Meera Srinivasan

Lecturing will not really work, try leading by example, says expert

CHENNAI: The use of bad language or expletives is no longer confined only to intolerant adults. Young adolescents are increasingly being accused of resorting to foul language when they get angry, agitated or plain excited.

Teachers across city schools acknowledge the growing usage of unpleasant language among high school students. "It is true. Though most of them are very well behaved in front of us, we hear of students using obscene language outside school. Sometimes, even parents come and complain," said principal of Santhome Higher Secondary School Br.J. Jesuraj.

Parents, on the other hand, said they didn't have much control over the way their children spoke or behaved. "Do you think she'll listen to me? I've given up," said a dejected mother of a Class 12 student going to a reputed city school. However, consultant paediatrician and adolescent physician Dr. S. Yamuna defended teenagers. Adolescents have a tendency to accept certain words as normal. "They may not even mean what they say."

Parents blamed their children's friends as well as the media. However, some students picked up bad words at home. "Modern-day parents are subjected to peer pressure in their pursuit of seeking higher materialistic comfort. In the bargain, their tolerance levels have hit a new low and abusive tendencies have increased," Dr. Yamuna says.

Parents and teachers say some teenagers use the same kind of language at home and school, while others follow double standards. With friends, they use words that would not be accepted at home. Low self-esteem can also be a factor. Psychologist S. Thenmozhi recalled counselling a student recently whose parents complained of her temper tantrums. The girl suffered from chronic depression. After a few sessions, she confided in Ms. Thenmozhi. She had been deeply hurt and insulted by a teacher who criticised her examination performance, telling her, "Go hang yourself."

What works

Would lecturing them in school assemblies, scolding them at home, cutting their daily quota of pocket money or denying them something they're fond of help prevent foul language? No, says Dr. Yamuna. It is more important for parents and teachers to win the confidence of their child. "Adults should lead by example," added Dr. Yamuna.