I am at a loss as to what to do with my seven-year-old son. He constantly uses bad words. Occasionally, he uses curse words but mostly it is words like "dumb," "idiot," "stupid," etc. He says the words when he is mad and when he is bored...there is really no rhyme or reason.

At first I thought he was getting them from television shows and/or movies, since they even say these words in G rated movies. I have restricted viewing of any of these types of shows and/or movies, but this still continues.

I have tried soap in the mouth, spanking, time-out, taking things (like the Wii and DSi) away, paying quarters for each bad word said, etc.

My 5-year-old son does not use these words and he will tell his brother to stop. They both recognize that they are bad words. One chooses to use them and the other does not.

What should I do?

  • was "Year old" meant to read "7 year old" (as per title)? Id be impressed if your year old was using any language :)
    – Jamiec
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 10:23
  • 1
    My mother solved it in about 10 second flat with a bar of soap. I still remember the taste over 50 years later..
    – pojo-guy
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 0:17

4 Answers 4


Given his age he probably spends a fair amount of time in a school bus and with peers in school. These situations are rich sources of interesting vocabulary and he will actually need some of this just to keep up. That is perfectly normal at this age, and there is nothing you can do to totally prevent him from using this kind of words.

In our house we set clear rules about what language is acceptable, when other family members are around. The consequence was always "I don't want to hear these words. If you feel you must use them please do so in the privacy of your bedroom". In other words: time out until your done swearing. This is done quickly and without any further discussion or big drama. The first few times they went happily to their rooms and swore up a blue streak (which OF COURSE they know how to do) but after a while that gets boring and loses the "forbidden fruit" allure, so they stopped and went back to normal.

Personally, I feel spanking and soap in mouth are gross overreactions. You are physically manhandling the child for something that all of his peers and 95% of all adults are doing on a regular basis (which he certainly knows). Many kids want attention, even negative attention. By making a big deal out of this, you actually give him what he wants and encourage the bad behavior.


I have a 7-year-old daughter, she's started to pick up some rough language as well. There is no way we can prevent kids from learning bad language. Instead of focusing on some words as bad and others good, our approach is to focus on behavior. Saying a word isn't bad. But using it to hurt someone is.

So if my daughter says idiot out of context, I let it go. Sometimes with a soft reminder that she shouldn't ever call someone an idiot. If she calls someone an idiot (pretty rare) then she will get in big trouble for treating another person badly.

I've found that kids don't really get (or care about) the bad words argument, but they for sure understand the need to treat people nicely. So with this approach instead of trying to enforce a double standard (some words are ok for adults but not kids) you can teach a valuable lesson "words can hurt - we don't treat people that way".

Since your son "says the words when he is mad AND when he is bored" sounds like he's not hurting anyone - it's a pretty sure sign that he is doing it specifically to get your attention. So when you step back it's kinda nice that he still wants attention (not a teenager yet) but of course you don't want to encourage the language. Suggest using the occasion to give him some positive attention - talk about how those words can hurt people, how you trust him to treat people well, etc.


Praise one child for his good behaviour and ignore the other. I think he will soon realise that showing positive behaviour is the only way to achieve some attention. I have the same situation with my daughter. Its difficult as she is an only child and that makes it difficult as her behaviour is always under the microscope. One thing I have learnt is, it's all about repetition. As parents we constantly need to repeat what is acceptable and what is not. Just know that you are a good parent and one can only try their best. Best of luck.

  • Hi, Tahira, and welcome to the site. Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 19:21

How about giving your other child a reward for NOT using bad language and tell your 7 year old that the same rewards are available to him?

  • Given that instant feedback works best for kids, how do you actually measure the "not"? A daily review is not "instant" but one could argue that hourly isn't either, and you wouldn't want to give a reward every five minutes of course. Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 14:23

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