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Get Kids to Behave: Sassy Sauce?

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I was examining a five year old the other day and while the mother and I were talking the little boy became impatient and interrupted his mother.  When she told him he would have to wait he said “I don’t have to”.  Within a split-second she replied, “do you need some sassy sauce because you are being impolite?”

I must admit, this was a new term to me, but the little boy immediately became quiet and apologized to his mother. He definitely did not want “sassy sauce!”

Well, it seems that “sassy sauce” is a spray bottle filled with red wine vinegar which this mother uses as a means of behavior modification. She says that she uses it when the children are impolite, use inappropriate words for their ages, and for just being “sassy”. This seemed rather brilliant to me.

When my children were younger we always talked about “getting your mouth washed out with soap”, although I cannot remember actually ever following through with it.  I may have gotten a soapy washcloth and threatened to put it in their mouths and that was all that was necessary? I should probably ask them, they seem to remember everything.  Some of my staff members said they remembered getting their mouth washed out with soap for being “sassy”.  They said it burned.

At any rate, national news is a buzz focusing on a story of a mother who put Tabasco sauce in her child’s mouth for misbehaving at school.  This mother has been charged with child abuse due to her controversial disciplinary actions.  She will be sentenced on Monday.

Parents are always seeking behavior modification strategies when it comes to disciplining their children.

I was thinking about my patient and red wine vinegar seems innocuous enough to me and little ones are not likely to enjoy that sour taste. (there is no burning of the tongue)

When we talked about how effective this method had been for disciplining her two children (she has a two year old daughter too), she began to giggle.  She said the only draw back is that the five year old is beginning to like the taste and is even starting to eat salad.

I realize my patient’s situation is very different than “Hot Sauce Mom” but they both began similarly…two moms trying to find a way to get their child to behave.

It’s not easy being a parent but the one thing we cannot do when disciplining our children is to take out our frustrations and anger on them or place them in a harmful situation.

Using vinegar worked for my patient; her children are quite polite and well behaved. The interesting thing?  Her five year old likes salad with oil and vinegar dressing.  Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

What do you think of “sassy sauce”?  I would love your comments!

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2 Responses to “Get Kids to Behave: Sassy Sauce?”

  1. LJC says:

    That is borderline child abuse, and the fact that you and the mother seem to think it’s cute is horrifying.

    Why not start, ohhh, long before the situation comes up and instill good values in the first place. Let your child know exactly what the expectations are, and what you will and will not accept. “I will not accept that type of language. I expect you to respond in a polite tone.” Set appropriate consequences for future infractions (lose privileges or playtime with friends) and follow through every single time. To react with a punishment that is intended to cause harm to a child is disturbing.

    I have never hit my child and have never put something offensive in her mouth. Instead, I focus on absolutely consistent parenting and reinforcement of values and expectations on a daily basis. And – no surprise – she is a calm, polite, well-behaved child who has never caused me any trouble.

    You should be ashamed for promoting your truly misguided parenting tips as a helpful suggestion for effective parenting.

  2. Jane says:

    Very creative. As you say, not harmful and may be effective. Soap is nasty..had it when I was growing up..memorable!

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