Is it OK to wash your kid’s mouth out with soap?

A mother and her boyfriend were arrested in Florida after punishing the mother’s 8-year-old daughter by making her “eat soap” for saying an obscene word.

Florida Today.com reports:

“The girl, who police said suffered an allergic reaction, has been removed from the couple’s home by the Department of Children and Families, along with her 18-month-old sibling.”

“Wilfredo Rivera, 41, and Adriyanna Herdener, 32, were charged with neglect of a child and child abuse after police were called to a home in the 2300 block of Shenadoah Drive to investigate the incident ….”

“ ‘It caused the girl’s mouth and throat to swell. But they didn’t provide immediate medical care,’ said Yvonne Martinez, spokeswoman for the Palm Bay Police Department.”

What’s not completely clear from the story is: If the mother and boyfriend were arrested because they didn’t get the child immediate medical care or for the actual act of making the child eat soap.

Washing the mouth out with soap is a pretty common punishment that lots of parents have used through the years. We all remember the scene in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie was forced to suck on soap for saying the mother of all bad words.  I’ve also heard of mothers giving their kids splashes of Tobasco sauce on their tongues for offenses.

I’ve never done any of that. It just seems mean. It would never have even occurred to me that there could be an allergic reaction to the soap. I guess at least with the Tabasco Sauce , it’s something that’s edible.

What do you think: Is punishing a child by making them “eat” soap a reasonable punishment? Is it cruel? Should it be illegal? Should a parent be charged with child abuse for doing it? Would Tabasco or any other hot sauce be a better choice to use or is it just as mean (kids do have much more sensitive taste buds)?

99 comments Add your comment

JJ

October 15th, 2009
7:29 am

The inmates are running the assylum…..

lakerat

October 15th, 2009
7:38 am

We used the “Ralphie” method on a couple of occasions but large bars of soap are the only way I would have ever utilized the “wash out the mouth” punishment.

Not sure if “eating” soap is really necessary, as it does seem kind of cruel. Same with the Tobasco sauce thing, plus that method may also have some unintended consequences once through the digestive tract….

Andrea

October 15th, 2009
7:47 am

I don’t think there is anything wrong with washing a kid’s mouth out with soap. I think nowadays though, I would be in the minority. I don’t think it is cruel. I would not make my child eat soap. I had honestly never heard of eating the soap until I read this topic. I would not do the tobasco sauce either.

I don’t think any parent should be charged with abuse for washing a child’s mouth out with soap. Failing to provide medical attention is a different matter in my opinion.

I get really frustrated with government agencies trying to regulate discipline for children. They intervene left and right and take the power away from the parents and give it to the children. But as soon as Little Johnny gets into trouble, the first person people point their fingers at is the parents.

JATL

October 15th, 2009
8:15 am

OK -was this kid made to actually INGEST soap, or are the authorities and reporter using a poor choice of words in describing an act of just making the kid hold soap in her mouth? If the child was made to actually swallow soap, that’s stupid and dangerous, but just holding it in her mouth isn’t -except in this case where there was an obvious allergic reaction. I, personally, haven’t washed my kid’s mouth out with soap, but two of his grandparents have on different occasions. The first time I was a bit taken aback -but guess what -IT WORKED!!!! Son 1 had developed a few words that he knew not to say, had gotten time-outs, swats on the rear, etc. for, but persisted in saying them over and over and over. On one or two occasions my mother stuck a bar of soap in his mouth and on a different occasion his other grandfather did (all for different words). It certainly didn’t hurt him, and now if he starts up with something he shouldn’t say, offering to stick some soap in his mouth stops it cold. I won’t hesitate to do it if he comes up with something else bad and refuses to stop saying it.

As far as it being mean, isn’t punishment “mean”? Is spanking a kid or taking away toys “sweet”? NO -it’s not supposed to be! We’ve turned into such wimps when it comes to child-rearing, and what are we getting for it -a bunch of wimpy kids! I guess the book series discussed a few days ago is right on target! Punishment crosses the line when it becomes abusive, but an unpleasant taste in the mouth is NOT abuse -not getting your kid medical treatment is, at the very least, really stupid and at worst abusive, but I would be willing to bet we’re dealing with yet another pair who really shouldn’t have bred.

deidre_NC

October 15th, 2009
8:22 am

andrea you are so right…its called resposibility without authority…and it sucks…i have washed my kids mouth out with soap…not ever made them eat it..thats a tad too much..i knew a man who made his kids drink tobasco sauce and i thought that was awful..so hard on the digestive system of a kid…not getting medical attention is the crime here imo…

JJ

October 15th, 2009
8:26 am

I’m in charge of my kid, not the government. I don’t need them to come into my home and tell me how I can discipline MY child. I’m footing the bill, not the government. It’s MY child, MY decision!!!!!

That’s why you should discipline your child in the privacy of your home, not out in public. You have no idea who will report you for the smallest thing.

And you SHOULD discipline your kids. There are rules to follow, and if you break them, there are consequences. Too many kids don’t have consequences.

My father always said – You are responsible for your own actions, and your actions have consequences.

HB

October 15th, 2009
9:06 am

Personally, I think it’s a good rule of thumb not to use a punishment that you would be uncomfortable with your child doing otherwise. If your child walked over on his own and started sucking on a bar of soap, would you think that’s ok? If not, then don’t ask them to do it for punishment. Hot sauce seems a bit mean to me (I did know one parent who used a teeny tiny drop on the tongue for punishment — effective without being excessive, but I’m just not big on physical punishments), but as someone else posted, at least it’s edible and not something that under other circumstances you would tell a child NOT to eat.

Sarah

October 15th, 2009
9:09 am

A bar of Ivory soap held in the mouth for about 30 seconds is fine with me. The neglect of seeking medical attention when she was swelling, I do have a problem with.

A

October 15th, 2009
9:19 am

Do you even have to ask the question? This is child abuse. Sure, all of our moms threatened us with washing our mouths out, but I this was more of a scare tactic.

YUKI

October 15th, 2009
9:27 am

Since my son just started saying a few words, I have not had to deal with this type of situation yet. I don’t think I would do it, though. It just seems old fashioned and sort of dumb. I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with just putting the soap in the mouth, but making them eat it? I don’t think so. Then again, ask me in a few/couple of years when he is yelling out obscenities and I might have a different story!

florida

October 15th, 2009
9:29 am

DCF is involved because the parents did not seek medical care once the child’s allergic reaction became severe, NOT because of the soap incident itself.

florida

October 15th, 2009
9:33 am

Enter your comments here

Becky

October 15th, 2009
9:43 am

I don’t know that I would ever do this, but I’m not totally against it..I grew up in a home where my Mother and Father both used cuss words on a regular basis, but I don’t remember any of the kids repeating what we heard..I try no to not cuss in front of the little one and have been very lucky that they don’t say bad words..The girl hasn’t ever said a bad word, the boy has told me a couple of times that so and so said a bad word that started with ??

As others said, it wasn’t so much that the parents did this as much as they didn’t follow thru with the medical help that the child needed..That to me is what would be child abuse..

Stan

October 15th, 2009
9:46 am

WASH the mouth out with soap, no problem. Make the kid EAT the soap, that could be a problem. Not seeking medical care when the kids throat starts swelling, PROBLEM!

The soap should be Ivory brand though.

Jesse's Girl

October 15th, 2009
9:50 am

I think this is the DUMBEST DAMN thing I have ever heard of! Seriously….some of you think putting a bar of soap in your kids’ mouth is ok?! I’m all for corporal punishment…but I use it sparingly. I get that spanking doesn’t work for every child. But making them suck on a bar of soap is a special kind of stupid. Unless you are using an all organic soap…you’re putting a bar of chemicals into your child’s mouth! I would imagine that well over half the kids unlucky enough to get this…puke. Making your child vomit, intentional or not, is WRONG. I sincerely hope that all other avenues of punishment have been exhausted. Now…having said that…I do not believe that the govt should have any say-so in how we parent our children. But some common dern sense is in order. Let the tongue lashing commence….

New Stepmom

October 15th, 2009
9:50 am

I think washing a child’s mouth out with soap is completely ok and it works-or it did with my brother. Not seeking medical attention is cruel and abusive. I started biting at the age of 2 and it only took my mom biting me back once to stop-different scenario, same concept. If washing a kid’s mouth out with soap stops the behavior with no harm, then use it.

So many kids are awful these days because they have had no consequences and are told they are perfect and darling-none are perfect and few are darling. Parents need to punish with more consistency and a lot of ills would be solved. I have gotten to the point when I see an extremely well behaved child out in public, I thank the parents and ask how they are doing it. I don’t ask often ;o)!

Michelle

October 15th, 2009
9:59 am

Well…as kids I can remember a few occasions of having to bite the bar of soap OR have the soap “rubbed” into our teeth so we couldn’t just spit it out! It was pretty gross!

I have never used it on my son, but would not be opposed if there was a big problem. I prefer a “smack” on the mouth at the time of the problem OR try to figure out if it is just a word he heard that he didn’t know what it meant! My husband has a HORRIBLE potty mouth. I have a problem giving discipline when the dad is a bad example!

I would have to think the arrest was likely due to lack of medical treatment.

Becky

October 15th, 2009
10:01 am

NewStepmom..I saw a family once at McDonalds of the best behaved children I have ever seen..The Mom and Dad sat the kids (all 6 of them) ranging in age from about 6 months to 6 years old down at the table, went to get the food and the children sat there as good as could be..

I have my 2 little ones watch the Nanny shows..When the children on there do something, I tell them that is not how they should act..Seems to be working for now..As someone else said, I’ll see in a few years…

New Stepmom

October 15th, 2009
10:16 am

Becky, it is amazing to see kids like that because they stand out so. I remember as a child we went on a trip with my dad’s work and there were 4 or 5 other families there. 2 other families had sons my brother’s age. 1 of the families had expectations and used discipline when necessary, the other family did not. I will never forget the look on my brother’s face and the other well disciplined child’s face when the hooligans got turned loose in the lobby of this resort. The hooligans took their shoes off and were throwing them at the art on the walls. We got our rooms readied more quickly, but that hotel lobby was probably never the same. My brother was amazed that they were allowed to do that with no punishment.

My brother and I were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we knew what the rules were and we knew if we broke them, we would be punished-period. My step daughter does not completely understand this concept and it is to her detriment. I hope we can raise our children to understand this concept.

Rod

October 15th, 2009
11:05 am

JJ – are you psychotic or what? You say that you can discipline your child however you want? You do it in your home so no one else knows what you’re doing? It’s your child, so it’s your decision? WRONG.

If you want to spank, fine. Wash with soap, fine. Time-out, fine.

Beat until bloody, wrong. Sexually abuse, wrong.

We have to have rules in place to stop psychopaths like JJ from causing permanent injury (mental & physical) or even death. Even when punishing a child, there have to be rules in place. If you’re not willing to punish a child with a witness present, then you know you’re doing something wrong.

boots

October 15th, 2009
11:05 am

The government is WAY out of control. Sure, the parents should have taken the child in for the allergic reaction or given him/her Benadryl or something, but the government should not force their way in to a home to steal the children away. This is getting out of control.

Becky

October 15th, 2009
11:14 am

You’re right about that and it’s a shame..I remember going places with my Mom when we were younger and she was always being told how well behaved we were..We didn’t know any better..As you said though, at home, it was a lot different..We weren’t horrible kids, just brothers and sisters fighting amongst each other..

I have a nephew that has a son that is not quiet 5..I had to meet them once in a store and I knew that my phone didn’t get service at this store..So I had ask the wife how would I find them, she said you’ll hear “son” screaming..I was like what? She said that every time they go into a store, he screams if he doesn’t get what he wants..I told her that if she would punish him, that would not happen..To this day, he is still like that..BS, in my opinion..

Becky

October 15th, 2009
11:18 am

@Rod, no she’s not..She just like several think that spanking a child should not get DFACS called on you..Not being able to disipline your child is part of what is causing kids to rule the roost..Children know that a parent can’t really punish them and this is why they aren’t afraid of doing things that they shouldn’t be doing..

FCM

October 15th, 2009
11:22 am

“The girl used an expletive and Herdener forced her to chew on soap. After 10 minutes of chewing, the girl suffered an allergic reaction. Her mouth and throat swelled but the couple neglected to bring her to the hospital.” (Source: San Francisco Chronicle).

10 minutes is rediculous! That is NOT washing a kids mouth out with soap.

Rod, Rod, Rod...

October 15th, 2009
11:22 am

Me thinks you have gone a bit overboard (like, WAY overboard) in turning what JJ said into your personal vendetta – she did not say anything about “Beat until bloody” or “Sexual Abuse” – you took it upon yourself to add those.

Get a grip, buddy – YOU are the one who sounds like a psychopath!!!!

Rod

October 15th, 2009
11:30 am

Ah, so it looks like “Rod, Rod, Rod…” endorses a parent’s “right” to punish their child ANYWAY they want.

JJ was emphatic that in her house she can do whatever she wants. And that’s not right.

There are lots of things that you can’t do in your “own house.” And child abuse is one of them.

FCM

October 15th, 2009
11:33 am

The girl used an expletive and Herdener forced her to chew on soap. After 10 minutes of chewing, the girl suffered an allergic reaction. Her mouth and throat swelled but the couple neglected to bring her to the hospital.

10 minutes is not washing the mouth out. That is just wrong.

Brittney's Dad

October 15th, 2009
11:35 am

In our family, we were threatened with putting mom’s meatloaf in our mouths if we were bad – I would have preferred the soap – it tasted better than the loaf!

FCM

October 15th, 2009
11:35 am

oh my source of “The girl used an expletive and Herdener forced her to chew on soap. After 10 minutes of chewing, the girl suffered an allergic reaction. Her mouth and throat swelled but the couple neglected to bring her to the hospital” is San Francisco Chronicle.

lmno

October 15th, 2009
11:48 am

I find the best punishments are physical labor. Either working on something useful or just plain old running laps. With physical labor, the kid is learning to avoid the offensive behavior, getting exercise, and learning about hard work. Its important that you give them a chore that can’t be slacked. Like making them stack a pile of firewood. They can work as fast or slow as they’d like, but they aren’t leaving till the job is done. Or you can tell them that if they don’t run the laps in a fast enough time, they get more laps.

Works for me.

Bob

October 15th, 2009
12:08 pm

Washing someones mouth out with soap is an acceptable punishement. I suppose folks will need to make sure their child is not allergic to that particular soap just in case. I also believe that if we tell our children something that a psychologist would say could damage their fragile egos, then the child will get over it. The reason there is so much violence and lack of respect is that we bought into the lie from Dr. Spock about damaging our kids by corporal punishment. Time out is a step in the chain, but when they continue on, you have to take it up a notch and if a swat on the behind does it, then so be it.

JJ

October 15th, 2009
12:19 pm

Rod, I can do anything I want in my house, keep your nose out, it’s none of your business. There’s too much government intereferece in my day to day activities, but that house is MINE. I control what comes in, what goes out, what happens inside those walls, and the punishment, if any, when needed. NOT YOU!!!!

I am a responsible person. I go to work every day, I pay my bills, I don’t need ANY help from the government. I take care of me and mine. If I chose to spank my child because she has been bad, then that it my choice. Butt out!!!

YOU are the reason the kids have control now. But, sorry, this parent has control of her home and all its contents.

And if I chose to do something illegal, that’s my choice and I will suffer the consequences. But disciplining MY child is MY business, NOT YOURS!!!!!

SexyCool

October 15th, 2009
12:22 pm

Coming from a background where I wasa raised by a grandmother who ‘whupped’ us with a 3′ section of water hose that we nicknamed “Green Jello”, I would say that washing the mouth out with soap would be rather mild punishment.

As a matter of fact, as a 10 year old child, I would have loved to have known what soap tasted like.

What is the best way to discipline a child? I don’t think I turned out so bad given the methods my Muh used. However, today, that would be some ‘Go-Directly-To-Jail’ type mess and I can’t really get with the thought of having a bunkmate named Big Bertha.

But I don’t know. I don’t have any kids to experiment discipline methods on – ’cause isn’t that all most of the clueless are doing, experimenting?

Dan

October 15th, 2009
12:22 pm

Ha amazing this is even an argument of course there is nothing wrong with it, although clearly it should be a basic soap with no chemicals etc, and not sure if the eating thing was meant specifically or a bad choice of words. growing up one of my aunts used liquid soap for my cousins, we laughed our butts off watching them blow bubbles afterward. Amazingly they are well adjusted adults. One last comment, I think tabasco or something like it is a fine alternative but they could be allergic to that just as easily and tabasco does actually irratate the skin so just like soap a little goes a long way

Lori

October 15th, 2009
12:25 pm

Why would anyone put something in their child’s mouth that could potentially make them sick??? Punishment should not be mean, and it should not be done in anger. Putting soap in their mouth just seems more vengeful and than real punishment. How about putting that soap to better use and make them scrub toilets for a few weeks.

Get Real

October 15th, 2009
12:28 pm

Come on people! You either know right from wrong or you don’t! If you wash a child’s mouth out with soap and then their throat swells up you seek medical treatment. The government gets involved when parents choose to do the wrong thing!

Personally, I wouldn’t wash a kid’s mouth out with soap anyway! If I wouldn’t want it done to me as a punishment then I won’t do it to my kids! Hard labor, sure! I’d rather pick up rocks than get my @ss smacked by someone bigger than me!

BTW, to all here who “would never have done such as a child”, you need to ask your monther what kind of child you were! She knows you weren’t always polite and behaved at the proper moment! I’m sure you’ll hear some stories!

Greg

October 15th, 2009
12:32 pm

It’s absolutely absurd, & not acceptable by any means. A spank to the bottom, yes. Loose some time with friends, or luxuries, yes. Wash the mouth out ???? NO!!! How can you correct a child when you loose all aspects of credibility by doing so. If as a child this had happened to me, I would had never ever had respected that person again. Yes, my grudge would still be with them today if that had happened. It shows a total lack of parenting skills. My ex-wife done this once …. notice I said ex-wife. It is totally un-acceptable period.

Taxpayer Funded Option, NOT.

October 15th, 2009
12:43 pm

Nanny state, it’s take a village, free range children, ALL of it wacko BS.
Reward and punishment, that’s the answer for me.

Gregg's EX is OK

October 15th, 2009
12:44 pm

Gregg, you’re wife is better off.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

October 15th, 2009
12:52 pm

Dr. Spock, look what you’ve done to us. A nation of “I want to be your best friend” parents that don’t realize the problems that society will have to deal with for years and years.

Maybe, Greg...

October 15th, 2009
1:00 pm

…if yo mama had done this to you you may be a better man and maybe even more grammatically correct. And, I sincerely doubt that you “would had never ever had respected that person again”.

Greg and Rod sound like the same person – has anyone ever seen them together?

Rod – you sure jump from the topic to a conclusion that is WAY off what was written. Why so mad, man?

shaggy

October 15th, 2009
1:01 pm

Greg:

“Credibility” from a snot nosed kid?
Are you just stupid or what? It’s a kid, not a peer, you moron. The kid does what the parent says or else. The kid fears that, and the kid grows up to understand why it is necessary, because he grows up to be well adjusted, with boundaries learned young.
As for your warm fuzzy look back to “what I would do if it happened to me” shows you are a deeply disturbed nitwit that would “hold lifelong grudges” about childhood discipline. Sheeesh! It’s scary that these are the ones breeding like flies and “respecting” them all the way to jail.

Sue

October 15th, 2009
1:09 pm

The poor kid probably learned the word from her parents. It’s not right for parents to punish a kid for saying a bad word if they say it too!

Jessica

October 15th, 2009
1:10 pm

I know a mom who washed her kids’ mouths out with vinegar when they used bad language. I might try that with my kids if/when they ever use profanity — it seems safer than soap, but still unpleasant enough to get the point across.

shaggy

October 15th, 2009
1:13 pm

Teresa,

Why don’t you ask your readers about the “respectful” single mother of 4, letting the 17 year old go to the club party, where he gets shot in the head dead?
That breeder seems to think it was the gangs that did it, and she has no responsibility at all to keep her spawn away from dangerous environments. Wanna bet that there are multiple daddies for all 4, and that the survivors will be growing up and perpetuating this cycle?

Greg

October 15th, 2009
1:22 pm

I’m definately better off, & my child is very succesfull. Your tax dollars support my ex. Reward & punishment: absolutely. Is washing out of mouths as adults real world? As an Adult, have you every cowarded down to someone, & let them wash your mouth out ?

joe

October 15th, 2009
1:24 pm

My mother used to build up a soapy lather on her hand and then rub it on my tongue, which I think is worse than if she had just stuck the bar in my mouth. I even remember getting jabbed with her fingernails. Unintended consequence: I was so mad and humiliated that I didn’t say much to her for a long, long time and our relationship suffered. I think there are much more effective and safe ways to discipline. Using chemicals is not one of them.

Nina

October 15th, 2009
1:33 pm

I washed my son’s mouth with soap when he was approximately 6 years old due to constantly lying. He is now thirty years old so he lived through it. He suffered no side affects. I don’t see anything wrong with washing your child’s mouth out with soap. However, it is now a different day. You can barely discipine your chidren wthout someone calling the police or social services. No wonder we are living in a world full of juvenile delinquents. They fear no consequences because chldren are no longer held accountable for their actions.

lakerat

October 15th, 2009
1:48 pm

What is it about women becoming moms that causes them to go retarded?

shaggy

October 15th, 2009
1:49 pm

Greg:

One more time: A child IS NOT an adult. A parent needs to BE A PARENT, NOT A FRIEND.
Plus, my lame brained fellow earthling (that’s as much “respect” as I am giving Greg), it is a shame that you are probably raising a “sucessful” hoodlum, however my guess is you are just another deadbeat babydaddy that is trying to pretend they are men. We, society, pays the real price.