An aromatherapy mist tackles tantrums

Spray concoction usually calms kids in a matter of minutes, its inventor asserts

Family Matters

February 29, 2004|By Jenny Deam | Jenny Deam,The Denver Post

When their little darling is smack in the middle of a tantrum approaching biblical proportions, what parents wouldn't love to reach for a magic potion that could calm the wrath of toddlerhood?

Chicago inventor Joe Culotta says he has the answer in a spray bottle.

He calls his pungent invention Child Calm, an aromatherapy mist that promises to almost instantly peel your offspring off the wall.

Made from high-potency lavender and chamomile oils, Child Calm smells vaguely like Orange Glo household cleanser and costs $15.95 (plus shipping) for 6 ounces of spray.

"It could not come big enough for me," sighs Leslie Montgomery, a Littleton, Colo., mother of five who are all under age 11.

At first sniff, it is a concept most harried parents -- not to mention any airline passenger seated near a crying child -- would consider nothing short of genius.

Child Calm is not meant to subdue a child. (Culotta jokes it is no substitute for Mace.) But he does say that when it is sprinkled or sprayed around a child or on their toys, bedding or jammies, they usually calm down within minutes.

The suggested age group is 3 months to 12 years.

While somewhat skeptical of Child Calm's claims, Jeff Dolgan, chief of psychology at the Children's Hospital in Denver, says it probably won't hurt anyone, either. "There's a lot of placebo effect when working with children," he says.

If a parent or child believes something will calm them down, often they automatically become calmer on their own, he says.

Culotta got the idea for the spray after reading about the alleged overuse of the drug Ritalin to temper behavior of high-strung and hyperactive children.

A believer in natural medicine who studies botanical remedies, Culotta began to research possible alternatives to traditional drugs given to children.

Culotta warns that Child Calm should not be used for children with asthma or for those hypersensitive to smells. Because the product is not a medicine, its claims do not fall under federal Food and Drug Administration scrutiny.

But Culotta contends the ingredients lavender and chamomile have been used for centuries for their relaxation properties. They also have been deemed generally safe by the FDA.

While other products on the market make similar calming claims, such as tablets or bath additives, Culotta says spray is easier to administer.

"Try getting them to take a tablet during a tantrum," he says.

Culotta, who has no children of his own but tested Child Calm on his three stepchildren, suggests using it for children prone to temper tantrums, for those not sleeping through the night or for anxious or hyperactive children.

Sally Easter, a Denver mother of two school-age boys, has her own ideas for application: "I'm thinking if it doesn't work on the kids, maybe you could just spray it on the parents. If they're calm, does it really matter what the kids are doing?"

Dolgan worries that parents of children with diagnosed disorders may skip medication in favor of something like Child Calm. He also says no spray can make simple the difficult task of responsible, patient parenting.

"There's no such thing as magic in a bottle," Dolgan says. "There's no such thing as parenting skills in a bottle. It's just hard sometimes. It's probably the hardest thing anyone can ever do."

Child Calm is sold on the Internet (www.childcalm.com) or by phone (866-723-2256), but is expected to be in stores soon. Infomercials are being produced.

Culotta has no plans to expand the line, but he says there has been plenty of consumer interest in future target audiences.

Could Spouse Calm or Boss Calm be far behind?

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