with many societal expectations. Swearing can be seen as a rebellious act or an attempt to assert their autonomy.
ADHD Teenagers often have a hard time making friends and may see copying their peers and what they see aroun them as a way to fit in. So, even if swearing is not heard in your house, they’ll pick it up from their peers.
Reaction of an immature nervous system.
We know that our ADHD teenagers often lag behind their peers by 3 or more years in the social emotional realm. Their nervous systems are just not mature enough to stop and think about what they say in a tense or uncomfortable situation.
In fact, they might not even realize they are swearing as much as they are.
They are struggling for more control.
In the same way a toddler refuses food to gain some control over their lives, teenagers use foul language, well, because, in the moment, no one can stop them!!
How to Get Your ADHD Teen to Stop swearing
Now that we know a little bit about why your teens are swearing, we’ll address a few ideas to get them to stop swearing or at the very least quell their swearing in most situations.
In the following sections, we will delve into five key strategies which will help you navigate the delicate terrain of teenage swearing and guide your teenager towards making better choices
1. The best first step: Talk with your teen
Starting with a calm discussion about swearing is a great first step. It is much easier for kids to “behave” when they feel connected to you. No matter how many times you have told them to stop or if you’ve tried tactics that have not worked, it’s important to get their input about what might help, first.
Remember, swearing is a behavior and it’s very hard to stop the behavior without digging underneath to see what is at the root. You can talk about some reasons why you think they swear and see if they chime in about hings you may not have thought of.
One conversation will not solve the issue, but the point is to open the door about the issue and express your concerns in a calm manner.
You can express the reasons why you’d like them to stop (offensive to you and others, awful example for younger siblings, etc ) If you have tried other tactics that have failed, get their input on why this might be. Let them know they have your support and that this will be an ongoing topic of discussion until the situation improves.
2. Discuss the Negative Social Consequences with your teen
Stepping into someone else’s shoes is a skill most teens are still working on. But it’s worth it to talk to your kids about how their swearing might affect someone else and specifically someone else’s opinion of them.
Set up different scenarios for them, like thinking about how grandma would react to hearing them swear. Their boss or favorite teacher? Your friends? What assumptions might these people then make about them when they hear them swear?
They can start being detectives and listening to other people or situations where swearing is happening. How does it make a person sound? Get them to report back their findings back to you. If you happen to be together in public when someone is using inappropriate language, get your teen’s impressions on it as soon as you can talk to them.
2. Teach them time and place
It’s unrealistic to think that your teen will never swear – and that’s not the goal. Teaching them appropriate times and places to swear is a great lesson.
When is it okay to swear? With friends in the locker room, when you stub your toe, when you drop your iphone into a pool…
When is it not okay to swear? In front of grandparents, at a wedding ceremony, in church, in front of young children.
Try making a list of different situations where swearing is acceptable and unacceptable. Keep a running list – this can actually add some levity to the situation. You may have to repeatedly discuss this with your teen, as their maturity may have to catch up with their ability to think before they speak. But this is a very important social skill that they need to develop.
They may already be okay at not swearing in certain situations and compliment them, but let them know your feelings are important and need to be acknowledged by their actions, too.
3. Model appropriate time and place
Teenagers do what you do, not what you say. It’s not enough to tell your kids not to swear, you have to model the behavior yourself.
If getting your teen to stop swearing is important to you, be careful to use respectful, clean language the majority of the time. We’re human and a swear word might pop out here and there, hopefully in a way that models appropriate time and place for your teen. : )
4. Encourage Positive Language Choices
One way to encourage positive language choices is to allow your teen a “do-over”. When you hear them swear or say something inappropriate, stop and let them rephrase what they just said in a more positive light. Most likely, they knew what to say all along, but their impulsivity in the moment got the best of them.
If they do have a hard time figuring out a more positive way to say something, give them a few options.
As they begin to use more positive words, It is important to show your child that you are listening and catching them as they start to use more positive language choices.
Many families find it helpful to give them an alternative word to use like “fudge” or “chicken lips”. Have fun with it!
5. Give them appropriate freedoms
The more controlled kids feel, the more likely they are to lash out in inappropriate ways. By giving your kids, no matter what their ages, more independence and the ability to make their own choices (and feel the consequences) you are creating a great environment for cooperation.
The best way to see if this works is to try it out! Nervous about letting go of the reins a bit —which I know can be hard when we feel like our kids are not ready to make their own choices. This podcast and Dr. William Stixrud’s book, The Self-Driven Child, are great places to start.
6. Work to Establish Open communication
All behavior is communication. Your teen’s swearing is a sign that they may be communicating their upset to you in a way that will get your attention – but they are just not able to express, in an appropriate way, what is upsetting them.
Let your teenager know that you are open to listen to them anytime about anything. Be clear that they will not get in trouble for telling you something, but that you will work with them to try to solve the issue. You can start at any point in your relationship to create a safe and non-judgemental space where your teen feels comfortable expressing themselves.
It may be difficult to listen to them without interrupting or dismissing their thoughts and feelings. Let them know you are trying and doing your best, too. Show empathy and understanding when they discuss their challenges and emotions, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their point of view.
Remember, your goal is not to control their language but to guide them towards making more positive choices.
7. Use other forms of communication
There are times when your teenager may be more comfortable using other forms of communication to talk to you. While face to face conversation is definiteyly a skill you want to work on with your teen, it does not have to be the only way you communicate.
Texting, using a particular messaging app or writing notes to you, may be good ways to communicate from time to time when face to face interactions may feel intimidating or overwhelming.
8. Promote Overall, Emotional and Physical Well-being
As your teenager navigates this stage of their life, it is crucial to prioritize their emotional and physical well-being. A teenager who is hungry, tired and feeling overwhelmed will have a hard time making appropriate language choices.
One way to promote emotional and phsycial well-being is to make sure your teenager is getting enough sleep. Sadly, screen time seems to be replacing sleeping time for many teenagers. Lack of sleep can take it’s toll on your teen and make them irritable, more anxious and depressed. It can become a vicious cycle and one that certainly can lead to an inability to control their language.
Another great way to promote well-being is by encouraging your teenager to engage in activities that help them manage stress and express their emotions constructively. Encourage them to find healthy outlets such as journaling, art, sports, or music. These activities can provide them with a sense of release and enable them to process their emotions in a more positive manner.
As always, leading by example is the best way to get teens to take better care of themselves, both physcially and emotionally. Show your teenager how to engage in activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or talking to a trusted friend or family member. By modeling these behaviors, you can teach them valuable strategies for managing their emotions without resorting to swearing or disrespectful language.
8. Seek Outside support
In addition to family support, consider exploring outside resources that can help support your teenager’s emotional well-being. This may include seeking the guidance of a therapist or counselor who specializes in adolescent development. A professional can provide your teenager with valuable tools and techniques to navigate their emotions in a healthy manner.
9. And repeat…..
Changing a behavior takes time, especially if your teen has been using foul language for awhile. These strategies can go a long way in taming the swearing, but, they will not change your kiddo’s habits overnight.
Realize that it will take time, keep at it and look for signs of improvement. Be sure to comment when your teen uses appropriate language.
But, what do i do in the moment?
Because the techniques mentioned are not an overnight fix, how do you deal with your teen’s foul language in the moment ?
You can walk away. Walking into another room sends a big signal that you do not agree with the behavior. Sometimes teens do not even realize what they have said. Be clear about why you are walking away. “I don’t like those words used in our conversation. come get me when you are ready to talk to me in a different manner.”
You can ignore it. If your teen is swearing to rile you up, ignoring it, will teach them this method of getting your attention does not work.
You can utter a simple, calm phrase in the moment, “I don’t like it when you swear in front of me (In this house, etc) and just be done. Or, “Do I look like someone who likes swearing?” Any other words said will just dull the impact of a straight-forward phrase.
It can be difficult not to react to your teen’s language. But, the less you react, the better.
Dealing with your teenager’s swearing doesn’t have to be a constant battle. By focusing on one or two of the strategies we’ve mentioned here, as well as prioritizing connection, your teen will, in time begin to make better language choices. curb their fowl language.
As paretns of ADHD teenagers, if we strive to create an environment where our teenagers feel heard, understood, and supported, the rest will fall into place – eventually!!!