This week my 11-year-old son revealed to me through casual conversation that another student at his middle school cursed him out. He says the kid called him a m----- f----- and a b---h. I wasn't all that shocked by what I heard because both he and my elementary school-aged daughter say they hear kids cursing at school almost daily. How sad is that? I was angered, however, by the level of disrespect the other kid showed my son. My son is a low-key, laid back, reserved kind of child. He doesn't ruffle other people's feathers; neither does he let much get under his skin. So I was immediately ticked off to hear him tell me as an aside that this other child had said these hateful things to him. I asked him what he did when the boy said it, and he said nothing. He just ignored him. I asked him how it made him feel, he said it didn't matter. I was glad he didn't react to that kind of foolishness, but I was also a bit flustered that he couldn't. I say "couldn't" because we teach our kids to stay away from useless, meaningless, controversy. However, just because we've taught ours to do so, doesn't mean that other parents have done the same. As a result, to avoid getting into a physical altercation, the peaceful kids have to endure garbage from the ones looking for a fight.
One of the reasons kids curse is because they hear it at home and from other adults who make an impression on them. Their parents probably talk to them and other people in that manner so they imitate. They may hear grandparents, older siblings, uncles and aunts, neighbors and friends drop f-bombs like it's a part of daily conversation. It's their world. Of course they hear profanity lots of other places too as do my kids even though we don't curse at home. But for a kid to call someone a filthy name unprovoked is usually the result of how they are addressed. Somehow they think it's okay to show that kind of disrespect because somebody along the way made them think it was okay. There was no correction. There was no boundary. The issue for me as a parent who is trying to teach my kids how to respect others and themselves is how to help them to not allow others to disrespect them. I almost wanted my son to say, "Hey dude, don't talk to me that way. I don't know you, and you don't know me so don't call me anything other than by my name." Something as simple as that could spark an all out brawl so it's oftentimes best to keep quiet. But does that mean my son is permitting others to disrespect him?
Fortunately, my son doesn't have to see this kid often. My son is in a magnet program at a large middle school where he is separated from the general school population. He is with other honors students whose parents are trying hard to raise respectful young men in an increasingly vile and violent world. As with any life lesson, we parents should want our kids to know that they don't have to permit other people to denigrate them. But how do you teach that lesson?
I'm interested in hearing how you would handle it. Leave your comments below.