Alaska mom Jessica Beagley is in hot water after forcing her adopted son Christoph to drink hot sauce and take a freezing-cold shower as a punishment for misbehaving in school. Video tape of Beagley doling out these punishments – filmed by her daughter – aired on an episode of Dr. Phil and has resulted in a misdemeanor count of child abuse, charged Friday. Beagley is due in court March 21, and if she’s convicted, the 7-year-old boy and his twin brother could be sent back to Russia.
Jezebel quotes psychologist Henry Paul as saying “hot saucing” is abusive, but it’s actually the cold shower part I find more difficult to swallow. (Compared to the types of punishments I got as a child, a spoon full of hot sauce sounds like a delicious treat.) Here’s the footage of Beagley, which is hard to watch by the end. Initially she’s reprimanding her son, which is okay, but after a while she refuses to stop pushing her point and is torturing him to the point of tears.
Beagley’s relatives stress that Christoph has trouble following the rules and lies constantly. Is this the portrait of an otherwise good mom caught in a bad situation, or a monster who deserves to have her children taken away? None of us can fairly say from one short video clip, and I think it’s safe to assume the court will have to allow the children to stay in the home with some counseling for everyone involved and/or supervision from a social worker. Why Beagley thought it was a good idea to air this footage on Dr. Phil, I can’t say, but the people at the talk show are staying mum about her legal ordeal. It’s likely that Beagley was pressured into showing this clip, and it’s easy to focus on the incident and not the fact that she came to Dr. Phil in the hopes of learning how better to deal with a tough parenting problem.
Let’s not discount the fact that Christoph and his twin brother are not likely to be given warm, loving treatment in a Russian orphanage. Torry Hansen, who was returned to Russia by his adoptive family last Spring, described being beaten by orphanage staff.