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      Child punishment or abuse; what's the difference?

      Difference between punishment and abuse. / Jessica Fairley

      It's a story that's been in the national news for a while; a mother was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse after squirting hot sauce into her child's mouth, then forcing him to take a cold shower. The incident was caught on video.

      Since then, the woman has been sentenced to 180 days in jail, probation and a fine; however, when it comes to disciplining a child, Albany locals say they want to know how much is too much?

      That's a question that parents ponder daily, not knowing whether to use "time outs," a belt, a switch, or other forms of punishment. Some people consider hot sauce on the tongue extreme, but others don't think so.

      "I don't think the punishment was too harsh," said Albany Resident Richard Thornton.

      Officials say there is a fine line between what's excessive and what's not. They say it's based on the norms of the local society.

      Captain Craig Dodd with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Department says during his younger years it wasn't abnormal for parents to wash a child's mouth out with soap, but now society has changed.

      "You can't beat them with an electrical cord. You can't grab the first thing you can find to beat a child," explained Captain Craig Dodd.

      Many people consider the use of the switch as a perfect tool for punishment and officials say it is as long as it's used properly. They say when parents start using other devices red flags may raise.

      In one incident, someone used a belt with the parents name on the back to whip a child.

      "Everywhere he was struck, his father's name was all across his back, his butt and his caves, which means that his father held him up and beat him across the back," said Dougherty County Sheriff's Captain Craig Dodd.

      He says incidents like this are examples of punishments gone too far. However beatings aren't the only form of punishment that authorities take into question.

      "I went behind and tried to smoke a cigarette one time. My daddy just made me finish the cigarette," said Albany Resident Curtis Dixon.

      And he says that experience taught him a lesson. This is why officials say the lines can be blurred when it comes to punishment.

      Since corporal punishment is legal in the state of Georgia, Captain Dodd says as a rule of thumb, parents should calm themselves down before punishing a child and only spank them on the buttocks area.

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