It happened in the middle of a 90s movie marathon during a snowstorm last year. It is shocking to have been raised in that generation and not remember the amount of profanity in movies I’d deemed as classics. Midway through The Sandlot, a legendary baseball movie from my childhood, it happened and we couldn’t stop it.

“Ooooohhhhh Mama, he said a bad word!” my son exclaimed, proud of himself for recognizing it.

I tried to brush him off with an, “I’m sure it just sounded that way,” when he rightly pointed out that the captions on our TV that my 2-year-old had activated and I’d not yet figured out how to remove, confirmed his theory.

“Yes, they did. See, it’s right there: S-H-I . . .” he spelled out the word he had heard and read from the screen.

Our son just turned seven and he has a range of behavior, anxiety, and sensory diagnoses. I’ve learned from parenting him through Oppositional Defiant Disorder, particularly, that giving attention to this type of comment would only solidify its reappearance later. So, I just praised him for his excellent job reading the words on the screen and reminded him that he was right about it not being a nice word to say.

We moved on without another thought about it.

My son says curse words and here’s why I don’t freak out about it.

To be clear, we do not curse in front of our children. However, we can’t control everything. He may hear something on the playground, in class, or even at church (gasp!).

When you are parenting extreme children, much like any neurotypical child, you choose your battles. However, some actions taken by children not suffering from diagnosis like ADHD or ODD, may warrant a punishment or correction with a statement like our son’s exclamation of “the S-word’” while parents might be better off dismissing something like this with children with mental health diagnosis.

Our son is prone to aggressive meltdowns and outbursts of yelling and hurling insults while his brain struggles to grasp at any ability to control his impulses. If he is constantly reprimanded for small words that all boys think are hilarious (think “butt” and “poop”) than the words we’ve deemed curse words in our household would be the ones he’d revert to in these times of intensity instead, since he inadvertently shouts the things he thinks of first. So, if we’ve placed an emphasis on those words in our home as “off-limits” then he will be more likely to jump straight to those.

As a parent and a long-time educator, dismissing my son pointing out profanity when he hears it is not my first instinct. However, our son has said curse words after hearing them and we still don’t freak out.

It is more important that my husband and I choose to endure the judgmental glances of others within earshot in public as we confirm that he has identified an unkind word and then move along with whatever we were doing before the profane vocabulary. We know the repercussions if we were to cause a big scene over something like that. So, we keep it moving.

Judge on, if you must. We have to put this in the category of “We Know What Is Best for Our Child”.

Thankfully, we are two years in to his first audible declaration of a curse word and he has yet to choose to use those against us in the midst of a meltdown. We hope, like all parents, that we can validate his emotions and teach him coping skills that will allow him to mature and develop strategies that work for him as he grows up, while ensuring that he understands his first priority is to be kind. That means offering kindness in all situations, with all people, regardless of word choice.  

Brynn Burger

I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, a friend, a writer, a lover of all things outdoors, and sometimes a shell of my former self. Parenting a child with behavior disabilities has become both my prison and my passion. I write so I can breathe. This is my therapy. I hope that my violent vulnerability and use of humor will help you to power through this with me. It is the only way I know.