Dear Family Coach: I recently overheard my 13-year-old daughter and her friends talking, and they were using language I would never permit. It was one curse after another, after another. I am disgusted and bothered. We are a spiritual family that does not take the Lord's name in vain. What sort of disciplinary action would be appropriate? — Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: You're probably not going to like this, but here's exactly what you need to do: nothing. I repeat: Do nothing.
Parents are often flabbergasted to learn that their teenage children curse like sailors. Although it often brings mothers and fathers great pain, those junior high and high school years are all about experimentation. Children experiment with their thoughts, clothes, hair, diets and yes, they also experiment with language. They are trying out a variety of personas to find out who they are in the absence of their parents. To blooming young adults curses are exciting, dramatic, powerful and impactful. They elicit responses from friends and serve as piercing adjectives. It's actually not unlike a child receiving a shiny, new remote control car. He drives it around and around and around until he grows tired of it and moves on.
Odds are your daughter will quickly tire of cursing. Unless, that is, you make a big deal out of it. Freak out, and you are guaranteed to hear that language for some time. Pretend you don't hear it, and it will lose its charm in a jiffy.
Dear Family Coach: Don't take this the wrong way, but my son, who's a college senior, has been convinced by a professor that he should become a social worker. I don't see this profession as a viable future for him. I know that social workers make very little money. All he talks about is graduate school, and all I want to say is, "No! Anything but that." Am I being too harsh, or simply looking out for my child's future? — Successful Parents
Dear Successful: First, worry not about my feelings. I love my profession, even if you don't.
That said, you're being foolish and crossing the line. There are few things in this world that irk me more than parents who engineer their child's future. I see it all the time. Parents try to steer kids toward colleges and careers that would guarantee prestige, financial security and success. But what is best according to Mom and Dad might not be right for Junior. And the child ultimately turns into a resentful adult who is stuck in a life he didn't choose.
You may not have noticed, but your son is a grown-up. If you start treating him like one you will give him the tools to be have a successful future, whatever path he chooses. Your son wants to help vulnerable people for a living. I may be biased, but that seems pretty noble to me.
Let your son live his life and pursue what brings him joy because decades from now, if he's sitting behind a desk in a law office and miserable because of your pressure, you will have been successful in commandeering his life, but at what cost?
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.