"Every child's reaction, physically, is different," he said, adding that a parent who hears that hot sauce works safely on one child should be wary of using it on another child.
Spanking the Tongue
The hot pepper technique's current popularity is due in part to Whelchel, a former Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer and actress who played the character Blair on the television series "The Facts of Life" in the 1980s.
In "Creative Correction," now in its fifth printing, the mother of three provides parents with a variety of tips.
For example, she suggests hiding something a child has failed to put away, to teach the lesson that things left out may disappear. She suggests telling a child who refuses to hold your hand while crossing a street, "I can either hold your hand or hold your hair."
In addition, Whelchel offers the following: "For lying or other offenses of the tongue, I 'spank' my kids' tongues. I put a tiny drop of hot sauce on the end of my finger and dab it onto my child's tongue. It stings for a while, but it abates. (It's the memory that lingers!)"
Whelchel's advice was repeated in an Internet chat in which she participated and then circulated on numerous parenting Web sites and discussion groups.
Whelchel -- who is a motivational speaker on home schooling and other parenting topics -- said in an interview that she wrote the book not as a parenting expert, but "from one mom to another."
She said she used hot sauce on her children when they were 4, 5 and 6 years old. They are now 12, 13 and 14. Although she said it worked well for her family, she is aware that the tactic "can be abused."
She is also aware that when the method is discussed by people who cite her book and by those unfamiliar with the practice, "the qualifiers get lost," such as the age at which hot sauce might be appropriate and the amount of hot sauce to use.
"If there's a mom who shakes the bottle on the kid's tongue, that mom probably does deserve to have someone poking into her business," Whelchel said. "But I think most moms are caring and intuitive. You can't throw out a bunch of good stuff because of the exceptions."
"Creative Correction" provides long lists of scriptural passages that, in Whelchel's view, justify a variety of disciplinary practices.
For example, she quotes the Book of Proverbs -- "The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out" -- and follows with this suggestion: "A short pinch by a clothespin on the tongue can discourage foul language."
Hot saucing is a topic of debate in some Christian circles.
In 2001, an article in Today's Christian Woman magazine advised parents to use hot sauce on a child's tongue to teach the importance of not talking back. The article offered alternatives, including "yucky-tasting" soap or white vinegar.