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Soap in Mouth

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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.

a kid with soap in his mouth

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?

Talk to the Meanest Mom in the MOMLOGIC COMMUNITY!

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49 comments so far | Post a comment now
Choco Lincoln August 5, 2010, 10:38 PM

Any form of discipline—time outs, firm talks, spanking, ect.—can be abusive if taken to the extreme.

An example would be time outs. Most people consider them effective to some degree and they aren’t a very controversial method of discipline—but if you physically force a child to stand in a corner in “time out” for hours on end, then that crosses the line. Same with spanking, washing mouth out with soap, having firm talks with your child and all other discipline methods.

It is not abuse for a parent to use a small amount of soap to wash a child’s mouth out. If they have reached a level of understanding where they know what they are saying is not acceptable and yet continue to say bad things, then soap can be effective.

As for soap being unhealthy— used in small amounts, putting it in most human’s mouths will not injure them, even if they swallow it.

To call it “abuse” when there is a loving relationship between parent and child and when said child was not harmed by the use of soap is infuriating. It undermines true cases of abuse and shows a complete lack of understanding about parent-child relationships.

Nameless September 3, 2010, 10:45 PM

It’s a known fact that most liquid soaps are toxic and that most bar soaps aren’t, so while yes I would have put soap in his mouth, it would have been a bar of soap rather than liquid due to the toxicity of it. I would make sure it was not harmful to my kid first before doing that.

danni November 23, 2010, 5:29 AM

ok if soap is so bad why is it recommended to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before holding a baby. Hand sanitizer has alcahol in it. i dont use it but that is worse then soap. and many children may drink their bath water which more then likely has soap in it. so i guess you are abusing your kid by giving them a bath. All i can say is as a parent you have to use common sense. i dont have a problem with parents spanking as long as its with in reason like 2 or 3 hits with hand leaving no mark.

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