Straight Talk Advice

Oct 10, 2012

Is cursing at parents standard fare for teens?

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, Calif.

Kira 20, Moraga, Calif. Ask me a question

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, Calif. Ask me a question

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, Calif. Ask me a question

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.

Brie 21, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

My parents and I fought frequently at that age. I didn't exactly say, “F– you,” but I definitely swore at them. It's pretty typical.

Brandon 20, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

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.”

Regarding your friend, call him back. Tell him how tough parenting a teenager can be. Many single dads struggle with their daughters. I know my dad does. As a woman, you might have advice for him. Or just be there for him.

Akasha 18, Los Angeles Ask me a question

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 Ask me a question

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?” (Because trust me, there IS something stressful going on or a child wouldn't be acting like this.) 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.

Editor's Note: Don't believe me? It works. And at least one high school principal is seeing astronomical decreases in negative behavior by responding with genuine concern when someone is sent to his office for saying "F– you" to a teacher (for instance, and since we're on that topic), rather than giving that student automatic suspensions like he used to do.

This principal, Jim Sporleder, is at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Wash., one of the toughest schools anywhere. He heard about how stress from adverse experiences (usually at home, it turns out), is actually toxic to a child's developing brain, making it physiologically impossible to learn. A realization exploded in his own brain that a kid's acting out was signaling his need for someone in authority to express concern about him, not get in his face and add more adversity.

I learned about Sporleder through ACES Too High. An "ACE" is an "adverse childhood experience," and the higher your ACE "score," the more you will have social-emotional problems such as addictions, acting out, violence, high-risk behavior, depression, isolation, suicidal thoughts, etc. The 17,000-person ACE study, done by the Center for Disease Control, is the largest and most important health study ever done. It is a breakthrough for understanding and responding to children who are experiencing toxic stress — and for showing how these same adverse childhood experiences, if left unhealed, lead to common diseases in adulthood.

I invite you to take the simple 10-question ACE test at and see what your ACE score is. Even a score of 1 is toxic and those with scores of 4 or higher, top the charts for at-risk behavior. Take the test, you'll get the picture — and, I hope, become a pattern breaker. We really can raise children with ACE scores of 0. And with kindness, we can bring healing to those with higher scores. To evolve and thrive as humans, this is a must, folks. —Lauren

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  1. By Lennon, age , from Los Angeles on 10/10/2012

    Parents find it cute when their babies repeat things, but when they grow up and repeat cuss words, they’re infuriated. Other kids are mimicking friends who openly curse at authority figures. Or there’s something else going on. What adults see as asinine, misinformed or disrespectful, a teenager sees as truth.

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  2. By Solteria, age , from Charlotte, NC on 12/04/2012

    Cursing at your parents is a definite no-no, no matter what the situation. Your parents are the ones that have brought you in life! You need to tell your friend’s daughter that cursing is a cruel thing to do to parents, especially if there is single parenting going on because being in a situation like that is hard for both the parent and the child(ren). If that doesn’t work out, she might have to learn the hard way, if you know what I mean. I never curse at my parents and if I did, I would get into serious trouble. Try seeing why your friend’s daughter curses so much and join your friend and help her block those sources so your daughter can stop swearing. I hope everything works out! :)

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  3. By Mitchell Cowell, age , from Charlotte, NC on 12/04/2012

    Cursing at your parents is a very bad thing to do because it just shows them that you dont respect them and that you don’t care about them. For me if i ever give my dad disrespect in any ways I would be punished.

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