"Hot saucing" is for Tex Mex food, not discipline

Hot SauceDr Phil, The View, Today Show…everyone seems to be talking about the Hot Sauce Mom. Frankly, I am disgusted by this parent who has resorted to bullying her child into submission. So, it’s time for me to pull out my Discipline 411 lecture and share it on this blog post.

Every once in a while, a parent asks at the two-year well check when their child is old enough to be disciplined. My response: “Umm, about a year ago!”

When your darling 9-month old looks back at you with a smirk on his face before he uproots the daffodils in your garden, he definitely knows he is doing something wrong. And, it means he is ready to be disciplined.

The word, discipline, literally means “to teach”. Your job as a parent is to teach your child which behaviors are appropriate and which aren’t. Discipline does not necessarily mean “to punish”.

There are many ways to teach a child that a behavior is inappropriate. Here are a few ground rules:

  1. Your child understands “no”. He may pretend that he doesn’t—but that is because he wants to make sure that you really meant it! But, saying “no” 50 times a day can lose its effectiveness. You need to have several strategies besides this one.
  2. Many of your child’s inappropriate behaviors are just a ploy to get your attention. Good attention (your praise) and bad attention (your lecturing) is attention either way. So, ignoring the bad behavior and taking a moment to notice and praise your child being good is an extremely effective discipline strategy.
  3. Do the time if you do the crime. I am a big believer in using natural consequences to teach personal responsibility. You want your child to realize that his behavior can lead to an undesirable result. Example: If you throw your food, you get excused from the kitchen table/high chair. (In the real world, if you throw your food, you get thrown out of the restaurant, right?) Next time, if your child is hungry, he will remember to eat and not act like John Belushi.
  4. Some behaviors deserve a “time out”. No, you can’t expect your child to sit in a “naughty chair” or the penalty box—especially if he is under 2-3 years old. A time out simply means time away from you, or time you are not giving him attention. So, a younger child can sit on a parent’s lap facing outwards. Or, the parent can walk away and leave the child where he is (as long as he is in a safe place like his room or the living room). A good rule of thumb: one minute of time out for each year of age.

So, when do you just say, “no”, when do you simply ignore the behavior, and when is it time for a time out? That’s what you have to decide. I suggest reserving “time outs” for behaviors that can potentially injure the child or someone else.

For those of you who say, “I’ve tried time out and it doesn’t work”…remember, you are planting the seeds of discipline. Do not expect a tree to grow overnight! If you are consistent and follow through, you will see the fruits of your labor a few years down the road—that is, your child will behave well even when you aren’t watching his every move.

There is no place for pulling out the black belt, or hot sauce, to get your child to behave. To the Hot Sauce Mom, I say, GROW UP and be a parent! You deserve more than a misdemeanor.