Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is in hot water after admitting that he uses chillies to discipline his kids. It raises the question — how far is too far when it comes to kids and punishment?
Where do we draw the line between discipline and child abuse?
It seems like it should be a clear cut issue with no grey areas, but as we have learned from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver this week, one parent’s ‘for-their-own-good’ disciplinary measures can easily cross another parent’s abuse threshold. Recently the beloved chef, who has been previously applauded for bringing healthy and nutritious food into schools and is a father of four, admitted that he had once rubbed super-hot Scotch bonnet chillies on some apple slices as punishment for his 12-year-old daughter’s rude and disrespectful behaviour.
“I give them chillies for punishment,” The Daily Mail reported Oliver saying. “It is not very popular beating kids any more and if you are a celebrity chef like me it does not look very good in the paper. So you need a few options.”
Just to give you an idea of what that would have felt like on a 12-year-old’s mouth, scotch bonnet chillies have a rating of 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale, which measures the spicy heat of chilli peppers. To put that into perspective, a spicy jalapeno is between 1000 to 4000 on the same scale.
You may be familiar with the old adage of ‘having your mouth washed out with soap’ or have heard tales from your grandparents about getting the cane at school when they were naughty, but ideas surrounding children and punishment have changed dramatically over time. Punishments that were once seen as the norm are now deemed cruel and irresponsible.
Leading the Australian charge against Oliver’s punishment methods is Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People Bernie Geary, who has deemed Oliver a “dickhead” and warned that his actions could be deemed illegal in Oz.
“It’s just not appropriate to use cruelty as a form of discipline,” he told radio station 3AW. “This bloke should realise the influence he has as a high-profile public figure and a high-profile father.
“If he’s joking it’s not even appropriate because some parents and families might think it’s a legitimate or alternative way of disciplining children. He’s way off the planet as far as I’m concerned. This is really a form of bullying and all bullies are cowards.”
Also weighing into the debate on child discipline is Australian politician and former leader of the One Nation party Pauline Hanson, who told the Channel Seven show Sunrise that parents should be allowed to hit their kids, stating that “there’s a difference between bashing your children and there’s a difference to giving them a slap on the hand or a smack on the backside.”
“Look, I love my grandchildren and I love children to death, and there’s no problem about that,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with the older generation and the way we were raised and how we were disciplined.”
bmag parenting columnist Emily Jade O’Keefe said that while she would never use Oliver’s form of discipline on her three-year-old daughter, Millie, parents do need to get a little creative when it comes to reprimanding their children.
“It’s not something I would ever do, but in saying that you do have to get creative when it comes to punishments,” she says. “Punishment is such a strong word but is does need to be done and I hate to judge other parents.
“I’ve only ever smacked Millie once and now I don’t do that as a punishment because she just looks at me and thinks ‘whatever’, she knows I’m not going to smack her. It goes against every fiber of my being to cause psychical pain to her so she knows I’m not going to do it and I have to think of something else.
“I used to send her to her room but that doesn’t work now because she loves her room and loves being in there so I’ve had to think of something else. She loves being with me and so now when she’s naughty I say that I’m going to go and sit in my room and she’ll have to be all alone in the kitchen. She hates the idea of that and will then be good, I’ve never had to actually go to my room because just the idea of it is enough.”
During this morning’s Breakfast Show with Christo, Flan and Emily Jade on 1029 Hot Tomato, the mother-of-one asked listeners to weigh in on the issue and many of them said that using bad flavors is a tried and true method when it comes to getting children to behave.
“One woman rang into the show this morning and said that when she was having trouble weaning her son (from breast milk) she put yucky tasting things on her nipples, things like lemon or vinegar, and that worked with helping to wean him,” she says. “Another caller rang in to say that when he was a child his mother would threaten to make him drink a cup of Worcestershire Sauce when he was naughty, he didn’t even have to drink it to behave. Just the thought of it was enough.
“I would never do what Jamie Oliver did, but at the same time I don’t like to judge other parents. Every child is unique and ever parent is different, what works for one family will not necessary work for another. Sometimes you need to get creative with discipline and just do what is right for your family.”
How do you discipline your child? Vote in our poll or have your say in the comments below!
UPDATE: This poll has closed. Just 3.59 per cent of you said that you would use a “bad taste” option — like washing their mouths out with soap or using chillies — to discipline your kids. The most popular method was smacking — 46.15 per cent of you said that you were smacked, and you turned out okay. 31.79 per cent prefer to take away your child’s favourite toy and send them to their room, 2.05 per cent of you don’t believe in punishment at all, and 16.41 per cent of you are just too creative for us — your favourite method of punishment wasn’t listed.