Hot sauce is a condiment, not punishment

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The story and video of a mother in Alaska disciplining her 7-year-old son with hot sauce and a cold shower has gone viral on the Internet, and resulted in child abuse charges placed against her.

That she committed the act is not in question given that her daughter videotaped it, and she sent it in to Dr. Phil and appeared on his show in November.

The question among some people in cyberspace is whether or not the acts are child abuse. I don’t understand in what world they aren’t.

To quote Dr. Harvey Karp, a Los Angeles pediatrician who appeared “Good Morning America” the other day, “I don’t think that we would allow a husband to do that to a wife. They would be put in jail for that, and there’s no reason we should allow that for children.”

I’m not sure what I find more startling: that one mother would treat her child like this or that 31 percent of nearly 12,000 people who responded to a poll on http://moms.today.com believe that pouring hot sauce in a child’s mouth is an acceptable form of discipline. (Granted, it’s an Internet poll, so it’s not scientific. People can stack the deck, but still.)

Now, I don’t know what brand of hot sauce the mother used, nor does it matter, but I do know enough about hot peppers to know they are, well, hot. I grow them in my backyard, dry them out and ground them up for my own little concoction that tastes great on pasta dishes and such.

I’ve made the mistake before of not wearing gloves when I pick them off the plants, forgetting about it, and then touching my mouth or scratching my eyes. The burn easily lasts for an hour.

And this is just the oil from the outside of the pepper, not the liquid from the inside.

My children don’t like anything spicier than peanut butter, so I can only imagine what that poor child went through. Hot sauce is a condiment, not a form of a punishment.

And the cold shower? I can still hear the child’s scream echoing in my ears. Need I say more?

I would never pretend to know what the mother in the video is going through, but I do have children her age and do discipline them periodically. I’ve even written a column about it. And I can say with certainty that I would never pour hot sauce in my children’s mouth or make them take a cold shower because they misbehaved. Doing either would only make them fear me, and that’s something I never want them to feel.

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