Cruel and Unusual Punishment
by Selena Cruz George, P.E.T. Program Manager
I would like to bring to the attention of those of you who haven’t already been disturbed by the story of the “Hot Sauce Mom.”
“Hot Sauce Mom,” otherwise known as Jessica Beagley, has recently become infamous for punishing her 7-year-old adopted son Kristoff, by means of forcing him to drink hot sauce, take cold showers and perform jumping jacks until complete exhaustion. According to Beagley, she punished him because he had lied to her about acting out in school.
When asking (yelling at) her son, “Why did you lie to me?” he replies through tears: “Because I did not want to get in trouble.”
According to Beagley, she used these methods because everything else she had tried – including spankings – wasn’t working.
Video of her chastising him was recorded (by her) and submitted to the Dr. Phil show, in hopes of getting on the air. On the air she was, but the publicity gave her much more than she had expected. Ironically enough, she is now facing charges of child abuse. And as of today, Kristoff is still in her custody.
I could barely watch this video in its entirety. Opinions aside, the manifestation of what punishment and authoritarian power does to children is obvious: fear, avoidance, lying and hostility in this case. I am furthermore distressed by some reactions of those who have said that as a society, we have turned into “sissies.” The idea being that this kind of treatment towards children should be tolerated; even supported! What surprises me here, is that these are the same people who justify this by saying “My parents gave me the belt. It’s how things were handled.” Interesting. Do these folks have such fond memories of being physically punished by their parents that they want to pass this on to their children? Thank goodness this attitude is only shared by the minority.
The overwhelming reaction to the “Hot Sauce Mom” is deep sympathy and sadness for young Kristoff. I couldn’t help but shake my head and wonder how troubled Kristoff would (or wouldn’t) be in school or at home if his mother listened to him beyond his hostility and tears to find out what he was really feeling and what he was deeply needing.
Whether it be to satiate hunger or to feel loved, all behavior is simply an attempt to get some need met. Deceit, anger and aggression are symptoms of deeper, raw emotions. Why – for ANY reason – would we deprive children of their basic, human needs? Sure, the short-term effects of using punishment and power do often work. But in the long term, doing this has a high probability of backfiring on parents in forms of resentment, rebellion and even just becoming more clever as to avoid the punishment (but not changing the undesirable behavior).
Know someone out there who might disagree? For them especially, please – pass it on.
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