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"Hot Saucing" as a method of child corporal punishment

Medical contraindications.
"Hot Saucing" advocates.

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Medical contraindications:

Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist from Boston, MA, recommends against the use of hot saucing. He said that it can burn the child's esophagus and cause their tongue to swell. This can create a potential choking hazard. He said:

"There are many different kinds of hot sauce on the market, and parents who say they know the dilution to use so it won't sting, or say they only use one drop, are wrong. It's done because it hurts. It stings. It burns. It makes you nauseous." 1

Giorgio Kulp, a pediatrician in Montgomery County, VA, says that the use of hot sauce on children is dangerous because of the risk of swelling and the possibility of triggering unknown allergies. He notes that "Every child's reaction, physically, is different." So it might be safe for one child but not another.

An associated method of inflicting pain on children is the force feeding of hot-peppers. Two child psychologists reported that this "can result in anaphylaxis or cause significant burns and damage to developing tissues in the mouth, esophagus, intestinal walls, stomach, and colon.1

Hot saucing advocates:

bullet Lisa Whelchel was a Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer. She played the role "Blair" in the television program "Facts of Life," is a home-school mom, an Evangelical Christian, a motivational speaker, and the author of the book: "Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline." 2

She said that "For lying or other offenses of the tongue, I 'spank' my kids' tongues. I put a tiny drop of hot sauce on the end of my finger and dab it onto my child's tongue. It stings for a while, but it abates. It's the memory that lingers!" 1

She feels that the practice worked for her children when other disciplinary actions failed. Appearing on ABC News' Good Morning America, she said:

"It does sting and the memory stays with them so that the next time they may actually have some self-control and stop before they lie or bite or something like that....I prefer my child receive a small amount of pain from my hand of love than to encounter a lot more pain in life....It's a logical consequence. If you cause somebody pain, either by the words you say by lying and not being a trustworthy person or by biting, this is a logical consequence. It's your mouth that's the offender."

Whelchel began the punishment on her own children when they were at a pre-school age, and discontinued when they reached the age of 10. In an interview with the Washington Post, she said:

"A correction has to hurt a little.  An effective deterrent has to touch the child in some way. I don't think Tabasco is such a bad thing....[Discipline involves] drawing a line to protect the child and if they cross that line, there will be pain."

Whelchel said she believes that disciplinary methods should be left up to parents. They know their child best, are devoted to the child's well-being, and can administer punishment with love. She mentions that hot saucing can be overdone:

"If there's a mom who shakes the bottle on the kid's tongue, that mom probably does deserve to have someone poking into her business. But I think most moms are caring and intuitive. You can't throw out a bunch of good stuff because of the exceptions." 1

She quotes: Proverbs 10:31: "The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the forward (perverse) tongue shall be cut out." 3

bullet Amanda DeLorme of American University Park posted a message on the bulletin board  "DC Urban Moms.' She wrote that hot saucing " like a charm." She uses it only as a last resort . She wrote:

"He is better behaved as a result. He'll say, 'Please don't give me hot tongue, Mommy,' and [the threat] interrupts his behavior. We'll talk about it, hug and make up. That's what usually happens."

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bullet Kim Crosen, a mother of three from Fairfax, VA, learned of "hot saucing" from a friend who carries packets of hot sauce in her purse in case she has to discipline one of her children. Crosen only uses the sauce in the home and "after many warnings, and for extreme circumstances." One case was when her son called his 3-year-old sister a "crybaby." She believes it is an appropriate punishment for:

"... defiant talk....I use it when the mouth is the offending party. He needs to learn to control what's coming out of his mouth. If it's his tongue that gets him in trouble, it's his tongue that gets punished. ... children need to respect and obey [parents] or they won't learn to respect and obey God. God won't hot sauce you, but you need to learn consequences....What I'm doing is minor compared to what kids used to get 40 or 50 years ago. One drop of hot sauce is not going to hurt him. Everyone has to do what works for them, within reason."

bullet An mother from Chevy Chase, MD who wanted to remain anonymous, said that hot sauce punishment is widespread in Louisiana where she used to live. She recognizes that hot sauce has its drawbacks: it instills fear in the child and teaches them that might makes right. But, she commented:

"I need some discipline for egregious acts. ... [a] "worst-case scenario...As parents, we're all trying to do the best by our children. Hugs go a long way. Kids need lots of love and affection."

Yet, she is opposed to spanking children. She said: "If I hit my child, how can I tell them not to hit someone else? It's the worst type of discipline."

bullet Today's Christian Woman is a magazine directed at fundamentalist and other evangelical Christian women. In a 2001 article, they recommended inflicting pain on children's tongues through the use of hot sauce, "yucky-tasting" soap, or white vinegar.
bullet John Rosemond, a parenting advice columnist, does not personally recommend this method of discipline. But he said: "I don't think it's abusive or inappropriate." He said that washing a child's mouth out with soap comes from a time 50 years in the past and that we might do well to copy those discipline methods, because it produced well-behaved children. 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Alison Buckholtz, "Feeling the Heat. Some Parents Apply Hot Sauce to a Child's Tongue as Punishment. The Practice Has Some Experts Burning," The Washington Post, 2004-AUG-10. Page HE 01. Online at:

  2. Lisa Whelchel, "Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline (Focus on the Family Book)," Tyndale House, (2000). Read reviews, read sample pages, and/or order this book safely from online book store

  3. Al Tompkins, " 'Hot Saucing' Children," PoynterOnline, 2004-AUG-18, at:

  4. Bo Emerson, "New flavor to punishing kids: Sting of hot sauce. Drops on tongue popular option. Parenting experts call it distasteful," Cox News Service, 2004-SEP-02. Published in the Toronto Star, 2004-SEP-03, Page D3.

Copyright 2004 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-AUG-28
Latest update: 2006-MAR-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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