How to Help the Child Recognize the Inappropriateness of Offensive Language and Behavior


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


There is a prevalent use among the general population today of profanity and, what can best be described as, gross behavior. The way most of us seem to be reacting to this trend is to ignore it and say to ourselves, “There are more important things to worry about.” This may work for awhile but eventually we must face up to the fact that what we are, what are children are, is reflected by our language and our behavior.

There was a day when the uttering profanity and offensive behavior was associated with low places. We did not expect to experience such language or behavior in our every day experiences. We did not expect it to be discovered in our entertainment and normal conversations. But, that time has long past. We have become a society that seems to be accepting of almost anything.

For example, because I like the Dr. Seuss story entitled “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” I was anxious to take my children to see the feature movie that was made using this story as a base. I expected to have my children experience an uplifting story that demonstrated the importance of Christmas without gifts and decorations. Instead we were exposed to gross language and material that was unnecessary and crude. (When the Grinch chose to have the mayor of the town, who was asleep, interact with the dog in a manner that showed no respect or dignity, I recognized that I had made a mistake trusting film makers to be true to the original story. They took a beautiful message and debased it in ways that I could not even conceive before hand.)

But more disturbing then the movie itself was the fact that when talking about it with others no very few people seemed to notice these things. If I elaborated many acted as if the problem was not with the movie but with me. It is had to believe that we have become this accepting of filth.

I am not sure we as a society have become numb to gross communication because we are careless or calloused in the way they approach things or if they we have become accepting to a practice that tries to give strength to the way we approach communication with others.

What I am sure of is that that when profanity, bad language, or gross and un-respectful behavior is used there is a loss in our language that handicaps us and makes it impossible for us to communicate in ways that conveys conviction to noble causes. The use of such communication is like trying to kill bad flavor with heavy seasoning or an offensive odor with strong perfume. I am also sure that the English tongue is a powerful tool if a person uses it with direct simplicity without attempting to blast his or her way through with obscene, irreverent, or profane speech.

It is therefore important that we teach your children that when anyone accompanies things said with obscene, irreverent, or profane speech or behavior, he or she has weakened his or her ability to communicate sincerely and effectively. Tell your children that the Eskimos have a functional language which includes 26 different words to describe snow but this language has no “swear” words. An Eskimo must switch to English to use profanity. Profanity is not needed to effectively communicate. Profanity interferes with effective communication.

When I was a boy my Mom gently helped me learn that “bad language” was not for me. It was not for a Hindbaugh. If I experimented with language she thought was inappropriate she would say, “Dam, Dam, can’t you say Jam.” This was her simple, yet effective reminder, that I didn’t need the language I was using. Find your way of letting your children know that you are not impressed with gross or profane behavior or language.

One father taught this idea this way. When his children came to him and asked to go to a movie that was playing he asked them if it was a free of profanity and gross behavior. They said that it had some scenes that were questionable but that the message was a good one. He then told them he would discus this issue with them that night at the dinner table. That night at dinner, after they had eaten, he presented them with a special desert. It was some brownies he had made for them. He told them they were made the brownies with the best ingredients he could find. When he made the brownies he added a little dog poop. But he had not added much and he was sure it was ok because he had baked the brownies carefully.  He went on to tell them that if they could eat the brownies he had no problem with them going to a movie with just little grossness in it. None of the children chose to eat the brownies or go to the movie.

Work, in your own way, to let your children know that words or behaviors designed to gain attention, used in anger, used to dominate, or used to gain acceptance demonstrate immaturity. Let them know that such is not worthy of their consideration. Let them know that you feel the time they spend practicing to become a great profaner or a rude person is not worth the time spent. Do not lecture them about such language or behavior. It does no good and gives them something to argue about.

Instead, call a spade a spade and do not let yourself become lulled into believing that profanity or rudeness are insignificant and unimportant. Be aware of and champion principles of decent conduct and language.