Dirty Words: How To Avoid The Principal’s Office

Author of 4 books, podcaster, parent trainer, wife and mother.

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As parents it's easy, in our fast-paced lives, to overlook a critical reality- our children are watching us, listening to us, and emulating us. Our words and our actions matter more than we think.

You might be wondering why so many of my posts start out with a phone call from the principal. I’ve been wondering that lately too. Is that dreaded phone call something every parent fears or is it just big families, adoptive families, special needs families? Maybe I’m more sensitive because of the items listed. I have a suspicion though, that I’m not the only mom who is afraid of being exposed at the principal’s office.

Usually the phone call goes something like this. “Mrs. Berry, it is really important for your son to stop rolling on the floor during story time.” Or, “Mrs. Berry, we need to talk about your son’s incessant humming, chewing, clicking, whispering, hand-licking, food hoarding.” It might even be, “Mrs. Berry, have you considered retaining your daughter?” These phone calls are hard because they highlight my children’s special needs. These conversations make me want to cry because this is the time we have to talk about the difficult things. The private things my children would rather not visit.

If I’m being truthful, I have to admit that despite my sensitivity I’m thankful that none of my children’s behaviors are actually my fault. I am not the one who drank or used drugs while my sons were in the womb. I am not the one who neglected to feed my daughter when she was a toddler. I’m not the one who designed my son to have autism. In fact, usually these phone calls are hard to begin with but end in a re-visitation of my child’s IEP, a modification to my child’s classroom or a commitment to send my son with elastic waistband pants so he will stop trying to remove his jeans halfway through the day.

None of these behaviors are my fault! Well, until today.

I noticed the missed call from the school and sighed. I dialed the principal back on her direct line. As I waited for her to pick up, I went through a list in my mind of what could be going wrong today. Maybe I packed the kind of bread my son doesn’t like. Maybe my daughter was staring into outer-space. Maybe my son brought his entire acorn collection to school, again. As my imagination was running wild, she picked up the line. Sternly she said, “ Mrs. Berry, your son was on the playground today and he said $&#@ #$@^&!” I nearly dropped the phone. “He says he heard those words on the bus, he will have a consequence at school tomorrow. I knew you would want to know because you don’t allow your kids to talk like that.” “Yes ma’am, thank you,” I stuttered back.

Here’s the thing, I know exactly where he heard that word.

That morning I scrambled to get my 4 little ones ready for the bus. I asked my niece no less than 12 times to put her shoes on. I reminded my son approximately 20 times to keep his hands to himself. I checked no less than 4 toothbrushes to see if they had actually been used. I took my kindergartner’s blankey out of his backpack at least 5 times. I fed the dogs quickly and looked out my back window. I gasped (by gasped I mean swore.) Our garbage can had tipped over in the middle of the night and trash was covering every inch of our yard. The wind was pinning papers to the fence. Trees clung to the edges of plastic bags. The dogs had demolished any stinky morsel they could find. It was a mess, and so was my language. I knew I had to get the kids on the bus and head immediately to a day filled with doctor’s appointments for my older child. The day passed and my attitude improved…Then I got the phone call.

As I hung up with the principal I prayed about how I would handle my son’s infraction. I waited at the end of the driveway as the bus pulled up. Three happy kids tumbled toward me and one very sullen little boy. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said, “I know mom. I’m sorry.” Just then, I knew what to do. “Go get your warm jacket on, and meet me in the back yard.” He did and when we got outside I crouched down, put my hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eye, “We both said some pretty dirty words today and this is a dirty job we have to do. While we clean up all this trash, let’s remember not to say those dirty words again.” His eyes welled up and he hugged me. Thanks mom. I love you.

We cleaned up all that trash. He served a consequence at school. I learned how important it is to watch what I say in front of my tiny little listeners.

Have you learned an important lesson like this in your parenting? Share your story with us.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.