Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County
Most people have heard of the innovative discipline technique of giving hot sauce to a child for indiscretions such as lying or cursing. This technique has been in the news recently due to a mother, Jessica Beagley, having her 10 year old daughter record her punishing her 7 year old son by giving him hot sauce and a cold shower and sending the tape into Dr. Phil. You can see her video here, just be forewarned that it may be difficult for some to watch. This mother is now being charged with child abuse for her use of hot sauce and cold showers as punishment.
There are many people who have used this technique over the years for their children and believe that it is not only not abusive but that it works. Physical child abuse encompasses any activity that causes physical harm or injury to a child. Some may interpret this to mean inflicting any pain on a child whether for discipline purposes or for other reasons and others may say injury only occurs when a child has had some lasting effects such as bruising or broken bones. If we go with the lasting effects rule, the question then becomes how long must the effects last. As a counselor, I am unable to answer these questions even though I am mandated to report any reason I have a suspicion that child abuse may be occurring.
Although I would discourage using this technique, it is important to note here that if you do want to use it, you need to do so in an informed manner. First, choose an appropriate hot sauce that is not very hot. Second, use only a very small amount. Third, this should not be used on a regular basis, if you have to use it often for the same behaviors, it’s not working. I would also follow the legal proceedings of this case as it may set a precedence. This mother also uses a cold shower, which I agree resembles torture tactics. In her video, control seems to be more of a motivating factor than love. For more pros and cons of the hot sauce technique, you can view an interview from Good Morning America with Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”, a family that has used hot saucing, and Lisa Whelchel, author of “Creative Correction”.
Dr. Karp makes a very valid point in the interview, stating that we need to learn more effective ways of being parents and disciplining our children. The point of discipline is to teach a child right from wrong. Inflicting pain on another person is wrong, and if parents use techniques such as these on their children, parents are not being good role models for this lesson. There are several aspects that need to be present in order for discipline to be effective. Parents need to make the rules and expectations clear as well as the consequences of behavior. Parents need to be calm when administering discipline, be consistent, and make sure the “punishment fits the crime”. Once a parent gives an appropriate “punishment”, it is important for the parent to not back down. Parents also need to learn about their child in order to find the best techniques as not every discipline technique will work with every child. In future posts, I will discuss discipline rules and techniques in further detail.
For those of you in the Merritt Island area that are looking for a therapist, please call or email me. It would be my pleasure to give you more information on my services and to work with you in the future.