Dr. Phil’s Child-Abusing Mom

I stopped watching Dr. Phil when I discovered that he was a fraud. There have been some substantial benefits of this pledge on my part; for example, I didn’t see the recent episode about problem children, which showed videotape of a mother from Anchorage, Alaska torturing her child.

Incredibly, Jessica Beagly, mother of six, oversaw the videotaping of her squirting hot sauce into the mouth of her adopted Russian son and forcing him into a cold shower. She made the tape so Dr. Phil could give her some advice on a segment that aired in November  called “Mommy Confessions.” The studio audience was brought to tears by the tape, and Dr. Phil, no fool he, described the punishment as “over the top.”

Consequences (so far):

  • Anchorage has charged Beagly with child abuse.
  • Russian officials say they have not ruled out pushing for the return of the 7-year-old boy to if Beagly is convicted.
  • “Dr. Phil” is getting a real ratings boost!

Meanwhile, we are hearing the usual dubious public statements from participants in this international, multi-party, mass ethics alarm breakdown.

Beagly’s lawyer, for instance, has said that his client “is being portrayed as this evil person, which isn’t at all the case. She’s a really caring mom.” Well, that’s not the whole truth, is it, counselor? She’s a really caring mom who sends takes videos of her torturing her son and sends it to a TV show. I see some inconsistencies there.

Beagly’s sister-in-law Cheryl blames Jessica’s critics. “They did not discuss the challenges (the child) is going through and the problems they have had on getting him to this point. They just focus on the punishment,” she said. Good point: how often we forget that some 7-year-olds deserve to be tortured!

On the show’s behalf, “Dr. Phil” spokeswoman Stacey Luchs explained producers routinely  ask participants to tape “naturally occurring behaviors and interactions, in order to gain insight” when dealing with family issues. “We were shocked by what we saw, and called for the immediate halting of this behavior and also referred, at the show’s expense, both mother and child for evaluation and treatment with appropriate professionals,” she told The Associated Press. Well, not exactly. According to the New York Times, Beagly first sent the show a video of her threatening her son with the cold shower treatment, and producers asked her for a videotape. They apparently didn’t take any action until after the video was shown on syndicated TV.

Ethical observations:

  • Beagley is not a responsible or trustworthy mother. Whether or not Beagley is found guilty, I think there is a rebuttable presumption that any mother who is so unaware of what is appropriate treatment for a child, any child, that she would carefully plan  such punishment, arrange to have it videotaped, inflict it on a 7-year-old, and send it to a TV show to be broadcast to millions has serious character deficiencies, including being cruel, irresponsible, uncaring and shameless. It is impossible to believe this was the only instance of abuse, and almost as difficult to believe that her other children haven’t suffered similar treatment in the past.
  • “Dr. Phil’s” producers were complicit in the abuse as a result of their asking the mother for a videotape of her cold shower punishment, thus persuading her to harm her son. They had to know this would be the result. They wanted great television, and were willing to risk the safety of a child to get it. Despicable.
  • Once again, a mother and a TV show were brazenly thoughtless about the broader consequences of their irresponsible actions. An instant of quality thought should have suggested to them that producing and showing such a video could jeopardize the prospects of responsible, caring American couples desperately seeking to rescue Russian orphans from a bleak, institutional existence. The “Dr. Phil” show was especially irresponsible, since its producers are presumably more capable of rational thought than Jessica Beasley. Of course, for them it was probably an easy choice: Take a pass on a boffo, ratings-building segment, or undermine international adoptions while humiliating the United States and casting thousands of good adoptive parents in a bad light? Why, go for the ratings and the bucks, of course.
  • One has to ask: are international adoption agencies doing their job responsibly and diligently? The emotional problems of Russian orphans adopted after the age of two are well-documented, and parents accepting the challenge of raising such children must be unusually committed, caring and stable. How does someone like Jessica Beasley get approved to take on this task? There have been too many incidents of adoptive American mothers harming their children, though only Jessica thought her parenting methods would make good TV.


14 thoughts on “Dr. Phil’s Child-Abusing Mom

  1. I’m not going to watch the video, because I don’t think it’s elementary to my understanding of it to watch it happen, and I don’t need anything else weighing down on my heart. But there’s two things I want to ask:

    1. I know it’s immaterial, but what hot sauce is she using? Tabasco, sriracha Dave’s Insanity? It could have been brown mustard and still been abuse, of course. I’m just curious.

    2. I do think the condemnations of Youtube comments are often completely overblown. There’s a video of a kitty begging for water, and people have said THAT was cruel. The kitty’s going without water for 30 seconds, and to inspire us all with “cuteness!” I hardly think that classifies as cruel. Obviously, the hot sauce example does, but it’s good be temperate and not sling around those accusations wildly.

  2. Mrs. Beagley made only one mistake. She didn’t sign up her son in the Screen Actors Guild. If she had, she and Dr. Phil could have gotten away with this and more under the cover of “freedom of expression”.

  3. I do not condone abuse but I don’t think this was abuse. It was and is a little extreme and misguided though and no I would never have used this kinda method on my children. I have heard children scream like that simply by denying a cookie before dinner, screaming is not necessarily a indication of abuse, some children just can not express themselves.
    For those of you who think the corner or naughty chair or whatever you want to call a time out is not abuse-my niece would disagree she developed anxiety issues over this punishment.
    Each child is different in how they react to a certain punishment. What works with one may not work with another. Depending on how you look at it, all disciplinary methods could be called abusive.
    Being a parent is complicated, stressful, rewarding, crazy and heartbreaking. Its not always giggles and sunshine, games and laughter, there are times when you have to say no for their safety and conscience development.
    The only people who really know what goes on in that house are the ones who live there….making assumptions on her treatment of the other children is not right since you don’t know, I don’t know, no one does but them.
    All we saw was a snippet of their life, not a good one, but we didn’t see or hear the whole picture. She needed/needs help and guidance not a jail cell.
    Why she went to Dr Phill for help I have no idea, maybe they couldn’t afford social help, a psychiatrist, or counseling. BUT- she did reach out for help. As for her not looking at the broader picture, of course not, seems to me she was trying to take care of her family- the hell with the rest of the world. That is what parents do.

    • Saying forcing a child to ingest hot peppers, which burn the soft tissue, and stand in cold showers, which does physiological damage to the system, are not abuse is in the same category as saying waterboarding isn’t torture. Both are nonsense. When you engage in conduct that may make a child ill, that’s not punishment; that is abuse.

      This sentence.. “making assumptions on her treatment of the other children is not right since you don’t know, I don’t know, no one does but them” …is a common fallacy, but it is still dead wrong. I will always trust a mother who never would think of doing anything as brutal to a child as forcing him to drink hot sauce over a mother who would. The latter has shown she has 1) terrible judgment and 2) a deficit of kindness and appreciation of how fragile children are. We don’t “know,” but we have an obligation to the children to use common sense and logic to protect them.

      • I repeat I do not condone this behavior and he didn’t drink the hot sauce, he swished in his mouth and spit it out and it isn’t a particular terribly hot brand of sauce either. In fact in the video she told him NOT to swallow it. As for the cold shower, my kids have swam in water colder than that. Waterboarding is designed to give the victims the sense of being drowned, it is not the same at all. Believe I know!
        Some children need tough love and its hard-not only on the child but on the parent as well.
        Again I do not condone what she did-I just don’t think it was abuse.
        As for my statement regarding what goes on in the house and making assumptions on what does and does not-that is why their are government agencies to investigate- agencies who felt the children are both emotionally and physically okay since they left them in the custody of the parents after/during the investigation.
        Before making a judgment on something you need the whole story, not just little dribbles here and there.
        Can you claim you have NEVER had a lapse in judgment in anything? Humans are fallible, we make mistakes, some worse than others.
        She knew she had a problem she never denied that and she sought help for it, perhaps not in the right places but she was trying.
        Previous attempts at discipline were tried and failed, others tried and failed, this one tried and REALLY failed. Perhaps now she can get help with a different approach, one not so overly aggressive.
        I would take a parent who is trying to do what is best for a child over one who wouldn’t have given a damn and just threw him out to the wolves(so to speak) Would giving up on him and sending him back to an orphanage been a better solution-could he not develop the sense of being unwanted and unloved then-isn’t that just another form of abuse?
        Does anyone know how the child feels about this situation, of course he is a minor and therefore not permitted an opinion, especially to the world media.There is no easy answers to this.

        • My God.

          1) “I repeat I do not condone this behavior and he didn’t drink the hot sauce, he swished in his mouth and spit it out and it “isn’t a particular terribly hot brand of sauce either.”

          Not being able to swallow it means that it is more painful, not less. If you don’t know what is wrong with “isn’t a particular terribly hot brand of sauce either,” I doubt that I can explain it. It is like a husband saying, “I didn’t beat her very hard.”

          2) Ditto the comment about the water your children swim in. Would you force them to swim in water that was too cold? I’ve voluntarily gone swimming in freezing water; making me do it would be abuse.

          3) The point with waterboarding is that what you call something doesn’t alter what it is. Your replay is irrelevant to that point.
          4) The videotape is not a “dribble.” What was on the tape was abuse.
          5) “Can you claim you have NEVER had a lapse in judgment in anything?” Irrelevant and, I’m sorry, wrongheaded. What I have done or not done does not make her conduct less objectionable. Even if I had abused children myself (I have not), that would not mean that I could not validly identify and criticize her abuse. You have some ethics comprehension work to do.
          6) If she, say shot him, would you still make the “she tried everything” rationalization? Because that would make exactly as much sense as what you are saying now. Wrong doesn’t become suddenly right because nothing else works. Ethics 101.
          7.) Who suggested sending him back to the orphanage as an option? Not me. The option: find a non-abusive method of parenting.
          8.) Great…you think the child should be the judge of whether he is being abused or not. Ridiculous. What basis for comparison do we have? Ask him if he enjoys being tortured like this; go ahead.
          9) There is one easy answer: don’t abuse children. You just can’t comprehend it.


  4. The world is not as black and white as you seem to think it is.
    There you go making judgments again without all the facts!!
    Don’t tell me I can’t comprehend. I have lived through hell that you can not imagine. A hell I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to have faced. I know abuse up front, up close and bloody personally-emotionally, physically and sexually. I see it staring back at me in every reflection. This is not abuse. However it did borderline it which is why I could not, will not, would never condone it.
    Waterboarding is being held or tied down on your back while someone continuously pours water on your face which may or may not be covered with a cloth causing the sensation of drowning, and sometimes actually cause drowning. She had him take a cold shower, she wasn’t even touching him, for all you know his back was to the shower head. BIG difference.
    As for the hot sauce-a friend of mine used this method for a child who swore after being told to spit it out he looked at his mom and asked for more. He liked it, the same brand used on this boy. He wants it on practically everything now, and he has no physical damage from eating it. Your point is irrelevant.
    She could have just kept on doing it, maybe let it escalate into forms of abuse, but she didn’t, she recognized she had a problem not just with his behavior but her own as well.
    She was smart enough, loving enough and diligent enough to seek out help!!! She could have sought that help somewhere better than with that idiot fraud, maybe he was a last resort because she couldn’t get or afford help in the US’s screwed up health care system.
    I wont bother addressing any of the other crap you brought up because you are the one who seems not to be able to comprehend compassion or understanding .

    Here are a few questions for you
    1. If this is abuse why was Dr Phil or any of affiliates not charged with failure to report abuse? It is law is it not that a psychologist report abuse or suspected abuse especially in children?
    2. I am curious as to what you consider “non abusive parenting”

    • What does “borderline” mean to you? Because your abuse was worse, that means this doesn’t count? You have no objective viewpoint. Yes: to someone who has had hot splinters under their fingernails, hot sauce isn’t abuse. To someone who has had hungry rats nibble on their face, the hot splinters seem mild. Guess what? They are all abuse. The fact that you now says it’s “borderline” proves that you know it’s wrong, but you want to split hairs. Splitting hairs is for law, not ethics. Is “borderline” rape still wrong? “Borderline” bribery? “Borderline” adultery?

      Your repeated misunderstanding of my earlier waterboarding comment is not encouraging. My point was not to compare the cold shower with the act of waterboarding, but to note that your saying that forcing a child to stand naked in cold water isn’t abuse is like saying waterboarding isn’t torture. Calling things something else doesn’t change their nature, though you seem to think so.

      The more you write, the more disturbing it gets. I’m sure some kids like being whipped, too. That doesn’t change a thing…it is the treatment of the child that determines whether it is abusive, not the child’s reaction to it. For that matter, washing a child’s mouth out with soap is “borderline” cruel and abusive. The hot sauce is worse.

      Listen carefully: the woman videotaped herself abusing a child. She, like you, couldn’t discern that this was cruelty, no matter what the provocation. She wasn’t ashamed. She has no judgment; she has no concept of what constitutes cruelty or how fragile children are in body and spirit. She had no idea that showing this conduct to the world would cause outrage and anger. She should not be trusted.

      She sought celebrity and exposure, not help. Dr. Phil isn’t a licensed doctor of any kind (Does that answer your question about reporting child abuse?)—why him, and not a real doctor? Why TV? I have compassion for the mothe. She’s in a difficult position—it still doesn’t excuse abusing a child.

      My wife and I adopted a Russian child also. I never intentionally inflicted pain on him, and never would. Nor did we engage in intentional verbal abuse. He knows there are consequences on misconduct, and he knows that we respect him and forgive him, and that he has our unequivocal love. That is non abusive parenting. And yes, I know we were very lucky: he was and is an emotionally healthy kid from the beginning. But if he had not been, we would have never considered inflicting pain on him.

      That isn’t just non abusive parenting. That is normal parenting.

  5. Well… I’ve learned a few things here, Jack. I actually didn’t know that “Dr. Phil” isn’t even a doctor! Isn’t this all, then, a form of quackery? Nor did I know that you had adopted a child from Russia. That reveals a lot as to why children’s issues mean so much to you. And God bless you for that, BTW.

    You make a defining point when you mention that not only was this child forced to endure a cold shower and ingest hot sauce (both health threatening) as punishment, but that Andrews and his crew didn’t step in and actually filmed it as part of the show. In so doing, they reflected the “casual” morality that is so widespread among current filmmakers in regard to the worth of a child and the concept of basic decency. This should be noted in every such production and never forgotten. Whether professional actors or not, children are children… and they are at serious risk in the modern climate of “entertainment”.

    BTW: While I don’t agree with your stance on either waterboarding as torture or that washing a child’s foul mouth out with soap constitutes abuse (and, yeah, I’m pro-spanking, too!) the basic point that children must be dealt with carefully and justly is our’s in common.

    With all due respect to Cara, the ploy of “you-don’t-know-all-the-facts-so-shut-up” is an old one meant to derail questions raised on issues one would prefer not t0 be asked. I’ve endured it often! Naturally, you or I (or she) don’t know all the facts. Asking questions through commentary on a blogsite is a way of supplementing your research by inviting posts from others who might supply more. It also leads to questions into related incidents and issues of which the commenter was not previously aware. Thus, the necessary forum on these subjects continues.

    That’s why culture watchers like you and me acquired and maintain blogsites in the first place. It’s for the sharing of ideas and information. The quality and frequency of posts and hits thereby reflect the quality of the blogger’s commentary and reasoning. And this is how it should be. Blogging is not called the New Press for nothing. Keep it up, Jack.

  6. I’m hoping, though I cannot be sure, that I’d be just as concerned about child welfare if I hadn’t adopted a Russian orphan, and just as concerned about animal cruelty if there wasn’t a sweet Jack Russell Terrier sleeping on my desk as I type this. I am not anti-spanking, by the way, if it is symbolic, moderate, ritual, never done in anger and followed by a hug.

    The soap…there you get to borders. It’s a toxic but non-life threatening substance put in the mouth; that’s close enough to hot sauce for me.

  7. You let a dog sleep on your desk?! Your definition of spanking as properly done, BTW, matches mine almost word for word. Did you lift that from my article? Plagiarism rears it’s ugly head! As for soap; only Ralphie ever went blind from soap poisoning… in his dreams.

    In seriousness; I’ve followed your thoughts as to my own motivations for being concerned with children’s issues. I’ve often contended that the paternalistic nature of men is inborn and is diluted only by perverse influences in life. On the other hand, it sometimes requires a personal motivation to bring it to the forefront, as something that goes beyond mere instinct. For myself, it was two factors; the shock and shame of the “Hounddog” story plus the faces of the growing children of my extended family. When you see an institutionalized threat to children that extends to your own doorstep, it can awaken you from years of casual acceptance.

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