'Hot Sauce Mom' Is Not a Child Abuser

Julie Ryan Evans
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Jessica BeagleyAn Alaskan mom who sought help from Dr. Phil has been charged with child abuse after footage from his show that showed her extreme discipline methods went viral. Jessica Beagley resorted to punishing her 7-year-old son with cold showers and hot sauce on his tongue when he lied. Viewers were outraged by what they saw and complained to police, who launched an investigation.

"What happens when you lie to me?" she asks in the video 

"I get hot sauce. You get hot sauce," the boy responds.

The mom asks, "What else happens when you lie to me?"


"I get a cold shower," he says, and the footage shows him screaming in the shower.

The mother admitted she is at the end of her rope when she resorts to these measures, which is why she went on the show -- to get help. And it's heartbreaking to watch. But is it really child abuse? Check out the video and see what you think:

I know parents who use hot sauce as a discipline tool. I have threatened my own 7-year-old son with it. Fortunately, he's pretty well behaved and a random time-out or the threat of losing a favorite toy is the most I've ever had to use as punishment. But if he was out of control, I don't know what I'd do. Hot sauce? Perhaps. I don't think that falls into the child abuse category.

As for the cold showers, those get closer to the line, but I'm still not convinced they cross it. It's not something I could do to my own child, but unless they're left in there for a lengthy time, it's not causing them physical harm, and her intent wasn't to harm him but to make him behave. What about parents who force their children to run laps, or do push-ups, or clean toilets as punishment -- where do we draw the line?

One psychologist on The Early Show said the anxiety and shock of such treatment can lead to a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. But a parent who yells incessantly or ignores her children for computer games could likely do damage as well -- are we going to lock them up too? Just how far do we want the law to go into the way we raise our children?

"Nothing Jessica has done is criminal," Bill Ingaldson, a lawyer for Beagley, told ABC News. "If you give your child food that has hot sauce on it -- maybe they eat Mexican food -- does that mean it's child abuse?"

Beagley's husband is a police officer; they're active in their church. They've adopted four children from Russia (one of whom is the boy in the video); social services has investigated and found no signs of abuse. She doesn't sound like an abuser to me, but rather a mom trying to find something that works, a mom who needs help and asked for it, but got handed child abuse charges instead.

Do you think "hot sauce mom" should be charged with child abuse?


Image via YouTube

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