You’d think the F-bomb would erode a relationship, wouldn’t you? I learned that it has the potential (after the initial reaction) to help build your relationship with your teen.

The expression “F-Bomb” is an official word in the dictionary now. In my generation, growing up in the 60s and 70s, you didn’t use that word with your parents… unless you were a serious risk-taker and rebel. I was ‘the good child’ in my family, and didn’t want to find out what would happen if I ever crossed that line.

Back then it had shock value, and was certainly linked to protests, drugs and the general upheaval of a generation. Now it’s another story. Our kids use it as an exclamation point, a substitute for the word ‘very’. And there’s the problem.

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When my son used the F-word, it triggered that response from my early years. All I could think was, ‘How dare you speak to me that way!” I’d react in a strong, negative way to such ‘crude, rude and disrespectful’ language.

Most of the time it had nothing at all to do with me. It was just him telling a story. But that word made me ready for a fight. And fight we did.

Then the magic happened. I calmed down enough to see what was really going on. We talked, and I explained why the language is such a hot button for me. While he didn’t agree with it, he did understand it. (I’ll take that 50% any day. I don’t have to be right as long as someone is willing to hear me out.)

Taking it one step further, this ‘language barrier’ became the issue, rather than whatever we’d been talking about or trying to accomplish. The F-word was all I could hear, and I shut down. I was taken by surprise, every time. My son understood this, and I came to understand how and why he used the word.

I still don’t like it, even as part of an everyday conversation where there is no offense or shock value intended. But I have a thicker skin about it, and he doesn’t react anymore when I occasionally give him ‘the look.’

Kids need more information. Whether they agree with it or not, information helps them understand and to see us as people with different backgrounds and experiences, not just in it to control them. My conversation with my son improved our relationship. It also modeled for him how we can calmly and effectively settle disputes and talk about difficult topics.

Yelling and hurt feelings will go on if you ignore the conflict that separates you. If you don’t talk about it, nothing changes. So think first, talk next, and move on. It worked for us.