INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE? WHAT NOW?
To Curse or Not to Curse? That is the question. I was talking it up with my son the other day, while he was playing his favorite video game: Minecraft. As I watched him play, I noticed his mood changed. You see my son was sitting right beside me, with headphones on, having a conversation with both me and his friends online.
I know..I know..what you’re going to say, “It’s impossible to multi-task and it’s not healthy,” but he was having a super intelligent conversation with me about eating clean, while playing this videogame.
While I didn’t have his undivided attention, I’ll admit that, I did notice he was listening to me, and appeared concerned with me sitting next to him. So, I asked my son “What’s wrong?” He said, “nothing,” as usual and I allowed him to continue on while I moved on to something else.
My son came to me later on that night and said, “Mom, do you know why I was looking like that earlier?” I said, “No…help me understand.”
He went on to tell me that he had one friend online that was using a ton of profanity during their game of Minecraft, and that was the reason for his headphones during our talk.
Now, parents, my son is 11. HALT (STOP SIGN emoji | Offense mode kicked in).
In my mind, the reaction I was preparing to give my son was one that eliminated game usage and restrictions from playing with that friend (because that’s the type of protective parent I am), but I quickly gave my mind time to settle with my heart and I thought, “…wow, here’s a kid that has been convicted of hearing profane language.” He knows we don’t tolerate profanity because it’s just not healthy for anyone speaking it or hearing it, but my kids are very privy to inappropriate language. When they hear ‘fool’ or ‘shut-up’ they turn their heads and say, “oooooooo.”
I was super appalled at the situation because I had just read a blog post by Ministry to Youth on How to Talk to Teenagers about Inappropriate Language (read blog here) and here was an opportunity to apply what I had just learned, less than 24hours ago.
It amazes me when we listen and become the student, how the teacher will always show up. I love that quote! And even more when I’m able to share and teach others to do the same.
So how DO YOU talk to teenagers about inappropriate language? And what is inappropriate language anyway? I’ve shared Ministry to Youth’s pointers above, but here are the 2 questions I asked my son to relieve his conviction and to help him discern whether playing with this friend was the best choice for him or not.
Q1: How did the language make you feel?
It doesn’t take much for your insides to turn whenever you see or hear something that doesn’t line up with your values. I call this “Holy Spirit Check”, but others may call it ‘intuition’ or a ‘gut feeling’. Whenever you’re in a situation where your teen curses or you accidentally allow something to slip yourself, ask: “How does this make me feel? How did it make the other person feel?” Now some of you may be thinking, “It made me feel GRANDIOSE!” Maybe so, but did that language do anything for you or the conversation? I mean really. Did it?
To my son, the language was offensive and unnecessary, especially because the way the ‘friend’ was using it. He was using it in a derogatory manner, and because the game was filled with many different players from all over the place, being sensitive to others and their views is extremely important when you’re in an unknown space. Now, my son played with this kid all the time, so he said, but this day was unusual for their relationship. I helped my son understand that language is a powerful universal tool of expression, but not everyone agrees on what’s inappropriate language or not, and that’s ok, but he has to decide what’s damaging to the standards that he set as an individual. Which leads to my next question:
Q2: What are your standards?
After my son thought long and hard about the first question, I went on to ask what are your standards? Why is this language inappropriate to you? He went on to say because we taught him that it was inappropriate, but outside of that, he really didn’t know. He knew that he didn’t like how it made him felt, but he could not explain the feeling. This is where I went on to apply what I had learned by Ministry to Youth. There are literally hundreds of words that could be classified as curse words, and most of those are context-dependent anyway. Developing a rulebook for all of them would be impossible to write, but as a person of faith, we always point back to scripture, which is where we develop our standards. The bible says: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths… – Ephesians 4:29, Let there be not filthiness nor foolish talk… – Ephesians 5:4, and Put away from you crooked speech… – Proverbs 4:24, to name a few.
To some, the bible is not a measurement tool, but to us, it’s authoritative in our lives as true words of wisdom. The world’s standards are ever changing. I could have this conversation with a thousand kids, and I’m pretty sure the results would be immeasurable because we don’t all have the same world view, but if we standardized with a higher authority, universal language becomes easier to decide on inappropriate or appropriate.
With all of that being said to my son, he was freed of his convicting feeling of “getting in trouble.” He felt empowered and wanted to express his feelings to his online friend, which leads to my next question.
Q3: What are you going to do about it?
My son ended that game, but before he decided too, he waited until it was just him and the friend and announced, “Dude, why are you cursing so much? What’s going on with you?” His friend apologized to him and said, “My bad dude, my mom is getting on my nerves.” NO LIE. This was the conversation I had with my son.
Now there are many ways to express concern, but my son chose the direct route. He wasn’t afraid to make his point known and show concern for the friend. That was brave of him and took mighty courage.
To wrap it all up, just remember to check your standards, and establish family values with your teens. This will help keep this on the right path, and always have a solid measuring stick that’s never-changing.
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