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Straight Talk for Teens Is cursing at parents normal?

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Posted: Friday, October 19, 2012 7:10 am

Dear Straight Talk: A dear friend struggling with single parenting called to tell me that his daughter said, “F– you,” to him at dinner. She is 14. I burst out laughing and told him welcome to raising teenagers. He is still mad at me. What should I have said? Isn’t this behavior typical of teens? — Cheryl, Santa Rosa

Kira, 20, Moraga: I probably would have laughed, too! Ouch. Your friend needs to know that his daughter was speaking in the heat of the moment. I’ve never said, “F– you,” to my parents, but I have said, “I hate you.” Most teens have a phase of blaming their parents for making their lives miserable. Eventually they realize it’s for their own good and all is forgiven.

Justin, 25, Redding: I never said anything like that to my parents for fear of consequences — and out of respect. They did kinda pay for everything when I was 14. Plus, you don’t understand the weight of your words at that age. I know a father whose son once told him, “I hope you burn in hell.” Those words still sting.

Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: At my house, if I swore AT my parents I would be in trouble. But for general swearing, like stubbing your toe, they don’t mind.  

Brandon, 20, Mapleton, Maine: My sister and father get in swearing fits quite often. Nothing physical ever ensues — which is why teens feel comfortable telling parents to do things that, as Clint Eastwood once said to an empty chair, he couldn’t possibly do to himself. My mouth is pretty common for kids my age (somewhere between an Irish sailor and a Polish truck driver), but most people have no idea because I control it. I doubt I will swear at my father again. I’ve come to realize it is disrespectful and my dad is more than just “that guy who raised me.”

Akasha, 18, Los Angeles: I have never said anything of that sort to either of my parents no matter how mad I’ve been. It is rude and hurtful. I’ve heard friends on occasion say it to their parents and I’ve given them a piece of my mind.

Colin, 19, Los Angeles: Saying something like that to one’s parents is completely unacceptable in my opinion. Parents: Should it happen, it is best to refrain from going straight to consequences. Ask what’s wrong and hear your kid out before letting him/her know this isn’t acceptable. Whatever you do, don’t retaliate with more ill words.

Dear Cheryl: Words can slice worse than a knife — in addition to dampening humor. Your friend probably wasn’t expecting peals of laughter. Call him back and apologize. Brandon and Kira give excellent suggestions for what to say.

Is “F– you” a typical teen-to-parent diatribe? It sounds from the panel to be somewhat common, but not necessarily standard. (Whew.) If a teen does hurl this or other expletives, Colin is on the money. This is a parent’s opportunity to ask with genuine concern, “What’s going on, dear?” When adults respond with unconditional concern to acting out, followed by thoughtful consequences, (versus adding more trauma by being purely punitive), teens tend to open up about their problems, even apologize. —Lauren

Straight Talk TnT is a 501c3 nonprofit (“social-profit”) organization. To ask a question or join our work, visit www.straighttalkTnT.com. or write P.O. Box 1974, Sebastopol, CA 95473.

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