My 10-year old son’s swearing is out of control – and I don’t know how make him stop

You know how your children go through a series of phases, and some you want to last for ever and others you just wish would be over already? My 10-year-old has recently started swearing quite a bit at home and it’s causing us headaches. His bedroom is at the top of the house next to his 14-year-old brother, who regularly shouts and swears at the PlayStation with his friends. So his younger brother has started copying him – but doesn’t seem to know where to draw the line. 

The fact that our 10-year-old is autistic also means that he struggles to moderate or manage his behaviour. We have had, for example, a few instances where he’s been called out for swearing at school. He gets stuck doing something like trying to tie his shoelaces and lets out a string of expletives in frustration. Or he starts arguing with his brother and the swear words fly.

On the one hand, I have to say it doesn’t bother me that much, as I know my husband and I swear quite frequently and it’s not something I’ve got much of an issue with. But on the other, I worry that it creates the wrong impression of our son. It makes him sound like an angry, rude little tyrant when he is actually a sweet, sensitive and thoughtful boy most of the time. You wouldn’t know it when he is effing and blinding, though.

Our 10-year-old, like many children on the autism spectrum, also sees the world in black and white terms and he cannot understand why his older brother gets away with certain things and he doesn’t. He thinks it’s desperately unfair. I’ve tried to explain to him that, as with film ratings where some films are only suitable for older children and teenagers, the same applies to language.

I have told him that it is not acceptable for a 10-year-old to keep swearing and we reinforce this at home. I tell him to replace the swear word with another, less offensive one. Saying “blooming heck” rather than “bloody hell”, for example.

I’ve tried to stop his brother swearing, too, but if he’s playing a game with his friends on the PlayStation, I can’t keep jumping in and telling his friends off for swearing too, can I? Our eldest son would die of embarrassment if I did. They are teenagers and I know they behave differently with their peers. I swear when I am out with my friends too. What of it?

At school, they have been using social stories about swearing, which use pictures to help explain in simple terms why some language is and isn’t appropriate to our younger son. We are following the same approach at home and have told his teachers we will keep working on it.

I am really hoping it will be a relatively short-lived phase and not something our son will continue to do. It has really made me realise how much I casually swear without even thinking about it. Especially if I’m driving and someone pulls out in front of me. My road rage almost always involves swearing. My husband is just the same.

I realise we need to do better for our son and set a good example while he’s still young, although I know when he becomes a teenager it will be increasingly difficult to manage and moderate. So I’m not going to tear my f—ing hair out too much in the meantime.

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