31 answers

Washing the Mouth Out with Soap - to Young?

OK - We are experiencing some less than pleasant words at home. When added to the attitude the boy gives me and the number of times he tells us NO - I am considering washing his mouth out with soap. Hey it worked in "A Christmas Story". But he is only 4 is that to young?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

For TashaC and the 5 moms who agreed. I was asking for advice not condemnation. I am a very strict parent, that is why his behavior is so difficult for me. I refuse to threaten something I am not willing to follow through with. I won't threaten him with violence, time out isn't working, taking away toys or TV isn't working. So at the end of a long day (for both of us) when he is being sassy, my initial reaction is to yell and spank his butt. I will not be that kind of parent, so what are my options? THAT is why I come here. Some parents say "love them into good behavior" while others say spank and use soap. My opinion of a good parent is one who can use BOTH pieces of advice and do what is best for their family

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seems to me like if you are considering putting soap in a kids mouth and you HAVE used vinegar as a punishment, then you need some parenting help!!! you dont use things such as soaps and spicey/hot things on kids!! what is wrong with the world today?!

7 moms found this helpful

I would not even consider that approach. You need to find other ways to set boundaries at home. That's not the answer.

4 moms found this helpful

I don't think there is an age old enough for that, so no.

And I think you need to get parenting advice from something more reliable than old movies. I've found "1-2-3 Magic" to be very helpful reading, especially at 4 years old.

3 moms found this helpful

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This is an awfully hard things for parents to hear, but generally the tone of voice a child adopts when pissed is the tone the parents use on him when they're pissed. It's just a very childish imitation, and parents so hate being sassed back.

But consider the source. Do you (or your husband, a grandparent or caretaker) find yourself saying things in a sharp or even sarcastic voice to him, like, "You get your little butt in here right now, young man," or "What do you think I'm made of, money?" or "Not another word out of you!" or "Do I have to say it again?" or "Stop that whining this instant!" or "No, I already told you no, didn't I?" or "Boy, are you in trouble now!" or "Don't you dare talk like that to your mother!"

Voila – that's the source. It doesn't take very many such parental messages to make a big impression. Kids, being little tape recorders, learn first what we do, and only later, with much struggle and often much punishment, do they learn to separate out what THEY are supposed to do that is different that the example that was set for them.

Parents are not really to blame for this – until we become aware it's a problem, we are simply playing back the messages and tones of voice that came out of our own parents' mouths, as they were taught by the generation before. Hey, we turned out all right. But could we have turned out better?

The way it's always been done is not the only, nor the best, way to raise our own kids. There are bright and wonderful alternatives, and some fabulous books to help us learn them. My all time favorite, which I've used with my grandson since he was 2.5, is the practical How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. So isthe book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, and the concept of Emotion Coaching, another term you can google for lots of useful information. (Here's one good link to get you started: http://www.education.com/reference/article/important-pare... .)

These are all an investment of time and effort. And an investment that repays itself many times over in reduced stress and increased happiness.

With my grandson (and earlier, with his mommy as a child), I was always careful to use a polite voice, complete with please and thank you. And this is what they learn. Soap never entered a mouth, nor was it ever needed. We look for ways to find a "yes" that work for everybody, so instead of a phrase like "No, you cannot play with the remote," we'd instead keep the remote out of sight and have a dead cell phone available as a special toy. Instead of "No cookies before dinner," we'd set out two cookies and say, "Yay, you can have these just as soon as you've eaten a good dinner!"

I've actually seen two generations of really terrific kids in my extended community who have been raised without punishment, in the usual sense of the word. They get to experience the consequences of their mistakes, they get corrected consistently but gently, they get treated with real respect and as much equality as is safe to give them. They have all (with the exception of a couple of littles with ADHD-type problems), been polite, cooperative and delightful members of their families and of the larger community.They live up to expectations, and the expectations are that they are good, responsible, and complete humans with amazing capacities and plenty of natural common sense.

If I am making an erroneous assumption about how you talk to your son, please don't take it personally. It is more often true than not, and other moms may read this and think, "Oh, wow, I DO talk to my child that way!"

9 moms found this helpful

seems to me like if you are considering putting soap in a kids mouth and you HAVE used vinegar as a punishment, then you need some parenting help!!! you dont use things such as soaps and spicey/hot things on kids!! what is wrong with the world today?!

7 moms found this helpful

If your child were to put a bar of soap in his mouth on his own, you would take it away from him, would you not?
So why would you deliberately put soap in his mouth as punishment?

7 moms found this helpful

Ugh, why would you do that to your son.
There are so many other effective ways to correct your child.
You need to find the energy to teach him better ways.

Good Luck.

5 moms found this helpful

Soaps in today's world are full of harmful chemicals. I don't want that junk on the skin of my children, much less in their little mouths.

Movies aren't real life. Washing his mouth out with soap will make him resent you, not respect you. You need to do something that will have an impact on the issue itself.

Consider taking toys away, like Krista P said. Time outs work well, but what works even better it putting them up on a kitchen counter (they're mostly afraid to jump down), "trapping" them with your arms (one on each side of them on the counter) and talking to them about how inappropriate it was. Tell him he can only get down when he understands WHY what he did was wrong. Then stick to your guns and talk it out.

5 moms found this helpful

Not only too young, but extremely ineffective and ridiculous.

Do people really still do this?

What words is he using? Where is he hearing them? At home, school?

At 4, he is more in a "repeating" mode than "intending to use the word for its meaning" mode. I really think you should find out where he is hearing these words and go to the source. Also, make sure he knows they are bad and WHY.

I have a 7year old and a 6 year old. They both still think "stupid" is a bad word. They don't sass us, they have NEVER told us "no". Not once. I don't think it is because my children are angels and never do anything wrong (I have seen some eye rolls from my daughter!!). I really think it is all in the way DH and I talk to THEM. We discipline them and they know what is expected of them.

We don't tell our kids to shut up, scream at them, etc. So, they don't talk like that to us. I am not saying this is what is going on in your home - my point is, go to the source of the bad words and sass. He has to be learning in someplace.

4 moms found this helpful

He will always be too young for that. No one should have their mouth washed out with soap. Kids do what we model. Try to listen to yourself and DH for how often your son hears the word 'no'. I would try saying yes more - 'yes, we can play outside as soon as we clean your room together', yes I will read to you, just as soon as I finish the laundry - let's fold together'. etc. I found that making things fun and being on the same team made my life (and I assume DS's as well) much more pleasant at that age. We raced just about everywhere - wow, I bet I can get to the bathroom first to brush teeth (you have to let him win). The toothbrush talked in a funny voice ' oh, says the toothbrush, I really want to eat those bacteria on your teeth, pleeeease'. Also the 'do over' was a life saver. DS - no, no I don't want to (insert anything here), followed by crying and yelling. Me- would you like a hug and we'll start over? DS (most of the time) gulping air, 'yeeees", followed by a hug and after a moment the original question - almost alway things went better.

Four year olds are learning the power of words. They don't really know what they mean - they know they get a reaction. All we did was say - that's a mean/ugly/not nice word and we don't use it, then move on to something else. They will find 'bathroom' words funny for a while (witness Judd Apatow movies) and we just told him where he could use these (in his room or the bathroom). We were not punitive about it. We did finally have to explain to him how to correctly pronounce 'fart' since he kept saying 'furting' and I couldn't handle it any longer.

4 moms found this helpful

I would not even consider that approach. You need to find other ways to set boundaries at home. That's not the answer.

4 moms found this helpful

I wouldn't do the soap thing because it can cause him to forever gag at the smell of soap. And you DON'T want that because soap is good for cleaning! Getting soap in your mouth won't harm you though, I've read that you should brush your teeth with soap instead of toothpaste because toothpaste leaves a film on your teeth.

I do have to relate a funny story. One day I was so fed up with the attitude and the yelling that I put myself in timeout! I just announced that I couldn't take it anymore and that no one was going to talk to me for 10 minutes while I was in time-out. Then I went and sat in the timeout chair. When someone tried to ask me something I pointed to the timer and said "I'm in timeout, don't talk to me"

Well, it was the most peaceful 10 minutes of the day! I got to calm down and reflect, and my kids thought it was HIL-ARIOUS. By the time the 10 minutes was up everyone was getting along fine on their own and managed to do so for the rest of the day.

If I were you, I'd ignore the back talk. Your 4-year old wants a reaction. Ignore him and if he pesters you then say "I only talk to people who talk nice to me."

4 moms found this helpful

I don't think there is an age old enough for that, so no.

And I think you need to get parenting advice from something more reliable than old movies. I've found "1-2-3 Magic" to be very helpful reading, especially at 4 years old.

3 moms found this helpful

that's actualy pretty dangerous b/c soap is full of chemicals and your 4 year old is likely to swallow some. plus, you're really not going to build a healthy relationship with your son doing things like that. it's terrible that he's using bad words but first you have to figure out where he's hearing them. i hope you and hubby are setting good examples. second, try ignoring the bad words. he might just like getting a rise out of you. or, if you need something further, maybe make a reward chart and every day that he doesn't sear, he gets a gold star. every 7 stars, he gets a small toy or gets to go to the park with you.

UPDATE: I also just saw your older posts about your son wanting to be a baby and then simulatenously being defiant. Are there some major changes going on in his life?? Or maybe he wants to be a baby and/or is acting out because he misses all of that love/attention he used to get? Try being really patient with him and reaffirming your love for him. That might just do the trick. Good luck,

3 moms found this helpful

My mom used soap on me and I am not scarred and I wasn't poisoned. In fact, I never said the offending word again (in her presence, anyway). I'd be lying if I said I hadn't washed my boys' mouths out with soap before- I have and it has worked. My then 4 year old, now 5 year olde was being prompted by my stepson to say f*cker. Constantly. So, first, my stepson got soap in his mouth for teaching my 4 year old to say such a word. Second, my son got soap in his mouth for saying the word. Repeatedly. After being told not to, getting toys taken away, and doing time-outs in his room. Guess what? I haven't heard that word out of either one of their mouths since.

2 moms found this helpful

Soap is a chemical for the outside of your body. You don't know what's in it in case he swallows it, and I wouldn't do it.

How is this teaching him anything? You want to teach him not to use the words. They like reactions, so don't give him the reaction he wants. Maybe find substitute words for him to use.

My mother put pepper on my tongue for me swearing when I was a kid. I didn't use pepper in my food till I was 40. I don't know if I ever used the word again, and I don't remember what it was.

2 moms found this helpful

I don't think this is a good discipline method because the soaps now adays are very bad for you. Try a different method of discipline. I had this same thing come up with my son when he was little and my hubby and I decided against the soap thing. Good luck!!

2 moms found this helpful

I think you could probably find a better way to get your message across. I get the "theory" behind washing out a "dirty" mouth, but at 4 he's not going to make that connection. Your message will be lost in the explanation and it could also make him sick. Also keep in mind that this episode will be repeated at preschool the next day and probably won't go over well.

Where is he hearing these words? When is he using them? Are you reacting to them? Is he using them "correctly" (meaning he understands what they mean)?

Think of something that would actually impact him, like taking away a toy each and every time he mouths-off. He can "earn" them back by helping around the house and being kind.

2 moms found this helpful

My children are almost three, and just turned four.

Both of my children have experimented with cuss words. In each instance, I said something along the lines of, "_____ is a grownup word. You are not allowed to use that word yet. When you know all of the other words in our language, you may choose to use that word. Until then, you will go on timeout if you use it."

It worked REALLY well, for us. Usually, it's effective immediately (the S. word was used, for example, and then after talking about it they never used it again - then turd was learned (from my dad) used and never used again). One curse word stuck around for a few days. I'd react by saying, "I've asked you to not use that word. That is a grownup word. You will now sit on timeout for using it when you knew not to." After one or two timeouts, they never used it again.

2 moms found this helpful

I'm right with 'MomofSixMiracles'.

I've found that looking them in the eye and talking to them is more devistating.

Let me tell you... My kids are VERY opposite from one another. My daughter (8yrs old), I simply laughed at her when she said sh*t. That got her to stop using ANY of those words. She didn't like being laughed at. If I did that with my son, he'd never stop saying it.

My son, I've ignored it (he'll be 3 next month). He heard his first 3 swear words from my mother in law... She was born and raised in England and some of what us Americans see as swear words, the English do not... and vice versa. But he doesn't like to be ignored. That's a punishment for him.

HOWEVER... BOTH of my kids respond to the eye level talking to... For now.

2 moms found this helpful

I couldn't do the soap thing to my own child. What worked wonders for us to improve a sassy attitude at that age was to put her toys in time-out. She's very stubborn and would herself sit in time-out all day long, but if her toys were in time-out, it drove her nuts and improved her behavior. The one time she got sassy about her doll being in time-out, I gave that doll a spanking. My daughter cried because her doll got punished for her own bad choices. (I feel a little guilty even typing that, but she's a lovely child to be around now, so something worked!)

2 moms found this helpful

Don't do the hotsauce or tabasco sauce either. Yes its a food. But it can still cause a lot of discomfort/pain, and like one poster said (with soap, but it fits with other things) he'll resent you (and the sauce) more than learn to control himself.

2 moms found this helpful

I would never, regardless of the age, wash my child's mouth out with soap. I had it done to me a couple times when I was a child and I can tell you it did not help stop the talking back...just made me cry.

I totally understand how it feels to be overwhelmed with your child's behavior. Maybe check out some books on the subject? They might have some interesting alternate forms of discipline. Bringing Up Boys is a book that comes to mind.

2 moms found this helpful

That's movie, not real life. My parents used to wash my sister's mouth out with soap. It achieved nothing. She simply used those words everywhere else, and only occasionally didn't use them in front of my parents. You wouldn't be teaching him anything. He'll just be mad at you and give you more attitude.

I didn't know people still did this!! Establishing behavior guidelines and boundaries, would be more effective. He tells YOU no? You are the parent, he doesn't get to do that, and he doesn't get to have attitude with you. Give the child some boundaries. don't let him run your house!! At this age, he is simply repeated what he hears. Where is he hearing it from?

2 moms found this helpful

My DD will be 4 soon. I can honestly say, it never even crossed my mind to do something like put soap in her mouth. I know other parents have done it & have had it done to them but I think there are other ways of getting the job done that don't involve putting soap where it doesn't belong. With my DD, we just explain to her they are grown up words & not for her to say (always with eye contact). This worked well for her. I understand this may not work for a rambunctious boy but when time out isn't working what about sending his butt to bed? Taking his favorite things away? Grounding? All these we have done with our 3 year old (when she's sassy or not listening) and they work quite quite well. I wish you much luck but please don't put soap or hot sauce in your sons mouth. Come on.....

1 mom found this helpful

Please know I am in no way judging you for considering this or those that have used this a punishment. I have never been a big fan of punishment of this kind. I think it is on the abusive side. There are a lot of ways to get kids to listen and learn and stop doing the bad things they are doing. I never hit my kids or had to scream and yell at them or had to threaten violence or ever putting soap in their mouth and they didn't repeat whatever they were doing a second time. I always told my kids that certain words are only said by big people and that worked. All kids say no at some point. Taking things away and taking away priviledges works. The key to getting them to behave is consistancy. There are way too many bad things in soap (as well as other products we consume or use today) I have never heard of the vinegar method either but I don't think that is a good idea either. Good Luck I am sure you will come up with a great way to get your son to listen with out using anything harsh. Just take a deep breath and count to 10 whatever works then talk calmly and address the issue and remember to give a warning don't go from 1 time and punish him forever LOL.

1 mom found this helpful

My coworker had his mouth washed out with soap several times as a child for saying bad words. We were talking about this the other day and laughing because as an adult he actually swears more than anyone I know. So, I have to say I don't think it necessarily works.

I think there are a lot of other methods (many mentioned below) that would help you out more.

1 mom found this helpful

I have also considered this approach. Not meaning for it to seem abusive to other mothers. Honestly, I have tried everything!!! (time outs, talking nice, taking toys and such away, spanking, nose in the corner, talks, asking him to use his words, but none of that stuff is working with him) My husband and I did fight in front of him a few times and i have a feeling thats where he picked it up. My son just turned 2, so all this "use your words" stuff wont work on him because he doesnt understand what words to use. I thought about cinnamon oil too but i dont want to hurt his tongue. We are honestly seeking out ideas...not criticism. I Do not baby my son, nor do i feel like i am too hard on him. I was spanked and my mouth was washed out with soap when i was little. So I dont think this approach is too harmful but i also dont like the idea of having to consider it for my own kiddo ..... I'm sorry i have no advice to help you on this matter, but i had to stand up and help with the way you are being treated for asking a question! Best of luck to you! and if you find a solution please let me know!! :)

1 mom found this helpful

Ugh, my parents used vinegar and tobasco when we were growing up. I'm 28 now and to this day the scent of either makes me want to vomit. Easter eggs are always fun. I'd recommend to find some other option than to put something nasty in his mouth. He is learning the words from somewhere.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't think 4 years is too young. I wouldn't do it for a "No," but more for backtalk.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree w/ others that have suggested taking a toy away. If I remember correctly, this is about the age where time outs were not as effective w/ my son. I discovered that taking his favorite toy away ( w/ the exception of his "lovey") worked well . Especially, if I put it up where he could see it and be reminded.

1 mom found this helpful

ive heard of people using vinegar (just a tiny amount in a medicine syringe) enough to get the taste in their mouth? then if they get sassy or talk just say vinegar and if they keep it up they get a little squirt of it.

When my sister and I were growing up, swear words and sassing were punished with washing mouth out with soap.
I still remember the taste of Ivory soap!
Get a nice clean bar (big enough not to choke on) and save it for this special purpose.
I got smart and eventually stopped mouthing off, but my sister never caught on.
To this day I think she hardly got cavities because she spent so much time with all that soap in her mouth!
4 is about the right age to start with it.
My son was never one who verbally pushed our buttons, so we never used soap in his mouth.

I just have to say that one time I got chili powder on my tongue for lying (I was 5), turns out I am allergic!

I wouldn't recommend the soap because you never know. I would find another way to teach no bad words. Maybe taking things away. I don't know for sure, words haven't been an issue in our house. We have our fair share of other issue, believe me! Do adults or older children use hurtful words? He must be hearing it somewhere? I would do some checking around to see where its coming from and hopefully make a change there as well.

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