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The only thing within your control is a discussion with your kids; just because others speak in a certain way does not make it OK for the kids to speak that way. This is a tough concept for children, but a good lesson to learn. They will hear and see a lot of bad behavior in lots of places as they grow up. If they know there are rules for them to follow that other people ignore, they may be more apt to check boundaries and limits with you as circumstances present themselves.
Use those potty-mouthed parents as a cautionary tale for your children. My father always warned us that swearing like a sailor was hard to curb once you got going down that road and that the wrong word uttered in the wrong place to the wrong people would be ruinous. All that would be remembered, he said, was the bad word — not the thread of our conversation. I think of that often, and not just while overhearing young kids. There are many examples of the danger in not knowing right from wrong when it comes to words.
My nephew was called into the principal's office for using the f-word when he was only in first or second grade. "Where did you learn a word like that?" demanded the nun. "My grandma," he truthfully replied. He's now an English professor and seems to have weathered the bad influence with no ill effects.
"Definitely talk to your in-laws," says family therapist Fran Walfish, author of "The Self-Aware Parent" (Palgrave Macmillan). "And start by saying, 'We are so thrilled to be here and so happy that the kids get to see you and have such a special relationship with their grandparents.' "
Then cut to the chase. (Politely, of course. Without any cursing.) " 'I don't know if you know, but John and I have decided to talk about the things that are valuable and important to us and not using foul language is one of them,' " Walfish suggests. " 'We understand they're going to hear it in school and on TV and in the movies, but if we can prevent it from flying around the house and within the family, we would really like to do that.' "
Their reaction could range from contrite to incensed, and that's out of your control. But you've done your part to address the behavior.
Now, you have a chat with the kids.
"Whatever age they are, you can say, 'Listen, Grandma and Grandpa use a lot of profanity, and I can't tell them what to do. They're over 21. But in our house, we don't use it. I know you're going to hear it, but understand that our rules still apply within our house and our family,' " Walfish says.
And don't let the in-laws question your resolve on this — or any other matter that you value.
"Every person who has a child is given the right to parent that child," Walfish says. "The grandparents had their turn when they were raising their children. This time the right belongs to the parents."
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