Hot sauce as an increase in discipline

Medical services reported that they are seeing an increase in children needing treatment for burns to the mouth, esophagus and stomach caused by hot sauce, also known as “hot tongue.” Through investigation, the medical services have discovered that the ‘hot sauce’ was intentionally put/forced into the child’s mouth to punish the child, primarily when the child’s misbehavior is related to the use of the mouth: responding to adults, lying , biting someone, wearing clothes, spitting, refusing to eat, etc. Variations of the punishment include the use of acetic acid (vinegar), lemon juice, soap, or some other highly noxious substance.

According to the Washington Post, “‘Hot sauce’ or ‘hot tongue’ has roots in Southern culture, according to some proponents of the controversial disciplinary method, but it has spread across the country. No one keeps track of how many parents do, but most from the experts… including pediatricians, psychologists and child welfare professionals, [are]…familiar with it.”

An associated method of inflicting pain on children is the force-feeding of hot peppers. Two child psychologists reported that this “can lead to anaphylaxis or cause significant burns and damage to the developing tissues of the mouth, esophagus, intestinal walls, stomach, and colon.” More information on “hot sauces”

“Hot Saucing” has been promoted on a few Internet sites, in Today’s Christian Woman magazine, and in a Focus on the Family book. Focus on the Family is a fundamentalist Christian agency located in Colorado Springs, CO.

The McIlhenny Company, the largest manufacturer of Tabasco sauce, considered placing a warning message on its bottles: “We oppose the use of this product as a punishment for children, also known as Hot-Saucing.” In the final decision-making process, McIlhenny refused to implement such a warning out of fear of retaliation that was not in the eminent good of the children.

Medical contraindications for using Hot Sauce as a disciplinary action:

“Hot sauce” a child’s tongue can cause choking and burn the mouth, esophagus and stomach.

In Virginia children’s tongues/mouths are legally abused “hot sauce”.

Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist in Boston, MA, advises against the use of “hot sauces.” He said that he can burn the boy’s esophagus and make his tongue swell. This can create a potential choking hazard. He said: “There are many different types of hot sauce on the market, and parents who say they know the dilution to use so it doesn’t sting, or say they only use a drop, are wrong. It’s done because it hurts. It stings. It burns. It makes you nauseous.”

Kendrick added, “There’s no room for pain, humiliation and fear in disciplining healthy children. I think it’s a pretty barbaric practice, to say the least.”

Giorgio Kulp, a pediatrician in Montgomery County, VA, says that the use of hot sauce in children is dangerous due to the risk of inflammation and the possibility of triggering unknown allergies. He notes that “every child’s reaction, physically, is different.”

Virginia is the only state that legally stipulates that putting hot sauce in a child’s mouth for discipline is abuse. Given the dangers of ‘hot sauce’ to discipline, why then, when the stakes are so high, does society look the other way?

The answer is not complicated. People cannot empathize with children’s plight until they can honestly acknowledge the mistreatment of their own childhood experiences and examine their own parents’ shortcomings. To the extent that they feel compelled to defend their parents and keep their secrets, they will do the same for others. By continually insisting that “it turned out okay,” they reassure themselves and divert their attention from deeply unpleasant hidden memories.

That’s why when someone says, “‘hot sauce’ is abuse,” many people react as if a door locked from childhood has been flung open. This unconscious barricaded door has prevented them from committing the most dangerous and unforgivable act of disloyalty imaginable, disloyalty to their parents. They fear that by opening the door to the truth they will fall into an abyss, abandoned and deprived of any possibility of reconciliation with the parents they love. Fear is irrational. The denial, about what was done to them, and now what they are doing and allowing to be done to this generation, is the present danger and real sin.

Reconciliation and healing can only begin with a recognition of the truth. It is useless to hope that lies, evasions and excuses can somehow erase the memory and pain of past injuries.