I was spanked, and all it did was teach me to think of my mom as someone who I needed to be afraid of when I make a mistake. Instead of, you know, someone I could go to when I made a mistake.
(It also resulted in me repeatedly retreating to my room, where I'd imagine all of the delightful ways I would retaliate in kind when I was as big as my mother. I never followed through - lucky you, mom! - but remembering how seven-year-old me would picture giving my mom a serious beat down has certainly shaped my opinions about physical punishment.)
I don't want my children to be good little humans because they're scared I'm going to hit them if they screw up. It's why our current response to P.'s emerging fibbing - almost always told because she's scared of a consequence - is to remind her that she needs to tell the truth even when there are consequences because those consequences will make sense.
A lot of folks who are pro-corporal punishment will make a distinction between spanking and hitting, but they're the same thing in my book. You're just whopping on different parts. A slap in the face stings just like a slap on the rear, but I don't think I know any parents who'd suggest that a slap in the face would be appropriate.
Here's a confession, though. I did hit P. once. Just once when she was less than two years old. She was going through a pinching phase, and boy could she pinch. When she pinched, she wouldn't let go until you pried her fingers off of your skin. That hurt on top of the pinching. So P. pinched me, hard, for what felt like the fiftieth time that day, and without even thinking, I gave her hand a little slap.
She let go. Mission accomplished, I guess. But the look in her eyes. Oh goodness, that look that said everything but mainly said "I trusted you. What the heck?" It felt wrong. And that was the end of any possibility of my embracing spanking as a discipline tool.
The bottom line: Do I think spanking messes kids up? Not really. I'm not an anti-spanking crusader. I have friends who do spank and while we've had some thought-provoking debates, I'm not on a mission to bring them over to my side. There are some adults who could probably use a good, stern spanking. It's just that for us, for my family and my kids, it's not the right choice.
Lordy, I'm such a moderate...