How far can a parent go when disciplining their child? That question is now being asked in a trial that has been making the news this week. Jessica Beagley of Anchorage, Alaska has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse for the unconventional way she has been punishing her seven-year-old adopted son. These punishments have included putting hot sauce in the boy’s mouth and making him stand in a freezing cold shower. The mother had previously submitted a home video of her doing these things to the Dr. Phil show, in an effort to get help. In the video, she was upset that the boy had gotten into trouble at school and then lied to her about it. Now prosecutors are saying that these punishments are not reasonable and are tantamount to child abuse.
Discipline is an area that often causes great controversy. What some consider normal punishments may be child abuse to others. Where do we draw the line? If a child uses foul language, can you literally put soap in their mouth? If they lie, can you make them eat hot sauce? If they experiment with smoking, can you force them to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes in one sitting? Unreasonable, yes, but at least those punishments relate to the crimes, and make some kind of logical sense. But what is the point of the hot sauce? “Your tongue is on fire with lies, so now it will be on fire with Morton’s Hot Sauce Supreme!” And the cold shower for acting out in class?
“Since you gave your teacher the cold shoulder, may your shoulders be cold!”
I’m just trying to make some sense of all this.
Many parents act differently behind closed doors. Of course It’s always difficult to disciple a child while in public. It’s an oversimplification, but a good rule of thumb is that if you are ashamed to be doing something in front of other people, it’s probably not the right thing to be doing in the first place. We can now add that if you are embarrassed about the video of you now being shown on the Dr. Phil show and on the local news, it’s probably not something you should be doing as well.
With discipline, some say it’s up to the parents to determine what is right for them. That’s only true up to a point. Just as children will try to push boundaries, some parents will test acceptable limits in their own actions. It’s up to us as a society to determine where to draw the line, and where the overall acceptable and legal limits are. Now the jury in Anchorage will have to determine if the mom was indeed committing child abuse, or if she was just creativity using unconventional techniques in her attempt to control her adopted child.
What do you think, was this child abuse? Would hot sauce get you into hot water in your house?
Source: The Huffington Post
Honestly, unless the hot sauce was made from habaneros or hotter peppers (ghost peppers being the hottest in the world), then I don’t really consider it abuse.
A drop or two of some Frank’s hot sauce might sting just enough to teach a lesson, or it might not. Either way, I don’t think the woman should be facing possible criminal charges for it.
How is it any worse than spanking? I spank my son on occasion. I try not to resort to it, but he doesn’t really respond to other types of discipline. What’s a parent to do in that situation?
The cold shower, on the other hand, is cruel. Not to mention the risk of the child’s body going into shock from the cold.
It’s a sticky topic. Some people consider yelling at kids as a form of abuse. I’d like to know how someone manages to never yell at their kids. I can’t imagine that. I’m curious too see what your other readers think.
I think the hot sauce issue was more about intent then if the hot sauce actually hurt the child, in my opinion. But yes, the cold shower seems a lot worse and harmful. Not to mention, making someone strip and take an uncomfortable shower could be considered a form of humiliation. I guess this whole thing is a “hot” button issue.
This is a tough topic. I was raised by yelling parents and I work hard not to be. Love and Logic has taught me a lot, but I’m not perfect and neither are my kids. I can for sure state I haven’t and wont be following her example. I find parenting to be a constant work in process. Just when you think you’ve got it down those kids are chaning the game. I look forward to reading all the comments as well.
Yes, they do change the game. All the time. That’s what makes it so tough.
No way, no how! I want to teach my daughter how to treat others appropriately and how to handle situations in the same way. Would I want someone piling hot sauce on my tongue for telling a lie because I was AFRAID of what would happen when I told the truth? If you put two and two together you get FEAR. My daughter knows that even though I may be disappointed when she tells me she did something wrong, she’s not going to get hit or physically hurt in any way. Therefore, she DOES tell me in the first place! Cold shower?? OMG! I can’t even imagine these things being done to ANYONE for punishment, let alone a child. Certainly I lose my temper with my daughter; I’ve yelled most definitely when she’s in button- pushing mode, but my line gets drawn on the physical stuff. Time outs work for us because I do follow through with them, up to and including the part where she has to apologize for the behavior and restate what she could have done differently to get a different outcome. I also use “take away” discipline: remove a favorite toy for a week, no TV, etc. I agree with Jeff’s post: if the disciplinary act isn’t something I would do in public, best let that be a warning sign. Raising a voice to give a warning if misbehaving in the grocery store? Sure. Grabbing a bottle of Tapatio and pouring it in her mouth, or grabbing a bottle of cold water and pouring it on her head-Nope. Wouldn’t do it there, so why would I think it’s okay to do it at home? I say lock the woman up for a week and give her the same “discipline” she’s giving her son. I think she’ll be the one to learn the lesson.
That’s a good way to think about things: if someone did this to you as a punishment for something, would it be acceptable to you?
I was a little disturbed by this video. I had seen it yesterday but didn’t quite know how to put my thoughts into a discussion. I think she is too hard nosed and strict, but we’ve all heard of strict discipline before. I’ve heard of making a child smoke several cigarettes so they’d get sick and not want to smoke; I’ve heard of putting a taste of soap on the tongue for bad language…I might have experienced it from my own mother, not sure I can remember that far back LOL ; But I don’t approve of the cold shower and didn’t like the forced hot sauce. It is confusing and the lines are blurred. But what was allowable when I was a child, and what is now child abuse is very different. It’s a new world.
I can still taste the Zest that my mom made me hold in my mouth for back talking. I will never again use Zest bar soap. (I don’t even know if they still make it…) I don’t know. I don’t think it’s child abuse, per se…. though, I’m not sure that creative ways of punishing is the thing to do. Whatever happened to natural consequences… or take away what the kid likes?
Weird. I dunno.
What disturbs me most about the video is the way she yells at her already crying child as the punishment is happening. I am a big believer in naturally occurring consequences; i.e. a parent explains what will happen when unacceptable behavior occurs, and if the child chooses to behave unacceptably anyway, the consequences are implemented.
What troubles me in this video is that the mother does not let the consequences speak for themselves. She is still yelling at the child as the consequences are being implemented, and the child is already upset. If she had said “lying gets you hot sauce” and the child lied anyway, and she quietly implemented the hot sauce without yelling and finger pointing, I might feel differently.
I too, was spanked as a child. I currently do not spank my children, but not out any moral objection, but really because . .. other forms of punishment are currently working. We have to remember that this video is a momentary snapshot: we have no idea what this mother has tried before. Some kids could care less about time outs and some will just move on to another toy if one is taken away. We have to be careful to reserve total judgement without knowing the whole story.
Parenting is a complex process. This video only shows us 2 minutes of that eternal struggle.
Yes, there are tough issues here, to be sure. The woman definitely has some anger management issues. Maybe some are crying child abuse here because the punishments are obviously being implemented out of anger. Her fury is obvious. You and Angela are correct, punishments should be naturally occurring consequences- not furiously given consequences.