How to discipline your child or grandchild?

This is a hot topic now that the “Hot Sauce Mom” case is making headlines. If you’re not familiar with the situation it’s about an Alaskan mother who washed her adopted son’s mouth out with hot sauce and made him take a cold shower because he wiggled around in class and used his pencil to swordfight. This sounds like normal seven year old behavior to me, so I question why his teacher even mentioned the incident to the mother, unless his ability to sit still or focus is a constant problem. If that’s the case he needs a medical examination.

Check out the U-tube video of the Hot Sauce Mom here. Her daughter shot the video and sent it to the Dr. Phil show.

The Hot Sauce Mom used psychological abuse, AKA emotional abuse, to try to get through to her son. This approach is as destructible to a child’s well-being as physical abuse. There may not be any visible scars on the body, but I assure you there are scars on the brain. Trauma of this nature often leads to dissociative behavior and affects how a person interacts with the world.

I firmly believe that if you don’t have a solution to a problem you shouldn’t complain about it. Let me first say that my college degree is in Business Management, not Psychology, so I don’t claim to be an expert. But I played a part in establishing the School Age Program that is used in the Department of Defense’s military Child Development Programs. SAP is still nurturing healthy young minds today.

One of the program’s objectives is to help parents and caregivers of children to come up with alternative ways to discipline. My parents spanked me and I’m alright. We hear this so much in our culture. I’m not discounting the truth of this statement; instead I challenge you to consider other ways to instruct your child, instead of spanking.

One such way is time-out. Been there, done that, some of you will say. It doesn’t work. I’ve seen time-out in action and when done right, it is an effective tool. Another helpful technique used to control behavior is taking away the positive things in a child’s life. For example, their favorite toy.

Let’s examine both approaches closer.

1. Both TAKE COMMITMENT: This is the most important step in the process. Your child has to know you will follow through on what you say you will do. If you don’t act to correct bad behavior, you lose credibility. Your actions must be consistent every time a problem occurs. You can’t take a day off from this job.

2. Both are effective only with REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: You know your child. What is he/she capable of doing? Don’t set her up for failure. Don’t establish rules or set limits that are not within her reach. For example, most three-year-olds can realistically sit still for about 3 - 5 minutes. Don’t expect a toddler to remain quiet or sit still for long periods of time. This only leads to frustration for both parent and child.

3. Both require AGE APPROPRIATE LANGUAGE and LOGIC: This doesn’t mean you should dummy down language when you speak to a child. This is about explaining your wishes in a way that she not only understands but can apply to any situation she encounters. Don’t just explain the types of behaviors you want her to avoid, let her know why it is important to behave a certain way. Give the reason. For example, if she hits her friend, her friend won’t want to play with her again.

4. Both require PREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES: A child’s environment has to have predictability in it. If he knows what to expect from you he feels safe and comforted (I don’t have to worry. Momma goes to work in the morning, but she comes home in the evenings). Use this same approach to help him learn what you expect from him. (If my behavior is good, mommy will respond in a positive way) And once you set the rules don’t change them in the middle of the game. Not fair! Being consistent helps him to learn that if he makes bad decisions, bad things will happen. Good decisions, good things will happen.

5. Both require you use what your child CHERISHES or VALUES to control behavior: This is usually the most important thing in your child’s life at the moment. Maybe it’s her favorite Barbie, his love of playing baseball with his friends, or if he is older the privilege of earning more Xbox 360 play time. For negative behavior take the positive thing in your child’s life away (favorite toy) or use time-out to correct him or her.

Raising a child is not an easy task. We usually only have our parents as our blueprints. In school we’re taught how to balance a checkbook, not how to raise happy and productive human beings. I hope these tips help to make the most important job in your life easier. Because the truth is, a parent who doesn’t discipline properly can do serious damage to a child’s body and soul.

What do you think?

Until later,
Pamela Varnado


  1. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 11:56 AM  

    Ladies, I just watched the U-tube video again. I can't stop crying. I can't imagine being so cruel to a child.

  2. Mona Risk // September 21, 2011 at 11:56 AM  

    What a great post Pam. I'll save it for my son and daughter. Being the wonderful grandmother that I am, I feel like spanking my own children when they upset my adorable angels, even when the little rascals are more demons than angels.

    Seriously I have seen the damage that moral abuse can do to a kid. Parents work hard, have no time and no patience and expect too much from their children. Today, it's the kid who has to understand the parent, not the other way around.

    Competition at sports is incredible. The sport becomes a stressful chore rather than a fun game because the parents want their kids to win.

  3. Judy // September 21, 2011 at 12:30 PM  

    What do I think? I think you're fantastic, Pam! Love your easy to follow suggestions. Parenting is the hardest task anyone can have, in my opinion. This may sound terrible but I think of it in the same way as training a dog. Loving, firm, repetition over and over. With kids you can talk about consequences, which makes it easier. Parenting is a ton of WORK but it's so rewarding and it doesn't stop with your kids, because grandbabies come along! LOL

  4. Connie Gillam // September 21, 2011 at 1:32 PM  

    Parenting is a hard job. I've raised three and wished I could go back and do some things over and differently. You are your little ones yardstick. Everything you do (not say) is judged and don't think they're not watching.
    My words of wisdom are: love them, be firm and consistent with them and remember they're children.

  5. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 1:49 PM  

    Mona, I'm watching my grandsons because my daughter is deployed with the military. Though they keep me hopping, it not's fair to curtail their energetic nature. Instead I redirect it energy into positive things like guitar lessons, boyscouts, and baseball.

    And you're right, competition at sports is incredible. When parents get involved it's crazy. I heard shouting matches and even seen a fistfight. How can they ask their child to behave when they're setting a bad example?

  6. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 1:54 PM  

    Judy, parenting is hard. And even if you do everything right, you have to deal with the negative influences outside your home. During the teen years, most kids worry more about pleasing their peers than their parents.

    Your dog analogy works. I've often commented that training my dog, Lily is like training a child. Consistency is the key.

  7. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 1:55 PM  

    Connie, you got it right. It's not what we say, it's what we do that impact our children's lives. They watch everything.

  8. Mary Marvella // September 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM  

    Excellent advice, Pam. Time out has another name, 'the naughty chair". Super Nanny also reminds parents to remember the age of the kid and to stick with the rules.

  9. Anju Gattani // September 21, 2011 at 2:47 PM  

    Interest post, Pam,
    There are no easy answers to parenting but 'hot sauce' and 'soap' and what nots are certainly not the solution. I too wonder what the mother must have been thinking (or maybe she wasn't) to have implemented such a treatment.
    I shudder to imagine what the child will grow up remembering.

  10. Tamara LeBlanc // September 21, 2011 at 3:22 PM  

    Pamela, what a great post. i had no idea about hot sauce mom. I haven't watched the video yet, and probably won't...I imagine just hearing about it is enough to outrage.
    Thank you for bringing it to my attention and for the many words of wisdom you offered.
    Have a nice evening,

  11. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 4:41 PM  

    Mary,a parent has to consider the age of a child in order to set realistic expectations. It doesn't take a SuperNanny to figure that one out.

  12. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 4:44 PM  

    Anju, there are some crazy parents in the world. What's inside the heart of someone who does somthing like that? Makes me wonder what type of parenting Hot Sauce Mom received as a child.

  13. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 4:49 PM  

    Tamara, the video made me cry. I wish I hadn't watched it. Kids are precious. No one should be allowed to abuse them.

  14. Nightingale // September 21, 2011 at 6:56 PM  

    Good post, Pam! I wish I'd read it before I went to England last year to have to meet my very headstrong, spoiled granddaughter (who is by the way the most beautiful child in the world and the brightest and well all of everything! :-)) But she constantly tested me, and I didn't know how far I could go in discipling her. I made it through the 10 days okay I guess. She still wants to see her Nanna from America again!

  15. Beth Trissel // September 21, 2011 at 7:12 PM  

    Excellent and timely post, Pam.

  16. Autumn Jordon // September 21, 2011 at 8:51 PM  

    Great post, Pam. One that all parents should read. Parenting is a hard job but the rewards are priceless.

  17. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 9:26 PM  

    Linda, a grandmother's nature is to spoil grandkids. I find it hard to discipline my grandsons but I do because I know it will help them.

  18. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 9:27 PM  

    Beth, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  19. Pamela Varnado // September 21, 2011 at 9:29 PM  

    Autumn, now that my kids are both grown, I'm showering lots of love on the grandkids. The unconditional love they show me in return is priceless.

  20. Mary Ricksen // September 21, 2011 at 10:13 PM  

    Thank for this wonderful post Pam. I was abused and I know it's just not the way. I will never forget and I'm getting pretty old to have it still in my mind. So there it is!
    And my grandmother was the only one who loved me unconditionally she would never have ever hit me. That is the reason I loved her so much!
    At least parents have to think these days...

  21. Josie // September 21, 2011 at 10:18 PM  

    Such a great idea to channel the natural energy in children to good, constructive behaviors. Thanks for sharing this great blog.

  22. Mary Marvella // September 21, 2011 at 10:49 PM  

    Mary R, I am sending a hug your way!

  23. Anonymous // September 22, 2011 at 12:35 PM  

    Pamela, thanks for such an informative and wise post. I did hear about this story and was appalled by this mother's way of discipline. That is no way to treat a child. How is this teaching the child proper behavior? Instead she is leaving emotional scars behind, and thats heartbreaking.

    I don't have children yet, but I imagine it will be quite a challenge. I have worked as a reading teacher of elementary school children, and found that consistency is indeed key. The children must know their boundaries and realize that you are serious in what you expect of them and their behavior. They will test you, but you must be firm. I've also learned that kids like to have boundaries.

    Thanks again for your advice, Pam, and for bringing this issue and story to light. I will definitely keep these tools you've offered in mind when I have my own children!

    ~Jennifer G.

  24. Pamela Varnado // September 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM  

    Josie, to do otherwise would be to dampen their natural spirit. And I'd die before I do that to my grandsons.

  25. Pamela Varnado // September 23, 2011 at 11:59 AM  

    Jennifer, that woman is horrible. The good thing is that she at least asked for help.

  26. Pamela Varnado // September 23, 2011 at 12:05 PM  

    Mary R., I'm sorry to hear you suffered abuse. I didn't have the best upbringing also. The memories stay with you for life. I still struggle with them.

    Children are a blessing. Some parents don't realize how much of an inpact they'll make in the lives of their children. We should love them unconditionally. Don't we expect them to love us that way?