When Does bad Parenting Stop and Child Abuse Begin?

Where does bad parenting stop and child abuse begin?

This week, in my webisode Safety Mom Minute, I featured a mom from the kiddy pageant circuit who’s been feeding her seven year-old daughter a concoction she calls “Go-Go Juice.” This little cocktail consists of 50% Mountain Dew and 50% Red Bull.

I kid you not. 

She started this because her daughter wasn’t getting enough kick from the favored pageant pick-me-up of choice, Pixie Sticks, more commonly known as “Pageant Crack.”

Again, I kid you not.

The mother insisted she’s doing nothing different than any other mother in America is doing on a regular basis, she’s just doing it on the weekends to “give her an edge.”

Really?  Last I checked I couldn’t find any other mother giving this to her child.

This mother is morbidly obese. Clearly her thoughts on health and nutrition leave a lot to be desired. Hasn’t her pediatrician told her of the health risks she’s causing her child? In 2010, the American Association of Poison Control Centers started tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects. In the first quarter of 2011, there were 311 cases of energy drink poisonings and more than a quarter involved children under six years of age! The list of dangers from energy drink poisonings includes seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, chest pain and high blood pressure. 

How could putting a child’s health in such severe jeopardy not be considered child abuse?  Consider some other recent cases in which parents were arrested or listed in Child Abuse Registry:


  • A woman in Delaware was charged and arrested for child endangerment and arrested when she left her 1 and 6 year-olds home alone while she went to the local Burger King to get food.
  • An Idaho couple was arrested for child endangerment when their 2 year-old child was taken to the hospital for an overdose of a prescription drug.
  • A couple from Orange County, CA were listed on the Child Abuse Central Index for a year for cutting their teen-age daughter’s hair as punishment  for running away and lying about where she went.  The court considered this emotional  abuse.


Giving your child fast food and soda every now and then is one thing but supplying a 7 year-old with a steady stream of Mountain Dew and Red Bull for the purpose of performing better in a kiddy pageant should be a crime. 

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Booker February 22, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I agree, giving a youngster Red Bull sounds like a bad thing to do. While we are on the topic though, what about the other "abusive" elephant sitting on the couch that we always ignore. What if an adult pushed a child down the stairs, resulting in a broken arm? The adult would be arrested. Good. But if an adult pushed a child onto the ice rink at the start of a hockey game resulting in a broken arm, well... that's okay, the crowd cheers. Sports are getting kids hurt. Broken arms, concussion, multiple operations for knee injuries. All before the kids have even entered high school. But it's socially acceptable because... well... it's sports related and sports are king. This strikes me as a bizarre double standard. Hurt your child in your home and it's child abuse. Do it publicly on the sports field and you're one of the cool parents.
S Tadik February 23, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Since a Wilton athlete is facing serious charges about the prank in New Canaan, this information may be useful for parents to review with their kids. Some towns are especially strict in law enforcement and it is important to behave accordingly. Hope this is helpful, even though it’s not a fun read. If parents want to google “felony arrest” “law school” or “felony arrest” “medical school” or “felony arrest” “student aid”, they will find valuable information. Apparently, there are consequences to the felony arrest which may shut off access to institutions which have competitive and difficult entrance requirements. The family will want to hire a lawyer to defend against the felony and misdemeanor convictions and help the defendant apply to have the records expunged at some point. Apparently, if the defendant is successful at getting probation, this, too, might have to be disclosed to the institution to which the student is applying. One alternative which may help society’s view of the defendant is for him to enlist in the Army and complete a successful tour of duty. Scholastic institutions may look on this favorably, too. There are, probably, many parents and students who have no idea what this felony arrest means. They look nostalgically at their past and think things are the same today. They are not the same. The crime rate is low in New Canaan because law enforcement is strict.
Jlo February 25, 2012 at 06:06 AM
The target of your animosity here is questionable. Anyone putting their kid in a "kiddy paegant" probably has some kind of latent paedophilic tendencies to begin with. Dressing a little girl up as a sexually charged adult isn't normal. The red bull, while admittedley an issue in itself, is the least of her problems. John Benet Ramsey anyone?
Alison Rhodes Jacobson February 25, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Completely agree that the entire "kiddy pageant" circuit is seriously troubling. But, since usually it's the moms entering their kids in these pageants, I question whether it's the moms living vicariously through their daughters.
Dawn Alter February 26, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I have watched some of the shows in the series you are referring to. I personally can't believe the way these mother's give these children everything they want, whether it be food, drink, pets, etc. Those kids are spoiled brats and they won't get any better as they get older. It would have taken only one time of me treating either of my parents the way these children treat their parents and my butt would have been torn up. But the blame, as I see it, lies with the parents. It cracks me up to watch these women make fools of themselves in front of God and everyone else trying to do these little dances with their kids. I liked the one time that the judge said it was obvious the girl was watching the mom and that it is very distracting. What is refreshing is watching shows from other countries, such as the show from Ireland called Jig, where the children actually show their parents and coaches respect. About the only thing in America that shows that is 19 kids and counting. Everything else just proves what others from other countries already think...that we and our children are spoiled.


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