Would You Discipline Your Child with Hot Sauce?

Jessica Beagley, who recently became known as the mother who forced her son to swallow hot sauce and take cold showers, was charged with misdemeanor child abuse today by a court in Anchorage, Alaska. 

Beagley first appeared on the “Mommy Confessions” episode of Dr. Phil in November 2010.  During the segment, she shared a video that her 10-year-old daughter taped of Beagley disciplining one of her 7-year-old twin sons with the above-mentioned tactics.  Even though she was not present in court, her team of lawyers pleaded “not guilty” on her behalf. 

While some support the hot sauce method, such as former “Facts of Life” start Lisa Whelchel who advocates it in her parenting book Creative Correction, the majority of parents who saw Beagley’s video were shocked and horrified at her discipline tactics.  A media firestorm has increased since November, causing parents to wonder how to discipline their children effectively. 

I’m reminded of a time when I was 4-years-old and I was still sucking my right thumb.  To get me to stop, my grandmother rubbed a chili pepper against my thumb.  While my grandmother wasn’t being cruel or trying to discipline me, she chose a specific method to help me break a “bad” habit.  Just one taste and needless to say, I never sucked my thumb again.   Thankfully, I escaped childhood without being traumatized from chili peppers, but Beagley’s son may grow up fearing hot sauce.

No parent wants to resort to cruel and unusual punishments to stop misbehaviors.  But even though some parents have the best intentions to discipline without yelling and spanking, no amount of time outs or distractions seem to work.  We’re certainly not advocating for hot sauce or chili peppers as a means of tough love, but as parents, we want to hear your thoughts on discipline. How do you discipline your child in a positive way? What are some no-fail discipline tactics you use?  What are the ones you would never use? Share in the comments section below.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Parents Magazine and Sahar Ghazale , Crazy Bitch. Crazy Bitch said: lock her up RT @parentsmagazine discipline your child with hot sauce? One mom did and was charged w/child abuse here: http://su.pr/2UunDT [...]

  2. by Is Hot Sauce Mother Blameless? | GoodyBlog

    On February 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    [...] latest update on hot sauce mama Jessica Beagley is her claim that Dr. Phil’s producers asked her to produce the video of hot sauce and cold [...]

  3. by lainy

    On February 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Cruel is always going to be defined by the ‘interpreter’. While I do think some tactics are a little extreme, I honestly think a dab of hot sauce on the tongue to replace the old fashioned soap in the mouth remedy for spitting out a swear word is much safer.
    However, with the liberal mindset seemingly on a rampage I’m surprised anyone at all actually steps up and shares their disciplining methods. By no means would I EVER physically abuse my children, but I also have no doubt that if someone saw me swat my childs behind they’d turn me in for child abuse. And we all as parents get pushed by our children to the absolute edge of our sanity at times. And I dare to bed that many of us have reacted without taking that deep needed breath. We’re human. I’m not defending any one certain style of discipline here. What I think is most important is no so much if you slap your childs hand, put him in a corner, have timeout in their room, or whatever your method, as long as your overall focus is on loving your child and making sure they know that no matter what you love them.

  4. by brooke

    On February 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    I have not found a sure fire way that works every time…. I believe that discipline has to be specific to each child and each situation… sometimes time-outs work sometimes they don’t… i think the most important thing is following through and consistency!

  5. by Melissa

    On February 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I guess everything is subject to opinions and hard to know unless seen in context. It would not be my form of punishment. But I have heard of some using bad tasting liquid for thumbsucking, etc. I believe it is even sold in stores. But I believe in spanking (though I rarely have to use it) and some object to that. Was it a large dose of hot sauce, what are the cold showers for, is it done while speaking about good choices or done to humilate the child and yell. My neice was taught to be potty trained by having to wipe her bottom with ice cold towel when she went in her diaper; only took one time. (reminded me of the cold shower)

  6. by Alli

    On February 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    WOW, this is just ridiculous!!!! I agree that this is a bit extreme… but come on… its FAR FROM CHILD ABUSE!!!! All were going to do if we charge mothers like this is create a FEAR OF DISCIPLINING OUR CHILDREN!! This method was very useful with my potty mouth younger cousin… and now he loves super spicy food (^_^)…. just sad to see what this world is coming to!

  7. by Mommy2Four

    On February 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I agree with a number of previous posters. I believe that the country is over-run with 2 breeds of extremes, both are evil. The (actual) child abusers who break bones, leave scars and hurt children to the extreme. Then there are the permissive parents who let their children run the household and cater to their every whim. I believe the latter form of abuse is equivalent to the former. These children grow up thinking that the world owes them everything and if they whine, pout, or throw a tantrum, they will get what they want. They are sheltered beyond belief, and are not ready for the world at large and only create a bigger issue. Let me tell you how sad it is to see a grown person of 20-odd years throw a temper tantrum!! Then those of us trying to raise children with morals and respect for elders are stuck hiding our disciplinary methods! I couldn’t believe that some parent called Child Protective Services on me for dropping my kids off down the street and letting my kids walk the last 45 feet to the school, surrounded by kids, parents, 2 police officers, 4 PAIRS of crossing guards and with me watching from the car! Needless to say, a sheriff and a CPS rep showed up at my door, looked over the house, looked over the kids, took their pictures and closed the case!

  8. by Fran

    On February 5, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    I do not think hot sauce is in itself a form of child abuse. In the video she does not appear to be demeaning or humiliating and it appears to work. Its so easy to judge based on a 15 second video, but it there is real abuse in the house, it will be found in the other 24 hours at home. So yes, this makes me roll my eyes a little and wonder about how parents are supposed to discipline if they are constantly worried about a knock on the door from CPS. Granted, its a good fear to put in parents, to help them know the boundaries. Anyways, again, there are different ways to parent and I agree — AS LONG AS YOUR KID KNOWS YOU LOVE THEM, they will be OK.

  9. by Corinne

    On February 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I think the main point of where something leans toward abuse is if it is done in anger or in teaching. If you strike out in anger that is more to appease yourself. I remember my mother being scolded for spanking my brother after he ran in the road.. that was a teaching moment. Doubtful that the spanking even hurt, but he didn’t run in the road anymore. If these children were given hot sauce knowing that was a punishment for their behavior, entirely different from her just getting “fed up” and looking to get even or release her anger in some way. Not sure if I agree with it, but it’s not going to kill the kid either. Only one generation ago people could threaten a belt without anyone raising an eyebrow. I’m sure it wasn’t brought out at every frustrating moment. Kids need structure and boundaries …. AND consequences – but if you also consistently show them love, then even the discipline is a form of love.

  10. by Prudence

    On February 5, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    It wasn’t only the hotsauce. It was the mother’s entire demeanor. She was yelling, screaming and out-of-control. I know children can get the best of us sometimes but it appeared she was this way more often than not. And to have your 10yr old tape it? Really? Really?

  11. by Sofia

    On February 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Since I became a primary school teacher, I have been a more patient mother. I was struggling with temper tantrums by my daughter (they were bad) and I was at my wits end. I came from a family with harsh punishment (nothing I would call child abuse, but I did fear my mom when I knew I was in trouble). Two years before she started kindergarten I was teaching other peoples children (20). There are many different personalities in a classroom and learning to manage them all (good or bad) began to transfer in the home. In the classroom I use more positive reinforcements than negative. I began to figure out what position I was putting my daughter in and when she would lost her temper (grocery shopping, and other such grown up areas). I began to limit exposure to these place whenever I could and the tantrums that we just kid related were far between that handling them was easier because I was no longer tired from the daily tantrums.
    Every child is different and I promised myself that my children would not have a reason to fear me, but would listen to me by other means than putting my hands on my children..Parenting is hard

  12. by Shannon

    On February 6, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Wow, just watched the video. This child was adopted at age 5 and is now 7. Cannot imagine how he feels about this lady who is supposed to make him feel as if he was a son. Hurt me just watching and no Im not one of those who thing that corners are the answer. Hey I got my butt spanked with a belt when I wa syounger and here I am, not afraid of belts. But this just somehow seemed wrong. She has 6 children with the 2 adopted 7 year olds. Hmmmm lets see, mayber she should have stopped after 1 if she had no patience for one who acts up. What kid doesnt lie? maybe hes acting out for attention.

  13. by Brooke W.

    On February 6, 2011 at 12:55 am

    I spank my child. At first, I tried telling her no — that didn’t work. Then I tried smacking her lightly on the hand, and that didn’t work either. Instead, it made her do it even more. Spanking my child on the bottom is the only way to get her to listen. I’m working on, when I do spank her, I don’t do it when I’m angry. I know that we usually wait until we’re angry and then we punish our kids, but the truth is that we need to be calm about it.

    Of course, I live in the South where the community is still very much holding onto the older ways of punishment, so if I were to spank my child in public I highly doubt I’d be looked at in a bad light. I see it all the time with other parents. I don’t think the hot sauce thing is so horrible, though. Especially not something to get charged over. A warning, I think, would suffice. There is just too much overreaction in today’s world.

  14. by Amy

    On February 6, 2011 at 2:37 am

    For those of you that dont think she committed child abuse, you better watch that episode of Dr. Phil! I had to turn it off. It was very disturbing to me. Not just the hot sauce, but her whole attitude toasted that little boy! I’m glad she has been charged!

  15. by Amy

    On February 6, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Correction! Towards. Not. Toasted!

  16. by Kelly

    On February 6, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Do not make judgment until you have watched the video. The mother’s actions were very extreme for the child’s behavior. The hot sauce (depending on how long he had to hold it in his mouth) did not seem as extreme as the cold shower. My son’s school has a similar system to their “pulling cards” and I can’t imagine ever making my son take a cold shower! That is when I wanted to cry for that little boy. The way he screamed as the water hit him indicated to me that it wasn’t a COOL shower but a COLD shower. It made me imagine his little body shaking and shivering and scared. This is when I wanted to cry for the child, that is no way to punish a child. And in his confession, all he did was be a normal kid and fight over a pencil. ALL kids do things like that all the time. She should help him practice ways to avoid those situations and ways to deal with the other children in reoccurring situations instead of punishing him so harshly for doing the only thing he knew how and what any other kid would have done. Instead of constantly telling him he made bad choices, explain what would have been the good choice so he’ll know what to do next time!

  17. by Becca Cooker

    On February 6, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    To those who continue to argue the point that this mother did not cause “harm or danger” to her child and or his health. I have more for you. 1) Not only have I mentioned and referenced the mammilian dive reflex, or submersion into cold water will cause vagal stimuli in a pediatric, slowing the heart rate, respirations, and shunting blood to only the core of the body(brain,lungs and heart) makeing the child more susceptable to hypothermia. We as parents should know that children under the age of 14 usually stated, have an under developed hypothalimus, seems reasonable enough. Yet the hypothalimus is the Temp regulatory center of the brain! This is why children are so suseptable to cold, and hypothermia, as well as hyperthermia, fevers and such. So yes having a child stand in a cold shower is potentially dangerous by all means! Could lead to loss of conciousness and further more hypothermia.
    2) Also note that capsaicin in the ingrediant that makes “hot” sauce hot. It has a thousand wonderful treatments, though it is well known for decreasing body Temp as well. So the use of the hot sauce and the cold shower is a double whammy! Most people do not know this. But is it not reasonable to say that some people, are very senstive to “hot” sauce. I personally hate it. my husband makes his own personal pot of chilli because he cant get it hot enough! Habenero peppers and all! Also it burns does it not. Yes it hurts, can lead to ulcers. We all know that as adults. It makes a burning sensation, and imagine how many seven year old and younger children have loose teeth, or open areas in the mouth from lost teeth. It is reasonable to say that it would cause severe pain and burning to hold it in your mouth would it not. Not to mention capsaicin can even stop wounds from bleeding! Well if a child has developing teeth and this capsaicin is introduced over and over to open areas of them mouth it would stop a natural healthy blood flow to the childs gums, where new teeth are being pushed through! Now we are looking at furture dental problems in adult teeth and gums! NO! I am not saying that hot sauce with stop ur children from having healthy teeth and gums, but eating it is not hokding it in ur mouth while it swished and washes over the teeth and or open wounds/gums repeatedly either! Most people/children use it for flavoring, not mouthwash!
    3)It is also reasonable to say that a parent at their witts end would look into alternative treatments and or disciplines prior to enacting them in the household. I do not beleive this mother did at all. Desperate mothers seek help, they do not induce these types of “torture” then decide when they do not work to seek help. Yes simular tortures as ice cold hoseings were applied against prison camp prisoners in world war two. We look at that treatment on adults and say it is inhuman, but for some of you it concerns me that you do not see it he same in a child.
    4) With the reasonabley noted statements above it is safe to say that this mother is NEGLEGANT! If this had not been stopped and she not charged it could have ended up with a much more horrible circumstance. Nothing short of negligent homicide, for those who already want to dispute this fact Negligence in law occurs when a person does not observe an obligation or duty where a legal obligation or duty exists or behaves in a manner lacking reasonable care. The law assumes that people will take a reasonable amount of care in all of their actions. Reasonable care is a degree of caution or care that a competent person in the same line of business, work, or activity should or is expected to exercise under similar circumstances.
    It is reasonable to say that she and her disciplines were not made using a degree of caution, Hence she did not act in a mannor of reasonable care. I have not heard anyone here out of the hundreds of blogs state that they use these practiced regularly and or in conjunction to punish their children. I have not read one parent here say that knowing the potential harms as I noted above that they would continue to use such practices, nor have they stated that these were perfectly okay.
    5) As a matter of fact the parents here have rationalized her behavior by closley relating it to the “to spank or not to spank” arguement and CPS. I am astonished that anyone would attempt to compare a red bottom or red hand to the potential of severe injury, brain damage, disability and or even death of a child as an acceptable punishment. One person even argues that “we should be allowed to punish our children as we want.” This is ludicrous, and for those parents who wonder why CPS gets involved so intensly, you can thank the mother everyone is blogging about now. The mother who shot her children multiple times in the face for being “mouthy”. These are the reasons that we are so closley monitored by public schools, hospitals, police and child protective services. Noone knows everything about parenting. Yet as a medically trained professional, trained and educated to recogonize potential for harm and endagerment of a child I am more then happy to say that these are the cold hard facts. I do not need to interpret her “distress” in dealing with the child because I am already aware of the potential harm. I am more then convinced of her neglegance and that is enough for me.
    6) Also noted above a person has referenced shaken baby syndrome, they are correct, the horrible truth is this. It takes the force of equivalant to a fall from a two story building for a child to suffer Shaken baby syndrome or SBS. This is not accidental. The brain is thrown back and forth in a whiplash motion as a child does not have developed muscles in the neck to hold the head still. The brain hits the front and the back of the skull multiple times causing a very clear type of injury pattern we usually otherwise only see in a motor vehicle collision called a coup contrecoupe injury. Only 19 to 38 percent (last stats I was trained on) of these children actually die and not simply suffer life long brain damage. It is not difficult to see. On the other hand it has been difficult to prosecute! as these parents too claim “inexperience”, “emotional distress”, and “frustration”. Do not be mislead either, this is actually not only seen in infants it affects children up to 5 yrs of age as well. Could be longer depending on the child. It is real.
    7) Please do not even begin with the “two sides” statement with me, this woman who looking for help because she believed this child, who faught over pencils and “pulled” what appears to be behavioral cards in school was unable to be disciplined not because she thought her punishments were cruel.
    8) Also referenced is “attachment disorder” seen in children frequently who are adopted from other countries and fetal alcohol syndrome. I agree this is true, yet I detest that you think that it only comes from an orphanage and or treatment from a third world country. If this child never bonds with anyone again it will be in no question in my own mind that it is a direct result of the mistreatment of this woman. Children have a food drive and become very territorial, especially in survival situations and these children are developing that very simular if not in some cases as third world contries this exact sense. Yet this happens here in America all of the time! Yes over disciplining, not teaching with the discipline and lack of nurturing causes this. Every time I put my son in the corner, I hug him and tell him I am dissapointed in him, but that I love him and he is being taught to make good decisions. He is six. Yet I hold him accountable for his actions as a result of his misjudgment. This woman does none of this.
    9) For the woman who argues this is only a 2 minute video, I implore you to you tube it, You can find more footage easily if this is not distasteful enough for you. Not to mention it is obviouse that these were only out takes of a larger video.

    ! Please parents use common sense, and learn about your children! Go to child CPR classes most are free in communities! Read about things that make a child work, psychologically and their pathophysiology as well. You will be amazed at the tools and education you can receive for free! It will impower you to make the best of this short life we have with our children. They grow up so quickly and this day and age with the exposures they are even more grown up even more quickly.

  18. by laura brooks

    On March 31, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Apparently not many of you actually saw the entire video nor the entire episode or Dr Phil…this woman is in dire need of psychiatric care and if any of you for ONE minute think what she did was OK, you do not deserve to be anywhere near children. Period.

  19. by Guy Delahoz

    On November 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Beyonce, who headlined Glastonbury on Sunday night, was written about on social network web-sites even more compared to various other artist at the festival this time around, according to Brandwatch