Comment of the Day: “Dr. Phil’s Child-Abusing Mom”

I don’t want to pick on Cara, who made this comment in reply to my response to her earlier comment that objected to the original post referring to forcing a seven-year-old child  to drink hot sauce and making him stand in a cold shower as punishment as “abuse.” That comment had such gems as “screaming is not necessarily an indication of abuse, some children just can not express themselves” and “depending on how you look at it, all disciplinary methods could be called abusive.” Her follow-up message, even more than her first, shows how people can come to excuse, rationalize and eventually accept truly terrible and cruel conduct, by others and eventually themselves. Rationalization cripples the ethics alarms, and eventually, as in Cara’s reasoning, we are excusing evil, and condemning those who stand against it, arguing, as she does here, that they have no standing to judge others, since everybody makes mistakes.

The comment makes a better case than anything I have written thus far for the importance of us all to engage in constant efforts to perfect our ethical sensitivity, to improve our ethics alarms, and to be vigilant against facile rationalizations.

Here’s a challenge: How many rationalizations can you count being used here? I find at least six, and perhaps as many as eight.

Here is the comment, by Cara, on “Dr. Phil’s Child-Abusing Mom”:

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 swum in water colder than that…

Some children need tough love and it’s 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 there 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 have 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 are no easy answers to this.

23 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Dr. Phil’s Child-Abusing Mom”

  1. Human are both emotional and rational beings
    It seems to me that Cara is making some very reasonable observations both rationally and emotionally and you are are indeed attacking her because her opinions differ from yours.
    “Cara’s reasoning, we are excusing evil, and condemning those who stand against it, arguing, as she does here, that they have no standing to judge others, since everybody makes mistakes.” just like in the bible Jesus said “let he without sin cast the first stone”
    It appears to me that she was not condoning or excusing abuse or this particular behavior simply stated she didn’t think it abuse….you seem to be reading more into her statement than is there. In fact she repeatedly states she does not agree with this woman’s methods.
    I see a more emotional response than rational, it seems to me that she thinks this family needs to be kept together and given help not persecuted and condemned. Just my opinion.
    As for the abuse matter, I will let the law decide-she was reported, charged and will face whatever consequence the courts decided.

    • First tell me what is a rational observation. I see the following rationalizations: “It could have been worse,” “He had it coming”, “It isn’t her fault”, “At last she did something”, the classic fallacy that we can’t judge right and wrong if we are not perfect ourselves, and a couple of others. I deal with the mistaken “first stone” myth in the rationalizations section. It is not rational to say inflicting pain on a child is ever justified or reasonable; it is dishonest to claim it is not abuse, which is using semantics to justify cruelty. If we do not condemn cruelty, we tolerate it. Cara’s attitude mirrors the syndrome laid out in “The Lucifer Effect,” and yes, it is based on emotion. If she does not agree with the woman’s methods, why? If she thinks it is cruel, why is she willing to say, “but it’s up to her”? I think it is self-evident that someone who resorts to this conduct against a child is a danger to any child. Keeping a family together when the family abuses children is not merely unethical; it is insane.

    • “Harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare that occurs through nonaccidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment, by a parent, a legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare, or by a teacher, a teacher’s aide, or a member of the clergy.” That’s one common definition of child abuse, and this qualifies…certainly as maltreatment, probably as “harm or threatened harm.” If someone made my son take hot sauce into his mouth or stand in a cold shower, I’d have them arrested. Being a parent doesn’t give one the moral and ethical right to inflict cruel and unusual punishment. As it is often said, you have a right to your opinion, but not to your own facts. I do not have to respect the opinion that the world is cheese, that rhinos can fly, and that inflicting pain on a screaming 7 year old isn’t abuse, as Cara keeps saying against all logic, common sense and cultural tradition. You now say that’s reasonable, and this is also calling black white and up down. It is not reasonable. Some things are not debatable, and the fact that no 7 year old should be forced, screaming, into a cold shower or made to keep burning hot sauce in his mouth (though reasonable Cara says that it really isn’t that hot) is one of them.

  2. Oh yeah, and beating slaves was “discipline.” Our society hasn’t progressed any more than this? Sickness takes many forms, and this is one.

  3. Elizabeth,
    The fact that you would equate this to the beating of a slave, even in a passing reference is nothing short of abhorrent. Even if this WAS child abuse, the two are still not equatable.

    Except we don’t know that the child suffered any real harm to his health or welfare as all we have is a video. Cara’s point, and I agree, is that we (none of us) know all the facts over what happened before the video, h0w long it lasted, and the overall tone of the act. It isn’t up to the mother to prove that it WASN’T abuse, it’s up to the courts to prove that it was. Based on the limited evidence available to us, I don’t see that its possible to make that call yet.

    You’re the one making the all assumptions. That is WAS abuse, that the child WAS harmed, that she OUGHT to be convicted. All Cara said was there was much about the incident that was unknown and that didn’t appear to be prima facie abuse. Phrases like “It could have been worse” are figures of speech more than they are de facto “rationalizations,” rather she was raising hypotheticals to demonstrate just how little about the case you, or anyone else, seems to know at this point.

    Moreover, considering her rather polite albeit contentious tone of her message, your responses both here and on the original post seem to be increasingly snarky (then again, the non-inflective nature of the written word can make such things difficult to interpret). Even it could be conclusively proven that this WAS child abuse, seeing otherwise doesn’t mean one has become desensitized to “truly terrible and cruel conduct,” and could just indicate being raised differently or misinterpreting the situation; yet, you immediately attribute it to a lapse in ethics on her part. Not everything is a slippery slope to perdition.

    I guess what bothers me more than anything about posts of this nature (which seem to be growing more common) isn’t so much your ethical take on the situation, but the self-righteous manner in which they’re presented. Those who disagree with your take on a situation are not necessarily misguided or ethically corrupt, and yet this seems to be your response more often than not. Moreover, often YOUR arguments rest on little more than your own ethical framework or whichever random paradigm seems to fit.

    For serious, let someone else borrow the soap box ..


    • Is that really your standard for child abuse, Neil? “Real harm?” It isn’t the standard according to most definitions I tracked down, nor is it the standard applied by the two child care experts I questioned about this. If you want to stand with Cara on the proposition that forcing a 7 year old to put hot sauce in his mouth—and the soft issue of young children is more sensitive than ours—and making a naked child stand under cold water—isn’t abusive treatment, you are welcome; I am confident that where I am standing includes the vast majority pf parents, child development professionals, the government of Russia (!) and members of society generally. Please let me know if your group also includes advocates of locking children in dark closets, shackling them to beds, not allowing them to bathe, or forcing them to eat dog food. Assuming there is no “real harm,” of course.

      You also choose to stand behind a woman who was so insensitive to her own conduct and her child’s pain that it never occurred to her that she had something to be ashamed of in her treatment of her adopted son, so she was willing to video it and let it be shown on TV. The studio audience was weeping, but not her! And yes, this tells me all I need to know about her level of responsibility and awareness. You don’t think so? Then let your kid live with her for a month. I’ll pass, thanks.

      Like Cara, you (inexplicably) are confusing law with ethics. The legal standards for criminal child abuse is not the same as societal standards for taboo and unacceptable treatment of children. You are arguing “innocent until proven guilty” where it does not even vaguely apply. I must have explained this 100 times, mostly in the steroids/ Barry bonds article. IF I saw Jessica saw off her son’s penis first hand, she would still be “innocent under the law” until convicted—that does not mean she would be in fact innocent. O.J. did it, and the jury verdict doesn’t change his real world guilt. I would not be surprised if Beagly was found not to engage in child abuse right up to when she kills her child. It has happened before.

      “What happened before the video”? Am I reading this right? You mean whether he deserved the abuse? I don’t care if he set his sister on fire and spread anthrax to the neighbors—you don’t punish a 7 year old like that. Ever. Period. It is by definition and logic abusive. Cara denies it, then says, well, it’s “borderline” abusive. Borderline abusive is wrong enough. You disagree?

      Inflicting pain, not only on a child, but on a child suffering from clinical emotional and developmental problems, is abusive. I saw it on the video. I have a Russian orphan as my son. We knew that children at the orphanages longer than about two years almost always have very serious emotional problems with behavioral consequences. They require attention, patience, love and treatment. You can’t punish them out of it. Tell me, Neil, does this factor into your and Cara’s permissive concept of non-abuse? Punishing a child for the symptoms of illness? Because that’s what this is.

      Not every ethical issue has multiple valid sides, Neil. This one doesn’t. I believe making excuses for the Jessica Beaglys of the world just ensures more mistreated kids. There is a difference between being self-righteous and right. Yes, I find Cara’s attitude dangerous and ethically slack, as well as almost entirely fueled by rationalizations. I know you like to challenge the chair, and I’m grateful that you keep me honest, but this is not a defensible position.

    • One more note, Neil: I don’t think Elizabeth’s comparison is so inapt. Slaveowners bristled at suggestions that they “abused” their slaves, even when they whipped them. They needed it, it was said; it was good for them; they were strong; there was no real harm: after all, why would a master harm an asset? Then we decided that slavery itself was abuse…and always was, even when the law said it wasn’t. Now it seems obvious. And to some of us, it is obvious that forcefeeding hot sauce to little boys is abusive too. She didn’t say that the evil of slavery was approached by what happened in this case. Her point, as I took it, was that there are always those ready to call abuse something else. As you know.

  4. Neil got it! Thank you sir.
    You Jack are the one who misunderstood, and either do not read the entirety of my posts or choose to ignore parts of them.
    I was expecting and counting on your response to my abuse-it proved mine (and now Neil’s) point. I never described or gave any details on my abuse and still you presumed my perception of hell mirrors yours.
    You made assumptions, were quick to judge and crucify me with out all the facts, again.
    Anyone can twist any disciplinary method into an abusive behavior.
    I wont even bother to dignifying a response to the rest of the fecal matter you spouted.
    My ethics and morals are strong and in-tacked and the living proof is in my children. They are healthy-body, heart and soul, social, well adjusted, gracious and giving, one is on their way to be a surgeon, the other a veterinarian.
    In our short dealings I have found you to be ignorant,belligerent, belittling, narrow minded, misunderstanding, hypercritical and fanatical.
    I knew my opinion would not be perceived in a favorable way but I wanted people to stop, think a moment and use ration and emotion to consider the larger picture before being quick to judge.
    You either wouldn’t or couldn’t see or understand this.
    You made more judgments on your belief system than what I actually wrote. Made assumptions on things I never said or you had all the facts on. You twisted things in attempt to make me yield to your opinions and your philosophies and ideas of ethics. I am stronger and smarter than that. I am capable of forming my own opinions and ideas without blindly following the masses. You don’t know me, my beliefs, my IQ or educational background, nor where in the world I call my home and yet have formed the opinion and condemned me to be an idiot.
    This ethics crusade you are on is admirable but is doomed to fail if you can not and do not open your eyes.
    Since I wouldn’t bow down to your ideals you resorted to attacks on a personal level, my ethics, my intelligence, how objective I am and my overall perception of life. I expected more of you, but was sorely disappointed.
    I could have attacked you personally in response to yours, but that would be unethical.
    I realize at the end of the day your philosophies on ethics, your opinions, assumptions, judgments and persecutions are inconsequential and have no bearing or reflection on my life- for you are of no importance or have any influence in it.
    You broke your own rules and so this discussion is over.

    • Good speech, Cara.

      As with your defense of Mrs. Beagly, as with your claim that her conduct wasn’t abuse, saying all this doesn’t make it so. I read every comment I have made back to you, and there were no personal attacks whatsoever. Your thread stood for exactly what I said it did—the common tendency of many of us, not just you, to refuse to call out unethical behavior. I’m glad your children turned out well…that is not any kind of relevant information, but I am happy for you. Without even covering all of the fallacies you have relied on, the single worst is sufficient: the implication that only those who have never made a mistake or engaged in misconduct can make valid ethical judgments on the conduct of others. I will always, I pledge, respond sternly to that contention, for it is the death of ethical society in the making, and the de facto abdication of each citizens obligation to participate in setting ethical standards. When you come here and make that statement, you’ve asked for the response you get.

  5. I think what we have here is a failure on the part of some to understand what a discussion on ethics is supposed to entail in the first place: argument! Jack is NOT being unethical in attacking Cara’s reasoning, regardless of how self-righteous he can sometimes come off in as tone. In fact, there’s very little personal attack in his responses; saying that someone doesn’t understand a particular issue at all or has a moral stance you can’t quite understand is very different from calling someone an idiot or evil all-together (I’m saying this as a veteran of forums where the personal attack was not only tolerated, but often encouraged).

    A good way to illustrate this particular topic: the whole kerfuffle about how Amy Chua raised her children. True, in a legal sense (hell, in my own sense), it would probably not count as abuse, but if someone believes that it comes off as ethically abusive, than they should speak up against it; moral relativism is for cowards, after all.

    I do have one question for Cara, if she ever sees fit to return: if you don’t “condone” certain conduct, shouldn’t you agree that said conduct should be criticized? (Additionally, for the sake of argument, the presence of abuse doesn’t necessarily rule against the parent wanting the best for their child on some deep level, just that their conduct is bad, bad, bad. Also, it doesn’t mean that the parent can’t potentially learn the error of his/her ways. Basically, admitting that Beagly acted unethically doesn’t mean you have to saw that she is a horrible human being with no hope for redemption, which seems to be Cara’s hangup here).

  6. Jack,
    You’ve entirely put words in my mouth, again. I’m not defending Cara, Ms. Beagly, or the ethics of child abuse. I’m simply pointing we (none of us) know enough about what happened to call it flat-out abuse. The entire discussion is over a segment aired on Dr. Phil, not the evening news (a show infamous for editing footage to create drama).

    My only point is that calling it child abuse and condemning a woman you know nothing about for engaging in it is reckless. You thoroughly denounced Obama (as you should have) for making statements in the wake of the mine collapse before having all the facts and that’s all I was trying to do here. You’re not Obama, I realize, but I find it extremely unnerving when definitive statements (such as those in your original post) are made before the facts are in.

    As far as Elizabeth is concerned, I realize she wasn’t comparing it to slavery in exact terms; however, it’s the justification used by O’Reilly, Beck, and countless others on the left (in the Bush era) who’ve made a cottage industry of throwing out Nazi, fascist, and communist references just to prove a point. Statements like that are meant to over-dramatize a point so as to make it seem more defensible (which, if this case is as obvious as you and she claim, it shouldn’t need). Ad-infinitum arguments have their place but, as I said before, not everything is a slippery slope to some greater evil.

    PS: Finally, this is the second time you’ve made a point of calling me a contrarian. Stop it. My points may seem silly (and perhaps they are at times) but I don’t argue them just for the sake or arguing, as I genuinely mean the things I say.

    PPS: Despite my initial defense of Cara (which, as far as her original post, I still maintain), I do not share her sentiments regarding you personally. Though I find your rationalizations occasionally infuriating, I have nothing but the utmost respect for your opinions and your character (based on the little I know).

    • 1. I was careful NOT to call you a contrarian, Neil. Talk about putting words in mouths! Saying you enjoy challenging posts is not at all the same as saying you do it just for the fun of it. I always assume you are sincere, and while I think you are sometimes dead wrong (like now), I don’t think you are insincere, and I don’t recall ever thinking you were silly. And I didn’t say that. Seriously, what description do you like? Iconoclast? Devil’s advocate? Gadfly? Conscience? Critic? Jiminy Cricket? I’d proudly accept any of these myself. I did not intend an insult, and I apologize for leaving that impression.

      2. I completely agree with your general point, just not the application. After my last post, I called an HHS child welfare litigator and asked her assessment of the Dr. Phil tape. “Beyond question, child abuse,” she said. I just don’t think this is a case of leaping to unfair conclusions.

      3. Just as cheap references to Nazis to exploit cognitive dissonance do not invalidate legitimate uses of lessons from Naziism, the overuse of slavery as a comparison shouldn’t ban its employment where it is useful. I can’t think of a better example of abuse that the law refused to call abuse, but was abuse nonetheless. Admittedly, Elizabeth’s comment was short and sarcastic, and perhaps ambiguous. My fault, perhaps: I had chided her for her lengthy comments in the past.

      4. You’ll recall I have referenced the “Big Lie” technique in politics a couple of times, most recently in the media’s efforts to tie Sarah Palin to the Tucson shootings, then attacking her for using the “blood libel” analogy as a defense. I usually explain the reference, too. As long as what is being described is fairly called a “Big Lie,” I don’t think citing Hitler of Goebbels as a reference in unfair. In the Palin case, it followed the formula perfectly: make the target deny an absurd charge, then attack them for the defense.

      • I think Neil argues differently than I. I will counterargue for a position I do not hold because the proffered argument was hogwash. Contrarian, I may be. I think Neil is saying he supports the sides he defends, not simply the arguments he defends.

        • That’s right.
          Though you presumably aren’t prohibited from arguing a position you DO agree with when the opposing position is “hogwash.” Personally, I think arguing that we need to know any more than the fact of the conduct itself to conclude that what Beagly did to her child constitutes abuse qualifies on that count, no matter how sincere it is.

  7. Jack,
    Final point: The HHS Litigator, yourself, and everyone else who is screaming foul is doing so based off the same (highly edited) tape. I’m not suggesting the woman’s a model parent, simply that none of us are in a position to make a definite call on the abuse angle based on the so little evidence. Beagly, as you mentioned, has already demonstrated she has no issue exploiting her child to get on TV, might not have some of this been staged as well? That’s only a guess, I realize, but one that underscores just how little is really known here.

    In other words, she may be an ethics dunce, I just don’t know that it’s for being abusive.


    • And that’s a good point. I have a hard time seeing how that particular tape could have been edited to make what she did look worse, but as far as court goes, it would almost certainly be inadmissible—which is one reason the law is arguably more handicapped than the rest of us in making a needed judgment.

      • How in the world could squeezing hot sauce into a kids mouth (as punishment) and forcing them under freezing water not be abuse? I’d like to know what possible before and after information would cause those events to be okay. What I see is traumatizing situations that were planned ahead of time. Pretty clear cut.

        As an aside, I don’t come off as belligerent and ill informed as Cara does, right?

  8. Dr. Phil is a fraud. Wake up everyone and see the evil. Go to youtube for Macon Carrington “hollywood child selling rings”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.