Can you stop your friends from cursing so much?

sldholt asks: I am going to middle school this fall and I follow some people from the middle school and they curse ALOT. I never ever ever ever curse. I am now worried that I am going to be very uncomfortable at a very good school I’m very exited about. I am even uncomfortable with my friend cursing.

Hi sidholt –

I don’t speak with words, I bark. But I definitely use bad language at times. Like when I see a squirrel or a dog I don’t like outside my window. Or, worst of all, a cat! Oh do I use nasty language then!

So it would make me a pretty big hypocrite to sit here and tell you or your friends never to use bad language. But I will make one suggestion: A lot of people aren’t willing to pay the consequences when they do use them, so your rule of not saying them is pretty smart!

For example, if I bark my worst at some dog walking by, and then I should suddenly find out that he’s not on a leash, and he didn’t care for what I said, I might find myself suddenly on the losing end of a very unpleasant experience. Or if Handsome is peacefully napping, and I suddenly hear a cat two blocks away and decide that that cat needs to hear what I think of her, Handsome is likely to get very angry with me, and might just “accidentally” forget to give me dinner that night!

Where I see kids (and some adults) get in trouble with bad language is that they don’t use it correctly. Walking around all day using this word and that to show how tough you are? It doesn’t work. It makes you look dumb, as if you can’t think of anything cleverer to say. (I’m guessing this might be the case with your friends)

Calling your teacher or your mother a bad name? Okay, that’s really dumb. You’re going to get in lots of trouble, and you haven’t really accomplished anything for it.

And if you use bad language all the time, you’re going to accidentally use it at a time you really don’t want to. So my advice is to use it very sparingly, if at all. You know, like when you see a cat.

Oh one other thing. I remember once, Handsome walked into the street to talk to someone who was driving a van, and they stopped at exactly the point when a wheel was on top of his foot. And it hurt, a lot. And Handsome wanted to tell them that they needed to pull forward just a bit, to move the wheel off his foot. But he couldn’t say that. He couldn’t do anything but keep saying one very bad word, over and over! I mean, he couldn’t say anything else! For me, it was hilarious. But for him… well, I’ll bet he wished he’d been able to say other words!

But your question isn’t really about whether or not you should use them – you’ve got that worked out – but about being around them.

Well, this is a case of

bravery. Middle school is a time in most people’s lives when they care an especially huge amount about acceptance by their friends, and being members of their group. But can you be tough enough to say, “I like you guys, and I want to hang out with you and do the things you do, but I’m just not going to say those words?” It’s not easy, I know. But if you can, it’ll make you cooler than you even know!

You see, here’s the deal. In any group of friends, while everyone will share many qualities, everyone will also be very aware of what’s different about each of them: “He’s the tallest, he’s the one who loves old-school rap, she’s got the darkest eyes, that one’s really good at math, oh and that one’s religious.” These aren’t usually things anyone minds – they probably think it’s really cool that he has some early Grandmaster Flash on vinyl!

And that can be you. Others in the group could say, “Oh that sidholt, one cool @&#*%(#. You don’t want to #@$% with sidholt, who’s smart and funny as &#%^. But sidholt doesn’t curse.”

The only way for you to achieve this, though, is to absolutely stick to your rule of never cursing.

Now, though, about your discomfort about them cursing… that’s a tougher one. You see, you have no way to force them to live based on your rules. So you have to make a decision – are you willing to be around them while they talk the way they do? You can earn enough respect from them to where they accept you being the way you are, but you have to decide whether you respect the way they act.

And if you don’t, I have no doubt you’ll be able to meet other kids at school who don’t talk that way, and that’ll be okay.

But if you are able to tolerate them, and their language, there’s a really good chance that something very funny will happen over time. Which is that they’ll start noticing that you are actually cooler than they are, in your insistence to not speak badly – and they’ll start cleaning up their language, to talk more like you!

Am I saying they’ll never curse again? Probably not – just like me, they’ll erupt at times when they can’t come up with any other words. But you’ll likely reduce the potty-mouth in their conversations a lot.

If you choose to do so!

Best of luck,


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