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Washing Kids' Mouths Out Really Works!

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Dr. Michelle Golland: It began when I called my mom a "scumbag." I was 12 and was now sitting in my bedroom in total fear, waiting for my dad to get home. My mom rarely told my dad when we did "bad" things, because she didn't want to deal with his anger and just found it easier to handle us on her own. But my use of the word "scumbag" (spoken in the sassiest of tones and with utter disdain for my mom while I stomped up our stairs) was such a grave offense that full backup was required, and I knew the consequence was going to be hard to swallow. I just didn't know it would be that difficult!


I heard the custom 1979 Chevy van pull up outside. I could then smell my dad's Kent cigarette wafting through the house while my mom told him the horrible story. They were standing in their bedroom down the hallway from me. My dad shouted, "Michelle, get in here now!" in that deep, harsh "dad" voice that could strike terror into anyone around him. He was standing at their vanity near their bathroom, and he said, "Go get that soap" and pointed toward the shower.

Now I wastruly horrified -- not because of his anger, but because of the disgusting used soap he was pointing at, which was a birthday gift I had given him four months earlier. It was Aramis soap on a rope! The irony was tragic, yet it fit the crime for sure! It was hanging there halfway used, gummy in a way that even now makes me sick to my stomach. I grabbed the rope as he turned on the sink water to get the soap nice and wet. Then he said, in that same scary voice, "Put it in your mouth, and never -- and I mean NEVER -- talk to your mother that way again."

Two things changed that day. One, I never ever did speak to my mom that way again. And two, to this day I can't eat ginger, because it tastes just like Aramis soap on a rope! Seriously, I will vomit if one tiny pink leafy piece is on my sushi.

What prompted me to recount this personal story, you may ask? Well, researchers recently found thatpeople who lie have the urge to wash out their "dirty" mouths afterward! Apparently,parents who -- like my father -- punish their kids for fibbing or saying "bad" things by washing their mouths out with soap may be on to something!

Researchers at the University of Michigan asked 87 students to pretend that they were either lying or telling the truth to a coworker, either by phone or e-mail.The subjects then had to rate how much they wanted certain products (either mouthwash or hand sanitizer), and say what they would be willing to pay for those particular items. Turns out, the students who had lied by phone felt a stronger urge to buy mouthwash, whereas those who'd lied via e-mail had a stronger desire for hand sanitizer. Students who were truthful had a lower desire for both products.The researchers concluded that the references for "dirty hands" or "dirty mouths" in our everyday language suggest that people think about abstract issues of moral purity in terms of more concrete experiences with physical purity.

As a parent, I would never do what my father did to me with the soap on a rope. But it was very effective!Moms, was your mouth ever "washed out" when you were a child? Would you ever do it to your own kid?

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70 comments so far | Post a comment now
JG October 13, 2010, 9:02 AM

I said much worse than “scumbag” when I tasted my first bar of soap. My mom “washed my mouth out” with soap many times & I came to found that Dial tastes a lot better than Irish Spring.

If I ever have kids, I’ll just give them a “talking to” for sure.

XXXX October 13, 2010, 9:20 AM

They’ll be blind from soap poisoning.

KS October 13, 2010, 10:39 AM

I remember getting my mouth washed out by my step mother. I did indeed say some off color remarks to her and the punishment fit the crime.

I can’t say that I would ever do this to any of our four children. Then again if any of them ever spoke to me in such a rude manner I can’t imagine my husband not dishing out a harsh punishment. He stands by the fact that I am their mother but I am his wife.

Aprilcot26 October 13, 2010, 11:32 AM

I had my mouth washed out with Dial soap as a kid and I can STILL remember they way it tasted. I certainly learned my lesson. Having said that, I’m not sure if I would do that to my daughter but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it (she’s only four months old).

Nynaeve October 13, 2010, 3:24 PM

I would NEVER put soap in my child’s mouth. Why would you poison your kid? The only thing that it will teach your kid is to be TERRIFIED of saying anything bad to your parents…it doesn’t keep them from THINKING it. I would rather my kids love me than fear me.

Anonymous October 17, 2010, 2:12 PM

Each parent to themselves but I wouldnt be above using soap if my child or children lies to me or swears at me. a tad bit of liquid soap on their gums and teeth will not poison them or make them blind, thats hysteria talking. If you make your chid swig half a bottle of soap THAT might just do serious harm. Timeouts and gently or seriously telling them that what they did is wrong doesnt always get the point across.
Again, each parenting style to ones own children but I am not above using something harsher than a nose in the corner to get my point across. My child may not always like me but he will respect me and he will always know i love him

Annie October 18, 2010, 4:58 AM

Oh yes, I did have my mouth “washed out with soap” (it was Irish Spring, for the record.) I had called my mother a swear word; I think I was 10 or so. All I know is, I never,ever, ever did it again. EVER. Have I done this with my own children? Yes, with my oldest. He, too, found out what happens when you use a 4-letter word with your mother. Again, it was the one and only time (he is now 20) I’d ever had to do it. Since my two younger children witnessed it, they learned from it as well and I did not have to do it with either of them.

brittani February 9, 2011, 9:41 PM

My Mom 2 and Aunt are always threatening me to wash my mouth out with soap. Becasue I swear like a sailor, and they hate it. Do you think they should follow through with their threat.Since they havent done it I still get away with swearing.

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