- You might be able to slip something noxious into the child’s mouth the first time without resistance, but after that it will take a fight to accomplish. That means that there are in fact two major parts to this action: the child’s fear and distress when driven to fight back against an adult attack, and the real discomfort caused by the substance. Both parties become angrier and more distressed as the struggle goes on, and as feelings run higher neither will be able to focus on what is being taught or learned. (Note the post author’s glee over the fact that putting pepper on top of lemon juice makes it very hard to get free of the pepper.) Or is the idea that one person will hold the child while the other puts the hot sauce in? Yet, you know, I’ll bet many people who do this consider themselves authoritative rather than authoritarian.
- Adults like a bit of hot sauce with food, and some even make it a bit of a contest who can eat the hottest food. But the fact is that a little hot sauce with food is interesting because it gives a sort of controlled burn. The undiluted sauce on a child’s tender mouth and tongue causes actual burns, which will take a while to heal. And, what would you think would be the result if a thrashing child inhaled some of this stuff? This is not just an unpleasant taste.
- Are bad words really so bad that pain is necessary to stop their use? And can’t you think of any other method? Children use “bad words” as imitation of adults, because they’ve never been instructed about what words to use and when, or because they don’t have vocabularies to express themselves. You can work on all those without putting soap in their mouths.
- When the post author recommends “nasty tastes” for biting other people, the implication is that the children are toddlers or young preschoolers. At that age, children bite out of frustration and the lack of social skills to work out conflicts with other children. Guide them to use words and take turns, and watch carefully so you can intervene before tempers get to the biting stage; you’ll see that biting incidents diminish. If the child is older than preschool age and has some handicapping condition, the same suggestions apply. If the child is older and has no physical handicaps, but still bites people, there may be a need for psychological or psychiatric care.
- The post also recommends “nasty tastes” for thumbsucking. Until the permanent teeth come in, thumbsucking is not a problem. When they do come in, and if they are being distorted by the pressure, dentists can provide a device that breaks the suction and takes the “oomph” out of thumbsucking, usually to the gratification of the child, who would like to stop.
- A general
issue about the use of punishment is that when caregivers see that their
punishment is unsuccessful in changing behavior, they often can think of
nothing but how to escalate the punishment. This is highly
counter-productive. For both punishments and rewards, the best learning occurs
with small doses. Intense punishments cause so much anger, fear, and
distress that the child’s ability to learn is lessened, and he or she
remembers the bad experience-- but
not the desired behavior change.
- A final point: are you going to be the person to give the child medicine? How easy do you think that will be when you’ve taught her to associate you with painful and scary attacks on her mouth?
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Putting "Nasty Tastes" in Child's Mouth: A Charming Idea, I'm Told
Well, gentle readers (and belligerent readers too), there’s just no telling what you’ll find in your morning’s e-mail, is there? This morning I received this link: http://www.nanny.net/blog/10-nasty-tastes-sometimes-used-to-discipline-kids/ It was sent by one Debbie Denard, who said she thought my readers and I might find it “charming”.
The post is just exactly what it says. It recommends the use of lemon juice, vinegar, Tabasco sauce, soap, pepper, and other substances, inserted into a child’s mouth as punishment (not discipline) for thumbsucking, nail-biting, biting other people, and general disobedience. The author notes that some people think “hot-saucing” with Tabasco is child abuse, but she thinks it’s okay if you don’t do it “too often” or with “too much” hot sauce (appropriate frequency and amounts undefined). She also refers to the use of most of the items as addressing biting or “bad word” problems, but Tabasco as a general treatment for disobedience. She believes such treatment is a better idea than spanking.
Guess what. There are few things I find more un-charming than this kind of advice being given in cold blood and the apparent conviction that these are normal and desirable ways to treat children.
I don’t deny that people-- even those who ought to know better—use these methods. The day care center at a Pittsburgh area YMCA was investigated a few years ago because staff had punished young children by putting alum powder in their mouths (www.post-gazette.com/pg/09017/942536-455.stn). In addition to using hot sauce or similar noxious substances, others have forced children to eat or drink as a punishment for disobedience-- a box of Oreo cookies coated with hot sauce, or a large amount of water, the latter of which figured in the death of Cassandra Killpack in Utah some years ago. (Cassandra was receiving Attachment Therapy, by the way, and this method was said to have been advised by her therapist).
I do say, however, that it’s time to stop these dangerous and ineffective practices, and especially to stop suggesting them to people looking for advice on line. (Ms. Denard, I’m talking to you.)
Why stop? Why is this method worse than spanking with the bare hand, which I’ve argued is not necessarily the root of all evil?
Here are some reasons:
No, charmed I’m not. And I hope that people training to be nannies are not taking this kind of advice from nanny.net.