Abuse or No Abuse?


I came across this article on a news feed and it ticks me off.

A daycare owner in Illinois has been arrested and charged criminally for putting hot sauce on the tongues of children at the day care. She was also charged for “slamming” a child in a chair and for “squeezing the arm” of another child.

My take:
Yes, child abuse in this country is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Guess what … so is respect, accountability, and proper behavior in children.

What are you supposed to do with a child that hits you? Or a child that tells you to “go F*** yourself”? What if a child runs into the street? I can come up with a million examples of misbehavior. Maybe one of the prosecutors can publish a brief outlining permissible discipline parents can use to prevent children from engaging in improper behavior. Don’t see many manifestos like that around – it’s always what an adult “shouldn’t” do to discipline a child, not what they should do.

In this case, the prosecutors went too far.

I have washed my kids’ mouths out with soap. Does that make me a public enemy? I’ve even used hot sauce in their mouths when they swear or become verbally abusive. Good thing I don’t live in Harrisburg, IL, I guess. Florida says it’s OK to force a child to drink hot sauce.

Where do we stop on this slippery slope? If I make my kids eat their broccoli and they don’t like it, am I now subject to arrest for forcing them to eat something they don’t like? Maybe kids should just get to eat candy and cake for every meal. Don’t put anything in their mouths that they don’t like. Then the state would take away the kids because they’re too fat.

No touching of the children? Do we get faced with a prosecutor who keeps a list like Rain Man? The “Serious Injury List”? “Charlie Babbitt squeezed and pulled and hurt my neck in 1988”?

Wonder if the investigators will start prosecuting children for misbehaving. Better build a new wing for “juvi.”



  1. What, dude, you think this is an okay way to treat kids? Really?

    If it’s not okay to assault other adults, why in hell should it be okay to assault children?

    • Also, while I’m at it, there are thousands of books and parenting guides to non-violent forms of discipline available.

      • Spanish doctor on

        Children arent adults, so you cant compare.
        Adults dont usually have tantrums or lie on de ground yelling.
        If an adult insults me or hits me, I probably go to court. But with my own kids I`ll do something diferent.

      • Are these books and guides 100% effective in dealing with an out-of-control child?
        Assume they are not. Then what steps do you take if a nine year old kid is coming at you with a kitchen knife and trashing your house?
        “Gee, Johnny, Chapter 6 of Dr. Spock’s book says we ought to redirect your anger. Would you like to stab a pillow instead?”

    • First you have to define “assault”

      If one adult “assaults” another adult, it is acceptable behavior to step in and stop them from doing so. Police can handcuff them, pepper spray them, and throw them into a police car.
      If an adult assaults me, it is acceptable behavior for me to use physical force to protect myself.
      When teachers or daycare workers see one child assault another or are themselves assaulted by “children,” suddenly protective or corrective actions amount to “abuse.”
      Taking the line of reasoning to a somewhat illogical conclusion, then even if children commit violent felonies, they shouldn’t be “assaulted” because they are children. If you don’t agree with this statement, then tell me where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable touching (i.e. between “discipline” and “assault”.)

  2. Interesting post, WC. We DO need to protect the children better in this world. Most childhood threats come from those closest to them. There are so many threats to children out there, that we ALL must be vigilant.

    That being said, I loved this post. I’ve been punched by a student, before I chose to return to the medical field. It was unprovoked. They were just so frustrated, they lashed out. I wasn’t even involved in their issues,. Imagine, your first impulse is to defend yourself, and yet, you musn’t. I just doubled for a second and caught my wind, replying with kindness, before filing a report to the principal of the school.

    We need parents like you-that understand how important parenting IS. Children are smart. They know about abuse, thankfully. Yet, they also know they can not be touched for their actions. Parenting in this day and age has its own set of challenges.

  3. Just Saying on

    If you’re looking for a justification of some kind of behavior, and “But it’s OK in Florida!” is the best you can come up with, you might want to look at readjusting your moral compass.

    • My moral compass is fine.
      The point of the Florida link was to illustrate how inane the system is. It’s OK to whup your kids in one state, but not in another. One state allows hot sauce as punishment, another state arrests you for using it. If you’re not careful about how much you feed your kid, yet another state will take your kid away from you.
      So tell me … exactly what is the correct way to discipline one’s child?

  4. I wonder if they have different laws for punishing your own children?

    What a parent decides to do should be their own decision, but I don’t think hired caregivers should necessarily be the ones to make disciplinary decisions.

    • I don’t know that it’s OK to say “I can ‘abuse’ my kids, but you can’t.”
      Let’s say you’re a caregiver. One of the children you’re watching starts beating the crap out of another child. You ask him to stop and the child tells you to “F- off” and keeps swinging. What should the caregiver do?
      Pepper spray?
      “Grab him by the arm” and be arrested for battery?
      Do nothing out of fear of being accused of a crime?
      Call the police to come and control a bratty 5 year old?
      It’s easy to lay blame on someone else doing something wrong until you’re put in the same position.

  5. I wouldn’t want a daycare provider putting hot sauce in my child’s mouth nor slamming him into a chair…I would never do that to him myself nor have I needed to. My son would be horribly traumatized by that or having to watch that be done to another child. You may think that’s crayzee, but I’ve never used violence nor yelled nor scared him nor hurt him and he’s exceptionally well-behaved. I don’t want him being afraid that I’m going to hurt him if he tells me about something that happened that may paint him in an ill light.

    Just me telling him I was “disappointed” that he did XYZ is enough for him to beg for forgiveness usually. If that doesn’t work, there’s always grounding from video games/TV (there’s only one TV in the house, not TVs nor video games in his room, etc.). He also gets a lot of praise or me telling him I was “proud” when he does good things, like taking out the garbage or cleaning up his room. His school also emphasizes moral development (morality is intertwined into writing/reading lessons et al.) and reward those who show good character. He says “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” at his school and is corrected if he doesn’t. They write essays on “how so-and-so showed perseverance” etc.

    Whatever. It works for me.

    • This is how I raise my kids as well.
      My son just got done writing a paper about all the nice things he likes about his sister.
      I agree with Cynic below who lays some of the blame for childrens’ poor behavior on parenting skills (or lack thereof).
      The issue is not just controlling one’s own children, but also what good parents should do when confronted with someone else’s misbehaving or threatening child – whether it is during childcare or even out on the playground.

  6. Oh, whenever he witnesses some other kid being naughty and comments on it (he doesn’t like to see other kids swearing/fighting/cheating, etc), I say something like, “His mom probably didn’t teach him how to behave, and that’s what happens…” ie. If you don’t listen to your parents, you’re going to end up just like the person you don’t like.

  7. I remember as a kid in the 70’s having my kindergarten teacher smack our hands with a ruler, and our daycare teacher using soap to wash out a kid’s mouth for foul language. I even had gotten paddled in elementary school. I saw nothing abnormal then, and I don’t see anything wrong with it now.
    Kids sometimes act like demons that no amount of reasoning will reverse, and a little corporal punishment is occasionally needed to maintain order.
    Call me anachronistic, but to think that the usual method of discipline, that we as a species have engaged in for thousands of years is synonymous with cruelty, is a ridiculous notion to advance.

  8. Slammed into a chair for misbehavior? Pfff! Try getting threatened by a knife by your dad for lying to him about the grade you got on your last spelling test. When you’re 8.

    Hot sauce for bad language? Meh. Last time I checked, hot sauce was a tasty food item. Dawn isn’t.

    Kids these days get off lightly if you ask me.

  9. It seems to me that too many parents decide to start disciplining and parenting way too late. You cannot wait until the young ones are 14, and then take an interest in raising them. You see them all the time- letting their little brats run all over, letting them scream. True, kids are kids. But they are empty sponges, soaking up everything they see. They don’t raise themselves. I’m not condoning child abuse- they are not the ones to blame. It’s their mother or father to blame, who can’t be bothered to tell their precious blank slate “no”.

  10. In these times “Parents” discipline their pets better than their children. One of the main reasons we have a society of worthless individuals comming about.

    If I were that child, the day care worker would have only be the beginning. My parents would have had round two.

    It is just going to get worse when these lackey “parents” start breeding. Keep reading your BS books about how to raise children without “violent” punishment. Nothing about this is violent, being beaten with a bat is violent not spanking your child.

    • I agree, but sometimes the lack of parenting isn’t because of a lack of desire from the parents.
      If you’re a parent and your kid threatens to call child protective services when you discipline him, you can’t help to have cause for concern.
      If you’re divorced and in a child custody dispute, you’re always wondering whether your ex is going to report your discipline to the police and twist it into “child abuse”.
      Before being able to convict someone for child abuse, maybe courts should have to publish a list of acceptable disciplinary measures that adults are allowed to use with children.

  11. Hot sauce is just plain wrong.

    Parents do need to be parents and take steps to ensure that their children behave but nine times out of ten the parents that complain about teachers/kindergarten staff/whatever disciplining their children are exactly the same parents who have no control over their kids.

    I’ve smacked my children. When necessary. Yes at the odd time more out of my own frustration, but it was rare enough that it made an impact on them.

    I’d not object to my mum or my sister smacking my children because i trist them implicitly. I would not object to my friends chastising my children verbally, cause I trust them to do so appropriately. I would not expect a daycare provider to forscibly throw my child into a chair or to feed them hot sauce. I would expect them to be able to manage discipline in a more appropriate fashion.

    I do agree that if prosecutions are going to ensue then clear guidelines need to be laid down. That said I am surprised anyone would want to become a daycare provider in these litigious times. Sad really.

  12. Fairly recently an extended family member had problems with her daughter. The daughter thought she was being smart called Social Services (UK) and was removed from the family home. Basically the kid (aged14) was running riot, staying out all night, sleeping with her boyfriend, not attending school….the list goes on…..the mum was trying to stop her wild behaviour, and being a liberal mum never smacked her or physically chastised her…….the kid ended up being taken into care, then later moved in with her boyfriend……

    It’s only now as she has turned 18 she has apologised to her parents for the last 4 yrs of sheer hell.

    They are good parents, albeit a tad liberal and they certainly never deserved the case conferences, the social workers, the state intervention that ensued from the lies a 14yr old told.

    There’s always two sides to a tale.


    Since when can’t one give children food? Hell, it’s not like giving them peanuts or something super dangerous.

    Here comes the wahhhhmbulace. This food tastes bad! It’s abuse! Why stop at hot sauce?

  14. I agree that hot sauce is a tasty food item… ha.

    I have a hard time with the “LINE”. I have a two year old (in feb) and frankly I’m not positive he has the communication skills to understand why someone would be putting hot sauce into his mouth or why someone would spank him, to him it would just be an instance of causing physical pain, and he would learn that it’s an OK behavior. Having said that, I don’t think it’s wrong to spank YOUR kid or wash YOUR kid’s mouth out with soap/hotsauce. Although, I might have a problem with a childcare provider doing it. I understand that she was probably at her wits end because of a crazy kid but I wouldn’t be happy about her treating my kid that way, I wouldn’t file charges, but I’d make it clear that I wasn’t okay with it.

    I say never hit a kid of of a reaction, only if they understand what’s going on, and it’s only a swat to the bottom as a clear punishment, don’t smack a kid in the face. Even though I’m probably a better person because I was hit. HA

  15. My mother ran a day care center out of our home from the time I was 10 until I was about 30 (the cancer finally made her stop). She never made much money at it, especially after she got done following all the state regulations for in-home day care and buying supplies, and all that, but in 20 years, she never once had a complaint filed against her, or got a visit from CPS.

    How did she pull this off?

    She talked to the parents. She made sure they understood the concept of “in loco parentis”, and she discussed with them the methods of discipline she employed to control bad behavior. The parents had to be OK with it, or she would not accept their kid into her home. If a kid started acting out, and she could not control them verbally, she would restrain them physically until the parent could arrive.

    I think twice a parent called the sheriff on my mom because their kid went nuts and mom had to restrain them physically, and when the deputy saw my 110 lbs mom and their 80+ lbs raving kid in a house full of other children, they’d ask my mom if she was OK and if she wanted to file charges. Such children were not allowed back. One parent even had the audacity to bring the kid back the next day, and when my mom refused to take the boy in, they just left the boy there (mom called the sheriff & CPS on them).

    My point here is that a day care provider has a responsibility to work with a parent with regard to discipline methods, and to refuse service to parents who will not allow the provider some means of control.

  16. Well, Dr. WC, I do not like brocccoli, never have.. along with a few other things. My parents never forced me to eat anything I did not like after having tried it 3 times. This does not mean they gave up and fed me “candy and cake for every meal.” I did not rule, they did.
    I got cauliflower instead and loved it.

    It is possible to raise a child in a non-abusive manner. This is a method I have used myself and it worked well. When kids misbehave to the point that it gets out of hand, the parents are at fault, not the kids. It did not happen overnight.
    Kids learn from your behavior and if you have to use force, you are not doing something right. Be consistent and firm, but not violent.

  17. Maybe I should add that I was a strange kid: loved brussels sprouts, spinach and all kinds of veggies. 🙂

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