Aug. 24, 2004 -- The practice of "hot saucing" a child's tongue as a method of discipline may seem cruel to some parents, but those who regularly use the punishment say it teaches their charges valuable and long-lasting lessons.
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.
"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," Whelchel said on ABC News' Good Morning America.
Whelchel says she would have never used hot sauce to discipline her three children if it caused lasting damage. The actress-turned-home-schooling mom suggests using just a dab of hot sauce, placing it on your finger, then touching your finger to the child's tongue.
Boston family therapist Carleton Kendrick says he is vehemently against hot saucing or corporal punishment of any kind.
"There's no room for pain and humiliation and fear in disciplining healthy children," Kendrick said. "I think it's a rather barbaric practice to say the least."
[In a non-scientific ballot on ABCNEWS.com, 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.]
Whelchel says she's been aware for some time that many people are strongly opposed to hot saucing, (which was covered in The Washington Post earlier this month) a form of discipline that's been around for decades, but she says she believes in many different creative ways to discipline, including this one.
"It's totally against popular opinion in culture these days," Whelchel said. "I prefer my child receive a small amount of pain from my hand of love than to encounter a lot more pain in life," she said.
Whelchel said hot saucing works better than traditional spanking when it comes to offenses related to the child's mouth.
"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," she said.
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.
Kendrick says even 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.
"The state of Virginia, for instance, calls this practice bizarre and finds it an actionable offense," Kendrick said.
Whelchel says she practiced hot saucing from the time her children were in pre-school through their 10th birthdays. Her children are now 12, 13, and 14 years old.
Whelchel says parents who turn to creative punishments should always use common sense and make sure the punishment is age-appropriate.