Suffer The Little Children: Focus On The Family And 'Hot Saucing'

Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson is controversial in part for his endorsement of spanking. The Religious Right leader's book Dare to Discipline endorsed corporal punishment at a time when many child-rearing experts were recommending other discipline techniques that did not rely on the infliction of physical pain.

Apparently, some Dobson acolytes have now concluded that a smack on the behind or striking a kid with a paddle is not punishment enough and have sought out more creative ways to inflict pain on recalcitrant youngsters. Enter "hot saucing."

The latest corporal punishment fad in the fundamentalist world, "hot saucing" consists of putting a drop of a fiery condiment on a child's tongue. According to an Aug. 10 article in The Washington Post by freelance writer Alison Buckholtz, some conservative Christian parents are using the controversial discipline technique on children as young as 2.

In case any fundamentalist parents are in doubt, "hot saucing" proponents are quick to point out that the Bible approves of the unorthodox punishment. A leading proponent of "hot saucing," former child actress Lisa Whelchel, explains it all in her book Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, published by Focus on the Family and the evangelical publisher Tyndale House

Whelchel's book provides passages from the Bible that she says back up all of her discipline techniques. For example, she also recommends pinching a child's tongue with a clothespin for swearing, saying it is supported by a passage in the Book of Proverbs that reads, "The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out."

"Hot saucing" has plenty of critics. Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist contacted by The Post, noted that hot sauces come in different strengths. The most fiery brands, he noted, can burn a child's esophagus and cause the tongue to swell, making a youngster choke.

"There are many different kinds of hot sauce on the market, and parents who say they know the dilution to use so it won't sting or say they only use one drop are wrong," Kendrick said. "It's done because it hurts. It stings. It burns. It makes you nauseous."

Not every conservative Christian agrees with the approach. "The tongue doesn't do the lying, the heart does the lying," said Tim Kimmel, an evangelical child-rearing expert. "When you direct a form of discipline to a body part that created the problem, it's like in [other cultures] when they cut off your hand for stealing."

"Hot saucing" could also get a parent into trouble with the law. Child-welfare officials in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., contacted by The Post were uniformly skeptical of the practice. While none of those jurisdictions has laws specifically banning the punishment, officials say if done repeatedly, "hot saucing" could spark a child-abuse investigation.

Religious Right activists constantly extol the virtues of the family and proclaim their love and concern for children. But, as the controversy over "hot saucing" proves, at the same time they seem to be awfully creative when it comes to thinking up new ways to inflict pain on misbehaving youngsters.