Sometimes kids swear.  Instead of being appalled, Michelle Thompson, Ph.D., JDsuggests we listen and by doing so we just might get more of an answer to how our teenagers are doing than simply “fine.”


I just spent the week away from my family and all went well.

For Veteran’s Day, my 13-year-old son had some friends over to play games with him and alleviate the loneliness of being an only child. And come over they did, some friends from his school soccer team.

My partner removed herself from the room to give them space to play.

What a great thing!

And she was appalled at the language they used. Yep, his friends are swearing (lest she thinks any foul language is my fault . . .), and they’re not interested in anything else aside from video games and their phones. No discussion of girls, pornography, or drugs.

We’re safe for the next 5 minutes. Then again, most of them are still pre-pubescent.

My partner was a little upset though because she chafes at foul language.

I LOVED using foul language the minute I could when away from home when I was 12.

But that’s not the point. No matter how difficult it seems to have these young people over, it is critical. For a family who has not the patience to homeschool, this is the only way we get a more unvarnished window into their lives. What matters to them? Why does it matter? What are the challenges? What are the joys?

I know that I can’t get answers to these questions asking “how was school,” as the proverbial “fine” gets me NOTHING. He won’t swear like a sailor when checking in!

But hearing how they play with language, what they are focused on, what they love, and what they hate matters.

Right now, they love foul language.

We get to debrief with James about what they’re saying and hear what he’s thinking.

I told my partner to think of this as a big old research project. She’s an academic. We love research. Let’s do it!

The window is closing in terms of us getting to have James and his friends with us. I want to keep it open as long as possible. I want our house to be where the kids hang out. I want to listen in on what they’re doing and saying. This could be the key to heading off any future difficulties.

Michelle Dionne Thompson, Ph.D., JD is the Founder and CEO of Michelle Dionne Thompson Coaching and Consulting, a primarily coaching business that works with women in law and academia to set and meet aligned goals sanely in the midst of insane industries. A recovering lawyer and a historian, she also teaches college and is writing her first book, Jamaica’s Accompong Maroons (1838 – 1905): Retooled Resistance for Continued Existence.