A seven-year-old boy should be having his birthday at Chuck E. Cheese's, NOT Hooters ... but that's exactly what Dwight Howard's baby mama did for their son's 7th birthday.
"Basketball Wives" star Royce Reed, the boy's mother, posted the photo on her Instagram showing Braylon grinning from ear-to-ear ... and it probably wasn't because of the wings.
As TMZ first reported ... Howard is angling for full custody, while simultaneously being investigated for child abuse.
In court docs, Howard has accused Reed of exposing Braylon to sexual situations. Howard claims his son has witnessed Reed engage in sexual acts with her "numerous companions."
We're told Howard believes this photo is just the latest example of his son being exposed to sex.
A source close to Royce says her son's birthday party was at a Monkey Joe's bounce house earlier in the day -- with his classmates -- and she merely stopped at Hooters for food. The source also says Royce has never had any man in and out of her house, and has never exposed Braylon to sex.
A rep for Howard tells TMZ, "Dwight isn't going to engage in the back and forth about his son in the media. He only wishes that his mother would do the same and protect the boy instead of exposing him."