Dear GEG:

My son, Bobby, and his grandfather love spending time together, but I’ve noticed that his grandfather (my ex-husband’s father) often curses around Bobby. I’ve asked him to stop, and I believe that he’s trying, but he’s a retired Marine, and he says it’s “just who I am.” I’ve tried to be understanding, but Bobby’s first grade teacher just sent a note home saying that he’s used a couple of his grandfather’s favorite, four-letter words in her class. Is it wrong of me to restrict his visits until his grandfather stops the foul language? What would be your next step?

Carol from Florida  


Hey Carol,

So grandpa is a Jarhead, huh? Well I can probably speak on this subject better than most. Marine blood runs thick down both sides of my family. I was raised by one, and I happen to be one myself. That means I’m going to take your father-in-law’s side, right? WRONG! The way I see it, you’re 100% right and he’s 90% full of sh… um…crap. Here’s what I think:

WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT: He’s your ex’s dad, but you’re still going out of your way to let your son spend time with his grandfather. That’s good. When you saw that you’re father-in-law was cursing around your son, you took action and tried to get grandpa to fix the problem. That’s very good. You haven’t over-reacted; you’ve given him ample time to get his act together. Very good again. But now that his behavior is having a negative effect on Bobby, you recognize that something more has to be done and you’ve asked a leather-neck for advice on how to deal with a leather-neck, which is about the best thing you could have done in this situation!

WHAT GRANDPA’S DONE WRONG: If all you had to do was curse , talk loud , and wear a uniform,  then you wouldn’t know the United States Marine Corps from United Parcel Service, but there’s a reason only a few men ever earn the right wear the dress blues. What truly makes a Marine, the world’s most dangerous weapon, the most formidable enemy, and some of the best men on the planet, is that they are taught to improvise, adapt, and overcome any and every obstacle necessary to accomplish a mission. We don’t lose; we just keep changing until we win. Your father-in-law is telling you that being a Marine is the reason he can’t alter his behavior. The truth is, if he loves his grandson and wants to be a positive role model in his life, then being a Marine is why he’ll have no problem adjusting to fit his situation. It’s what we do.

AND BOBBY?  The reason I say Grandpa is only 90% wrong is that Bobby has the other 10%. He’s young, impressionable, and is probably just using the potty mouth to get some attention. However, at six, he’s also old enough to know what language is acceptable and which isn’t, so make sure he understands that choosing to use that kind of language has negative consequences. Or better yet…

THIS IS GRANDPA’S MESS… LET HIM CLEAN IT UP: Show the teacher’s note to your father-in-law. If the teacher has asked for a conference, take him along so he can explain to the teacher that it’s “just who I am”. Then, have him explain to Bobby that children shouldn’t use those words and that adults shouldn’t say them either, especially around children. Have him also explain that, if Bobby uses them again at school or anyplace else, that he will be grounded to his room which will mean spending less time with Grandpa. This will probably be a wake-up call for both of them. Follow through with the punishment if the language continues, but I’m betting it doesn’t. If he really loves his grandson, watch how quickly a devil-dog learns new tricks.

Tell your father-in-law I said “Semper Fi” and to leave all that cursing to the sailors!

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William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing. Follow him on Twitter @goodenoughguy1.