My beautiful, poised, smart 17-year old daughter had a problem — she had become a casual and regular user of curse words. She must think it’s cool to use certain four letter words all the time. She used to do it only around her friends. But then she started slipping and using bad language at home including in front of her younger siblings. We tried lots of things to get her to stop; we scolded her; we grounded her; we docked her allowance; we limited her car use; we even started gently punching her arm once every time she let a swear word slip out. Nothing worked, and she started complaining that her arm was beginning to hurt!
I told her how coarse and common she sounded to those listening to her, and that she would have trouble if she continued to talk that way on her summer job or at college next year. Still nothing worked. Then it came to me that if only I could get her to see how she looked and sounded to others. So I came up with the idea of videotaping her. I left the video camera in the kitchen so I could just grab it and start taping when she lapsed into “street” language. At first, I thought it wouldn’t work because she knew she would be taped. But sure enough, after the first couple of days, she started using objectionable language in front of me, and I picked up the camera and started taping. And it happened more than once.
After three incidents, I showed her the tape. She said I had tried to fool her and make her look bad. I reminded her that she knew she would be taped. She insisted that the tape was not really an accurate portrayal because it strung together incidents that happened at different times. I shrugged, and told her the tape was a mirror of herself.
I have since stopped taping and we haven’t talked about the tape since I showed it to her. But I don’t have to. She is exercising much more self-discipline about her language (at least around us). I’m sure she’s not completely “cured,” but she is a lot more careful about what she says. I think she got the picture.