I recently read this article, reposted by Mayim Bialik and found it very intriguing. I'm not sure I completely buy into the idea that spanking makes a child more aggressive, as they suggest, but I'm definitely open to the possibility that spanking doesn't produce the desired effect in many cases. Spank too much and, depending on the child's temperament, they cease to see it as a major consequence and learn to almost ignore it as it becomes part of the routine. Or they begin to expect it for everything and are easily scared which is definitely not cool.
Based on that, I've decided to challenge myself not to spank the girls. I don't feel like I do a LOT of spanking and most of what I call spanking is a swat on the behind to curb behavior that they've been warned about but aren't controlling on their own. Things like climbing on furniture, reaching for things that are on the counter, taking toys from each other, getting out of bed and running around screaming instead of sleeping, etc. I try to first tell them what they're doing isn't ok and if they persist, they'll get a swat. Lily is our 'persister' around here. Nothing stops her, not physical obstacles, not stern looks, not anything.
We've had two full days of non-spanking and I would say I definitely see an improvement: mostly in my own attitude. Who knew that once you cross the line from mildly irritated to spank-mode, it becomes easier and easier to reach the "totally frustrated" point? It IS hard to refrain from the 'surprise spank' (thanks for the term, Megan!) but I'm finding that the surprise 'come sit with me for a minute' works just as well and there are considerably fewer tears involved.
I probably shouldn't count yesterday in our 'non-spanking' tally because having friends over immediately reduces the odds of corporal punishment. But bedtime didn't include any deflectors and there were definitely some things going on that would normally have led to a swat on the behind so I'm counting the whole day.
In the interest of full-disclosure: I am still using the possibility of a spanking to get results. As in, "Do you need a spanking or will you listen to Mama on your own?" and "I am choosing not to spank you for this but YOU need to obey Mommy."