How to Discipline.

Posted on August 13, 2011 by


I read many parenting blogs to get perspective and a variety of opinions, and for humor too.

Motherhood, WTF? is a great irreverent blog at the foibles of life as a mom, and usually has me laughing out loud, but the other day it just shocked me out of my seat. Allison was at a loss on how to handle her son’s fresh mouth (“stupid mommy”) and asking her readers for support. The avalanche of answers, of parents sharing their discipline techniques, made my jaw drop. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

One mother said that spanking didn’t work because she didn’t do it hard enough. Proposing spanking as a discipline method didn’t really surprise me, but further comments did:

At one point, the hubby took a hammer and smashed one of his toys. The kid bawled his eyes out, for what felt like hours. But it was a while before he pulled any crap…

And the most disturbing to me was the number of parents who used vinegar or hot sauce to punish their children:

I told my kids I would put hot sauce in their mouths if they use bad words.

I have a friend who does the hot sauce thing. It works very well. […] It took her putting a few drops (maybe 3 or so) on their tongue maybe 2-3 times and they stop instantly now. For a little while she had to carry a very small bottle of Tabasco in her purse.

I will tell you what stopped it, and stopped it cold: A teaspoon of vinegar. And I don’t hide it in public, either. I carry a baby spoon and a bottle of vinegar in my car, and he’ll have it anywhere, any place. In fact, I made him buy that himself with his allowance money.

I tried the hot sauce thing with my son and when he came out of his room he said “do you not love me anymore?” Broke my heart! So after that I went to vinegar….tastes bad but doesn’t burn. I kept a small spray bottle in my purse and they knew it was there….that worked.

Reading these comments broke my heart too, and then another reaction started swelling in me: indignation. Especially at the light tone to such a serious subject, even reveling in it,  such as this parent’s reaction to spooning vinegar in a toddler’s mouth:

LOVE IT!! That’s the best punishment! I may have to borrow this.

I try REALLY hard not to judge others. I firmly believe there are a thousand ways to be a great parent, that we’re all doing what’s best for our kids. In this case, I just couldn’t bring myself to understand some of the comments.

Then I started wondering, will I become one of these parents, pushed over the edge of patience? Until now, keeping Alex out of trouble was mostly achieved by simple prevention and by distracting him away from danger or temptation. But more and more, his willful ways and temper tantrums are leading me to search for other ways to handle him. And what’s to say how he will push my buttons later on when he starts talking?

So I’ve started thinking of my parenting philosophy regarding discipline. One thing I’m sure of is I want to avoid a power-struggle situation with my child. After all, children have so little control over their lives, it must be extremely frustrating. I think it’s a losing battle to fight them on that level.

For now, since Alex is still in the non-verbal phase, I simply remove him from the situation, edict a firm but simple “stop whatever you’re doing” and repeat. What’s really working wonders for me is showing him an alternative, like giving hugs instead of pushing, and praising him for his good behaviour.

Later when he starts talking, I want to help him deal with his runaway emotions, be it anger, frustration or sadness, “stupid mommy”, “I hate everybody” or “nobody loves me”. I dearly hope my parental reactions will calm the situation down, comfort him, teach him respect, show him positive options… and not escalate into a war of wills and Tabasco sauce.