Hotsaucing is a controversial method of correcting behavior in children. Similar to washing a child's mouth out with soap, the practice involves putting hot sauce on a child's tongue as punishment for a bad behavior. While some parents practice the method as a last resort, many child psychologists consider it a form of child abuse. In some areas of the United States, the law recognizes hotsaucing as a form of child abuse and is illegal.
The practice is thought to have originated in the southern part of the United States. Parents use varying amounts of hot sauce on a child's tongue as punishment for any bad behavior they deem worthy of the punishment. Many types of hot sauce contain capsaicin, the chemical that adds heat and spice to the condiment. In young children, the application of hot sauce and this substance to the tongue can not only cause painful heat but also swelling of the tongue, which can make it difficult for the child to breathe. In some cases, it has also caused children to choke.
A division between the two sides of the hotsaucing issue is clear. Some individuals believe it is a cruel corporal punishment inflicted on children. Alternately, many parents that practice hotsaucing say it is used only as a last resort; when other punishments such as time outs or taking away a child's favorite toy fail, hotsaucing is a mildly painful alternative that works, they say. Parents that use the method also say that it's only needed a few times before the threat of it is enough to correct behavior.
Typically, hotsaucing only involves a single drop of the substance on the child's tongue. Parallels have been drawn between this practice and other methods of discipline in which physical pain or discomfort is the main deterrent. Child psychologists usually put this practice in the same category with spanking and washing a child's mouth out with soap; some comparisons have been made that to a child, it is as severe as being hit with a belt or other object.
Some feel that it is a particularly appropriate for language-related offenses such as name-calling or swearing, as it is punishing the part of the child responsible for the bad behavior. Arguments have been made that it is a more humane form of physical punishment than spanking, and does not send the mixed message that while it isn't all right for children to hit each other, it's okay for parents. In some cases, parents use the same principle with a different liquid, from lemon juice to vinegar.