Jana Mathews: The other day my 5-year-old son came home from preschool talking about feces and the body part that expels them ... in great detail. After several warnings, I banished him to time-out. Ten minutes later, when the subject of rectums was raised again, I threatened to wash his mouth out with soap. Although I had a very clean mouth growing up (having nibbled on several bars of Irish Spring in middle school), I had never before used this punishment on my own children.
My son smirked when I showed him the bottle of pineapple-scented hand soap (it's all I had on hand!). Then he said "butt hole" and "poop face" very slowly, enunciating every syllable.
"Open up," I told him as I sighed with disappointment.
My discipline strategy was very successful. After swallowing a quarter-sized dollop of soap, my son did a quick fist pump and shouted, "YES! I ate soap!"
I didn't think twice about what I did, until I told a group of friends. Something about these mothers' scowls told me that washing your kid's mouth out with soap was not only out of vogue, but downright abusive.
"That's horrible," said one friend.
"I would never do that," said another.
Twenty years ago, cleansing your children's palates with liquid Dial was par for the course when they said curse words or talked back. For better or worse, times have changed and punishments that once were considered socially acceptable now have the ugly stigma of abuse attached to them.
Is washing your kids' mouths out with soap STILL okay, or has it gone the way of the dinosaurs ... and spanking?
|Jana Mathews is the mother of "four under five" and the author of The Meanest Mom blog.|