Kate Gosselin is a regular boozer with a hair-trigger temper who has angrily paddled her kids with a kitchen utensil, an ex-staffer for Kate and her estranged husband Jon charges.

In an explosive exclusive ENQUIRER interview, the former employee also reveals that she saw Kate getting cozy with bodyguard Steve Neild, the silver-haired hunk with whom she’s been rumored to be romantically involved.

Just last week, The ENQUIRER reported that pals of Jon, 32, were worried his drinking was out of control. Now the ex-staffer divulges Kate, 34, frequently turned to alcohol to ease the stress of caring for the couple’s 8-year-old twin daughters and 5-year-old sextuplets featured on the TLC reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8.

"By the end of the day after the kids were settled, Kate would drink a bottle of wine by herself. This happened several nights a week," said the source, who worked with the Gosselins for six months and quit at the end of summer 2008.

"Jon didn’t usually drink with her, and he didn’t seem pleased with it. He’d roll his eyes and tell Kate to put the wine down. She’d answer, ‘Screw you. I’ll do what I want.’ Her frustration with the kids seemed to be taking a toll, and drinking was her outlet."

Kate was "short-fused and demanding," according to the source, and while off-camera, she often disciplined the children in a very harsh, sometimes even violent, manner.

"When one of the boys closed a door on another one once, Kate got in their faces and yelled, ‘You tell me the truth about what happened!’" the source recalled.

"The children just stood there, terrified. Then she dragged one of the boys into the bathroom and spanked him five or six times with a large plastic mixing spoon.

"You could hear Kate forcefully whacking the child and the child screaming at the top of his lungs. People told me it happened more than once, but it was off-camera because Kate didn’t want it in the show."

The source also witnessed the growing closeness between Kate and her bodyguard, New Zealand native Steve Neild.

In a surprisingly intimate gesture, "Steve often put his hands on her hips to guide her. He didn’t have to touch her, but he always did, and Kate certainly didn’t object to it," the source revealed.

"Jon never said anything about it, but then, he never said much about anything."