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Religious Tolerance logo

"Hot Saucing" as a method of child punishment

"Dr. Phil" & other "Hot Saucing"
opponents, continued.

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This is a continuation of an earlier list

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Hot saucing opponents (cont'd):

bulletMark J. Johns, a clinical professional counselor, and Madeleine Y. Gómez, a child psychologist, also wrote to ABC News:
"Our concern is that ABC's irresponsible reporting of the issue could be construed as advocating this abusive practice. ... Responsible investigations and reports have repeatedly demonstrated that inappropriate or violent discipline damages the emotional, intellectual, and growth processes of the child. Many studies have shown that violent punishments not only teach violence, but also can lead to other forms of violence....In our experience, parents who use hot-saucing with their children are likely to engage in other forms of abusive behavior. We recently dealt with a case in which it was reported that a small child, who was being professionally evaluated due to 'behavioral problems,' was being force fed hot-peppers when he spoke disrespectfully to his parents. The assessor dismissed this practice as 'idiosyncratic, non-abusive, and culturally appropriate.' Never mind that hot-saucing or force feeding of peppers to children can result in anaphylaxis or cause significant burns and damage to developing tissues in the mouth, esophagus, intestinal walls, stomach, and colon. Within a few short weeks of this assessment, the child was found dead after being severely beaten in the head by his parents. Need we say more?" 1
bulletJordan Riak, Executive Director of "Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education" wrote:

"It's painful even to contemplate the amount of force or intimidation required to enable one person to introduce hot sauce into another person's mouth. There is an instinctive reflexive response that guards the buccal cavity against the intrusion of noxious or irritating substances, and any creature that lacked it wouldn't survive for long. Nevertheless, Lisa Whelchel, -- a mom who presumably cares about the survival of her children -- has written a parenting book in which she blithely describes thwarting that protective mechanism in her children." 1

The book by Lisa Whelchel that was referred to might have been: "Creative Correction," published by an evangelical publishing house Tyndal House Publishers in 2005. It received a 1 star rating by 66 out of 187 reviews on Sample reviews are:

  • "Gayle" wrote: "Folks, putting hot sauce in a child's mouth can cause damage, seems to me that's abuse. If you shouldn't do it in front of guests or services workers because they might not understand, you shouldn't do it. I understand that she is going to have the next edition reviewed by child welfare experts for "red flags". If she can't write a book of this nature without having someone double-check, then she is no expert. If you are not sure if you should do it, you shouldn't do it. These kids are our next generation. There must be a better way then bullying children into unthinking compliance. ..."

  • "Online Buyer" wrote: "These ideas are not new. They are definitely abusive. Please do not follow the advice of this book."

  • "True Blue Texan 'ldixon':" "Any parent who follows the techniques in this book is guaranteed to raise children who know how to be controlled but who have very little skill in self-control. Talk about confusing for kids! The author is so afraid her kids will lose trust in her (she should be) that she refuses to allow them to develop trust in themselves."

  • S. Dumas: "... the book has innumerable ideas for shaming, humiliating, annoying and embarrassing kids with 'creative' ideas to correct their behavior. Again, these are not 'natural consequences.' They are a constant merry go round of weird and unusual ways to frustrate the child. It seems rather controlling to me. There are better Christian parenting books out there...Don't Make Me Count to Three, Hints on Child Training, and "Get Rid of whining, complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids" are all good options to consider.

  • Diana Miles: "One of the principles of this book says that you must keep ramping up the correction until the child submits. Possibilities include piling on chores, putting hot sauce on the tongue, and spanking. She makes it sound plausible, and so I tried her methods. It only took a few days to figure out that this approach just plain doesn't work."

  • C. Aedo: When your child upsets you, find a quiet place to sit and wait for the spirit to whisper in your ear - if an idea pops into your head, its OK to follow it because that's your god talking! (This is, seriously, what Lisa relies on.) If what god tells you to do seems mean, strange, humiliating or worse, don't concern yourself with questions, just do as the lord tells you.
    If you're not a strong believer in a faith based religion, this book is probably not for you."

The book spawned a series of discussions with names like: "Books promoting child abuse shouldn't be sold by Amazon," and "I Did Read This Book and I Think It Is Awful."

bulletMargaret McGowen, a staff scientist for a trade association and the mother of a 17-month-old infant, had her tongue sauced when she was 3 and 4 years old. She was punished for telling fibs. She said that her mother "...told us the devil was dancing on our tongue, and she put a drop of Tabasco on it to drive him away." She recalls that "it really did discourage us from fibbing. All I had to do was see the bottle. Even if [my mother] was just using it for cooking or adding it to a recipe, it put fear in me."

However, she will not use hot saucing herself. She said: "I don't need to resort to chemical warfare." She doesn't blame her mother for the punishment "because she was probably ill-informed." But she believes that "today we are more educated about the psychology of children." She can still recall how the sauce felt some 30 years ago: "It hurt. It burned. It was hard to get rid of the sensation." 2

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bulletChristian Homeschool Fellowship's website states:
"We also do not believe some discipline methods are appropriate -- such as applying hot sauce to the mouths or tongues of children. It is our prayer that the Lord blesses all the parents on CHFWeb with His wisdom and direction in bringing their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!" 3
bulletDr. Julie Beasley, a child psychologist, believes that hot saucing and similar painful methods don't work long term. She said:
"I'm not saying that it probably doesn't work for some children. I think for some children it probably will. They'll probably stop for fear of that happening again. Again, that's parenting out of some fear and that's a powerful parenting technique. Spankings are fear based." 4
bullet"The Ghost of Christmas Future" posted the following note on a Northwestern University public blog:
"My disagreement is with the idea that a child must physically "feel" pain in order to learn a lesson. The article often mentions "hot-saucing" a kid if they swear or lie, but in what way is this preferable to some other non-corporeal punishment? A good grounding or the loss of TV or video game privileges can teach the exact same lesson. I suspect that part of the appeal is that "hot-saucing" is immediate, but over within minutes, while grounding or the restriction of privileges requires parental oversight over-time to ensure compliance. I can certainly understand the impulse to use the immediate and certainly effective saucing punishment, however I still can't justify the practice when perfectly good non-physical punishments are available." 5
bulletDr. Malcolm Lochiel, of Brook Medical Clinic in Wichita Falls, KS, said:
"I think that the consensus these days is that it is not recommended as a form of punishment; when a child sees that his behavior has really upset or provoked the parent, it is felt that they sense power in their actions, and tend to perform in the same manner more frequently. It's probably best to simply reward good behaviors and withhold privileges for negative behaviors." 6
bulletRob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State comments:
"Religious Right activists constantly extol the virtues of the family and proclaim their love and concern for children. But, as the controversy over 'hot saucing' proves, at the same time they seem to be awfully creative when it comes to thinking up new ways to inflict pain on misbehaving youngsters." 7

References used:

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

  1. "Stinging Debate -- Parents Divided Over Practice of 'Hot Saucing' as a Form of Discipline," at:
  2. 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:
  3. "The Titus Two Women's section is NOT provided for the following purposes: Spanking Specifics and Discipline Methods,", at:
  4. "Hot Saucing of Kids Draws Criticism," KLAS TV, Las Vegas, NV, 2004-AUG-25, at:
  5. " 'Hot-saucing' kids for a better America," Public blog at Northwestern University, 2004-AUG-10, at:
  6. Michael Hines, " 'Hot saucing' puts some in hot water. Experts agree spicy solution to kids' bad mouths not an option," Times Record News, Witchita Falls, TX, at:
  7. Rob Boston, "Suffer The Little Children: Focus On The Family And 'Hot Saucing'," Americans United, 2004-AUG-11, at:

Copyright © 2004 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-AUG-28
Latest update: 2011-FEB-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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