Don't underestimate the power of language, Rabbi Shmuley says. "Hearing bad words defiles a child's core humanity—it makes them coarse and vulgar," he says.
What to do if you're a parent who uses bad language:
- Don't. Never use bad language in front of children—no excuses.
- Don't permit double-standards. "Let children know that there is only one standard for bad language for parents and children in the family—clean, refined language," Rabbi Shmuley says. It won't work if children aren't allowed to say bad words but you as the parent are.
- Talk about it. If you do use bad language, you must immediately call a family meeting, Rabbi Shmuley says. "Tell the children why you used the word, why it is still wrong and why there is no excuse for using it," he says. Make clear that there is no allowance for that kind of behavior in the home, even for parents.
- Apologize. "Say how sorry you are," Rabbi Shmuley says. It's important to apologize to model the correct remedy for bad language.
- Stop. "Immediately stop what you're doing and go reprimand them," Rabbi Shmuley says. If you're driving, pull over to the side of the road; if you're on the phone, get off. Immediate action will show the gravity and enormity of the offense, he says.
- Enact consequences. There must be immediate repercussions and some form of punishment to let the child know you're serious. "Spell out exactly what will happen if they do it again," Rabbi Shmuley says.
- Get an apology. Even after a punishment, you must make the child apologize, Rabbi Shmuley says. The child should be able to say what they did wrong and ask to be forgiven.
- Follow through. Keep your word about the child's punishment.
"Language is the bridge that connects our minds and hearts with the outside world. Using vulgar expressions coarsens our soul, vulgarizes our spirit and builds a rickety and unreliable bridge."