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Should I let my 12 year old cuss?

Whether or not to allow a 12-year-old to use curse words is a common dilemma many parents face. On one hand, curse words are often considered inappropriate, especially for pre-teens. On the other hand, setting too many restrictive rules around language can backfire. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue. Below are some quick answers to key questions parents often ask when deciding if their 12-year-old should be allowed to curse:

Is it normal for a 12-year-old to curse?

Yes, it is fairly common for 12-year-olds to experiment with curse words, often picking them up from friends, media, or older siblings. According to research, the average age when kids start swearing is around 11 or 12.

Are curse words harmful for a 12-year-old to say?

Occasional cursing is unlikely to be harmful by itself. However, frequent use of vulgar language at a young age could indicate deeper issues like aggression, impulsivity, or peer pressure. Cursing can also lead to punishments at school.

Will allowing cursing cause my child to lose respect for me?

Not necessarily, as long as boundaries are clearly set. Let your child know there are still rules, like avoiding curse words around certain authority figures. Overall respect is built through your consistent parenting style.

Could cursing get my child in trouble at school?

Yes, most schools prohibit vulgar language, even among students. Let your child know you expect them to avoid cursing at school to prevent disciplinary action.

The pros and cons of allowing a 12-year-old to curse

Deciding whether to permit a 12-year-old to curse involves weighing several pros and cons. Here are some of the key considerations:

Pros of allowing cursing:

  • Lets your child express themselves and fit in with peers
  • Allows you to monitor language use in a safe space
  • Reduces the allure of “forbidden words”
  • Encourages open communication without judgement

Cons of allowing cursing:

  • May indicate loss of parental authority
  • Could lead to increased disrespectful language
  • Sets a bad example for younger siblings
  • Gives teachers one more reason to punish your child

On balance, most experts recommend setting some boundaries around cursing, but not an outright ban. The key is teaching your child when and where curse words may be acceptable vs. unacceptable.

Rules and guidelines to set around cursing

If you decide to permit limited cursing by your 12-year-old, it’s wise to establish clear rules and guidelines. Here are some tips:

Choose “approved” vs. “forbidden” words

Sit down with your child and decide on a definitive list of approved vs. unacceptable curse words. Explain why certain vulgarities are completely off limits.

Set limits around when and where cursing is allowed

Make it clear that cursing is only permitted during specific times (like when hanging out with friends) and places (like home, but not grandma’s house).

Teach situational appropriateness

Discuss how language that’s fine among friends may be inappropriate in other social contexts like school, family events, or around little kids.

Lead by example

Monitor your own cursing around your child. Model the polite language you want your child to use.

Explain consequences

Let your child know that privileges will be lost if they abuse their cursing privileges or break your language rules.

Praise proper language use

Notice and compliment your child when they speak respectfully without cursing in public or at family gatherings. Positive reinforcement matters.

Handling cursing at different ages

The approach to cursing should evolve as your child matures. Here are some age-specific guidelines:

Under 10 years old

Kids under 10 should avoid curse words altogether. At this age, firmly tell your child cursing is unacceptable and subject to consequences like losing privileges or time-outs.

10-12 years old

During the pre-teen years, you can start allowing restricted use of minor curse words at home. Make your rules and limitations clear.

Teenage years

Expect cursing to increase as your child exerts independence. Stick to prohibiting racial slurs, misogynistic terms, or words intended to harm others.

18+ years old

Once a legal adult, your child will likely have free reign over their vocabulary. Still, encourage thoughtfulness about cursing in front of elders, little kids, or in professional settings.

Alternatives to cursing

When setting boundaries around foul language, suggest acceptable alternatives your child can use to express strong emotions:

  • Darn, dang it, goodness, geez, yikes
  • I’m so ticked off, I’m so upset, I’m so angry
  • This stinks, this is awful, this blows
  • Oh no, oh heck, oh snap, oh shoot

Let your child know that finding more creative ways to voice frustration or anger is a valuable skill. With time, they may not even miss cursing.

Handling cursing appropriately at school

If your 12-year-old does curse at school, handling it properly is key. Follow these steps:

  1. Don’t overreact, but explain why school cursing is inappropriate
  2. Ask your child to reflect on what led to the swearing
  3. Role-play better ways to handle strong emotions at school
  4. Accept consequences from the teacher without argument
  5. Follow up at home with loss of privileges based on your rules

With calm discipline and modeling of wiser choices, your child will learn from their mistakes.

Talking to other parents about cursing

When discussing the cursing dilemma with other parents, be honest yet tactful. Say you are trying to find a middle ground approach. Don’t condemn parents who make different choices. Share your rules and rationale, and listen openly to theirs too. If cursing arises around both your kids, politely ask them to limit foul language in the moment. Finding common ground is key.

Getting professional help with excessive cursing

Most pre-teens go through a phase of testing out naughty words, but then settle down. If you feel your child’s cursing has become excessive, pervasive, or aggressive, consider consulting a child psychologist. They can evaluate if foul language points to issues like bullying, trauma, low self-esteem, oppositional defiance, or impulse control disorders. With family therapy, your child can learn to express themselves in healthier ways.


Allowing some curse word privileges with boundaries and guidance can let a 12-year-old feel respected. But it’s still wise to prohibit language meant to hurt others, overuse of vulgarities, or cursing in inappropriate settings. Model polite speech, set Expect occasional mistakes and oversteps as your child learns when cursing is acceptable vs. unacceptable. With time and maturity, their judgment around proper language use will improve. Stay patient, set reasonable limits, and keep the communication door open. Your child will one day thank you for finding a balanced approach.

Age Recommended Approach to Cursing
Under 10 years Prohibit all cursing and set consequences for rule-breaking
10-12 years Allow restricted use of minor curse words at home only
Teenage years Permit cursing except for slurs or words meant to harm others
18+ years Your child dictates their own vocabulary, but encourage thoughtfulness

Key takeaways

  • It’s normal for pre-teens to start experimenting with cursing
  • Permitting limited cursing can build open communication with your child
  • Set clear guidelines on approved vs. forbidden words
  • Prohibit cursing at school to avoid discipline issues
  • Model respectful speech and praise your child when they speak politely
  • If cursing seems excessive, seek professional counseling