Family Defends 'Hot Saucing' Kids

The mere threat of "hot saucing" served as a practical form of discipline in the Butler home for many years.

Melanie Butler was once given a drop of hot sauce on her tongue by her mother when she misbehaved as a child, and the memory of it stuck with her. Butler said the threat of hot sauce alone encouraged her to behave after the incident.

"I was between the age of 7 and … I don't remember the exact age, but I had lied about something," she said.

Butler says she would consider hot saucing, as a last resort, with her 3 1/2- year-old daughter once she is old enough to receive that kind of punishment.

When Good Morning America first covered the topic of hot saucing last week, the response to the practice was largely negative.

In a non-scientific ballot on ABCNEWS.com last week, 35 percent of voters said they feel hot saucing is an acceptable form of discipline. Sixty-five percent of voters said the practice of hot saucing was not. More than 8,000 votes were cast in the online ballot.

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block, says hot saucing could pose risks that many parents would not consider.

"We don't even do it for convicted felons to inflict pain upon them. Why would we do it to a small child?" he said.

Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair on the popular 1980s TV series Facts of Life, is an advocate and practitioner of hot saucing. Whelchel, the author of Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, says the practice worked for her children when other disciplinary actions did not.

"There is a place for the parent to be the parent and a child to be the child," Whelchel said. "There's a place to draw the lines and to take that responsibility. If a child crosses over that line, then to say, you know, sometimes it takes more than, 'Don't do that, I told you not to do that, if you do that again you are going to sit down for 15 minutes.'"

Karp, a pediatrician, says he's concerned that some parents will take the practice of hot saucing too far.

He says some kids will react differently than others to such a punishment. He warns that some children will become more humiliated, withdrawn and belligerent after such a punishment.

On his Web site, happiestbaby.com, Karp suggests a number of alternative communication strategies to get children to cooperate when the situation seems out of control.

When it comes to toddlers, Karp suggests that parents bring themselves down to their children's level, and talk and act like toddlers themselves.

"You say, 'no, no, no,'" said Karp, who helps parents communicate with their toddlers by essentially teaching them to talk like a caveman. Karp calls his own special language "toddler-ese."

Whelchel says she practiced hot saucing from the time her children were in preschool through their 10th birthdays. Her children are now 12, 13 and 14 years old.

She says parents who turn to creative punishments should always use common sense and make sure the punishment is age-appropriate.

Carleton Kendrick, a Boston family therapist who says he is vehemently against hot saucing, says parents who endorse corporal punishment should think twice about using hot sauce to discipline children because it could lead to an investigation of child abuse in some states.

Practices at childcare centers in Michigan and Georgia were called into question after it was discovered that workers used hot sauce to discipline some of the children.

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