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Spanking: For ostrich parents, the issue is black and white

Some parents see spanking as a traditional punishment and think that parents who don't do it are pushovers. They are missing the balance of nurturing, yet structured parenting.

By Guest blogger / July 19, 2012

Ostriches seen at an ostrich farm in Hohenfelde at the Baltic Sea, northern Germany. So-called ostrich parents are those who can’t or won’t look beyond their own experiences to see there are better way, says Bonnie Harris.

(AP Photo/Heribert Proepper)


A few weeks ago a new study came out of the University of Manitoba showing the effects of spanking and corporal punishment including slapping, shoving, grabbing, and hitting. Researchers examined data from more than 34,000 adults and found that being spanked significantly increased the risk of developing mental health issues and mood disorders in adults, which includes depression and anxiety, as well as personality disorders and alcohol and drug abuse and that spanking ups the risk of major depression by 41 percent, alcohol and drug abuse by 59 percent, and mania by 93 percent. This study only looked at regular discipline involving physical punishment and excluded more severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

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Guest Blogger

Bonnie Harris, a parenting specialist for 25 years, is the director of Connective Parenting and is known for her pioneering mindset shift out of the reward-and-punishment model to a connected relationship. She conducts workshops and speaks on parenting topics and is the author of "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons" and "Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You'll Love to Live with. She is the mother of two grown children and lives with her husband in New Hampshire. Click here to learn more about her.

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The study was no surprise. The comments from readers were. Almost all were like these:

• My mom was a serial spanker when I was a kid. I am 63 and have managed a pretty normal life and I am no murderer or haven’t attempted suicide. I don’t remember ever getting spanked when I didn’t deserve it.

• This article is ridiculous. That is all.

• In my 65 years I’ve seen the results of people who were spanked on the behind and people who weren’t. I’ll hang out with the spanked ones, the others are usually horribly self-centered.

• I was spanked as were my siblings, as were my children.

• I got spanked quite a few times as a kid, and I deserved every one I ever got.

• Me too! And heaven help us if we picked a bad switch!

• I disagree with the experts, that is what is wrong with this society there is no consequence for their actions, so they don’t have a valid reason to not just do whatever they want from disrupting in public to murdering someone.

• I got spankings and I turned out fine. Let's not try to turn the tables to keep from spanking these bad a– kids.

• No study is going to tell me how to raise my kids. My mom did it old school and the four of us turned out just fine.

These are the ostrich parents who can’t or won’t look beyond their own experiences to see there are better ways; the parents who have their heads in the sand and see the only option to the traditional reward and punishment method as the complete opposite—pushovers who let their kids run wild with no limits. They are the black and white thinkers who miss the balance of connected, nurturing, yet structured parenting.

Are we really fine? Can we say what was good enough for me is good enough for my kid and keep on with the same old, same old? We are the society of the walking wounded. Do we really think our emotional state as a result of physical and emotional punishment is not going to affect our kids?

The biggest problem I see is parents who do reach out, who don’t want their heads in the sand but who want desperately to find a better way than how they were raised. Yet once they learn the skills they want to use, they often feel worse than ever because now they know what they want to do but they still can’t do it—because their buttons get pushed—because their past is haunting them. There’s a lot of work to do. Many would rather just continue blaming their kids.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Bonnie Harris blogs at Connective Parenting.


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