Ditch the soap bar. There are better ways of cleaning up a “dirty” mouth.

The F-bomb that just slipped out of your son’s mouth caught everyone off-guard. But before you resort to extreme punishments or react angrily, keep things in perspective.

“Swearing itself isn’t a sign of a deeper behavioral issue,” says Kasey Davis, PsyD, ABPP, a clinical psychologist and program director of the Postdoctoral Fellowship in Pediatric Psychology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Parents may be concerned that it’s happening, but it isn’t a problem unless it’s persistent and associated with other behaviors, such as aggressiveness or lack of impulse control.”

The Power of Words

Dr. Davis offers the following steps to help tame your child’s tongue:

  1. Resist the urge to react. Wait until you or your child has calmed down, then address the incident.
  2. Explain to your child that words have power and that profanities can be offensive and disrespectful to others.
  3. Outline clear expectations and consequences for swearing, and stick to them.
  4. Set up a “swear jar” and make everyone contribute, not just the child with the swearing problem.
  5. Finally, watch your own language.

“Trying out new words is a normal part of development for kids,” Dr. Davis says. “The way you respond can either extinguish the habit or reinforce it.”

If bad behaviors are getting out of hand, call 314.454.TEEN, a free helpline for parents of teens from St. Louis Children’s Hospital.


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