Written by Doctor G

Swearing Six Year Old

swear wordsMy almost 6 year old son has ADHD and curses every time he gets angry, frustrated and or doesn’t get his way. Unfortunately, our 3 year old daughter has picked up this horrible habit. What is the best way to deal with this behavior when time outs lead to more cursing and soap in the mouth leads to more cursing. We’ve tried ignoring and the above. This is so disheartening not to mention embarrassing.

Anonymous, in TX

This must lead to some very embarrassing, and sometimes really startling moments!

It seems that you respect the reasons your son often feels angry or frustrated. You are absolutely right that those feelings can’t excuse bad behavior, even if they are clearly the reason for his cursing. His ADHD or any other diagnosis can’t explain away the necessity of expressing himself in a way that other people can tolerate. And he can still learn to be a better example for his little sister.

I’m going to suggest that you ignore for a minute the fact that what he is yelling is swear words. Any screaming and disrespectful speech is probably not OK with you. So the behavior you want to change is disrespectful speech into respectful speech. You don’t need to (and can’t) change the emotions he is expressing. You just want to teach him what ways are OK to express them!

It’s hard for kids to focus on NOT doing something. It’s much easier to learn what TO do.

You need your son to learn to be angry AND respectful. He can do this.

1. You’ve decided on the behavior you want him to learn.

2. Now decide on the consequences of his using this new behavior (something positive) and continuing his old, poor behavior (something negative). If timeouts are a bad tool for your son, try something different. You might decide that being disrespectful will mean:

  • going home if you’re out (so other people don’t have to hear his disrespect)
  • leaving him alone in the room he is in (so your family doesn’t need to listen to his disrespectful speech)
  • turning your back to him until he is done ranting.
  • cancelling his next fun activity that day.


3. Talk to your son (with your parenting partner if you have one).

  • Explain to him the goal: We need you to learn to be respectful even when you’re angry.
  • Ask him to give examples of respect and disrespect.
  • Let him know what the consequences will be to his disrespectfulness. He may even have some ideas. Kids over the age of 5 can often tell you what the consequences should be if they break a rule, as long as you discuss it when they’re calm.
  • Let him know the consequences if he can stay respectful even when he’s angry.

4. Now the hardest part – stick to it. This will take weeks, maybe months, for him to learn. Be persistent. His disrespect may get worse before it gets better. Keep enforcing your consequences.

And try hard to catch him doing it right. If he gets even a little frustrated but manages to hold on to his temper, notice! Praise that effort and spend some extra time with him.

Lastly, you might consider having the same rules for your daughter. Let her know that those words are disrespectful, and just not OK.  The less of a reaction she gets, the quicker she will probably stop repeating the swear words.


Parents, how have you handled it when your kids speak disrespectfully to you?




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