First off, I'm going to mention that while I choose not to spank, I am not virulently anti-spanking (only mildly so). And I think us teachers can get extremely judgmental of parents (usually because we want the best results for our students), but we really should temper our judgments a bit, at least until we can put ourselves in others' shoes. I'll give you a couple of brief examples of this, and then jump into my discussion on spanking and developmental appropriateness of certain techniques.
Okay. I work with mostly childless teachers. When I was teaching at our lower school (I'm now at our upper school, and that is a whole other ball of wax) teachers would complain about e.g. 5-6 year olds not being able to tie their shoes. Now that I'm a parent, I understand how this training might take awhile. I've got to get to work on time - I don't have 15 minutes to spend with my son getting his shoes tied up (and since I only get 5 hours sleep per night, I'm not getting up any darned earlier). I've mellowed though - I know we'll get it taught eventually.
Television (actually, we get a lot of self-righteousness from the parents of only-children - specifically when the only child is a girl). Children should never watch television. Well, ideally I'd agree. But when you're in survival mode, sometimes a little t.v. is a lifesaver.
Numbers of children - we have a family at our school with "many" children (4). Both parents work a lot. They are not the most organized of people, to say the least. I often hear comments from teachers about how they shouldn't have had so many children if they couldn't do it properly. The problem with this is that I think teachers' expectations can be waaaaayyyy too high nowadays (everything in every element of every child's life must just be perfect - you should hear some of the nitpickyness!). I think these people need to be cut a little slack. Their kids will probably turn out just fine. It gets worse - I was at work one weekend recently catching up on things. So were a few other colleagues. Anyway, I have two kids. Another woman I work with has one. We were having a little rant session (but a quiet one) on each others' shoulders because we are tired and frustrated. Pretty typical working mom thing. So, a childless male colleague who overheard pipes up, "it's called family planning ladies!" and he wasn't joking around. Yes, that with a grand total of 3 kids between us, and us having waited until we were in our 30's to have kids.
Okay, so I make these points to emphasize that we need to cut parents some slack because frankly most are just trying to survive as best they can. Parenting is tough.
I do, however, want to make some points specific to spanking (keeping in mind that I make these comments understanding that parents still need to make some hard choices anyway, because life isn't simple nor easy at times).
There is a lot of talk regarding the fact that it is too hard to reason with with young children, therefore spanking is necessary to keep a child safe/keep them behaving themselves.
First off, young children have very poor impulse control, and the kind of careful, calm spanking some are promoting will not change that. It is simply not within their developmental ability. Therefore we should not be expecting young children to control their impulses completely (although yes, we should be gently training them toward that goal) and should therefore be carefully supervising children in potentially dangerous and difficult situations. E.g. a 2 year old should not have the opportunity to run out in traffic in the first place.
Many people believe that infants and toddlers need strict training in areas such as sleep, manners, etc. otherwise they will inevitably be terrors later, or will have major sleep issues the rest of their lives, etc. But what I have found (both through my own, albeit limited experience, and that of others) is that these are all phases, and if you understand and observe your child's development, you will usually know when the child has reached the appropriate developmental level to be expected to behave in appropriate ways. Sleep - yep, just as I'd read, by about 3 years old, my eldest went to sleep easily on his own, without any help (even without sleep training). It just happened. Then there is obnoxious and unreasonable behaviour, which I was worried would never end with my notoriously stubborn eldest (who, let me emphasize, has been, stubborn since birth - yes, really, since birth - long story I won't go into now). I found time outs didn't work well with him, so when he misbehaved I took toys away from him or removed privileges (and rewarded him by doing enjoyable activities, or bringing back toys that had been removed). These worked, but not immediately, and he'd still make a huge stinky screaming fuss. But guess what - developmentally he grew. He recently turned 4 and while he's still the world's most stubborn/determined child (and intense to boot - just light years different from my smiley little easygoing youngest), he's generally pretty darned easy to deal with. He gets it now. He's extremely well behaved under most circumstances. Yes, he will still have a meltdown here and there, but they are getting fewer and farther between. It's developmental, and with guidance, it will happen. I don't worry so much about it anymore because I keep seeing that these are phases that he gets past. Perhaps if you don't spank, it takes slightly longer (gee, maybe a few months), but parenting is about having some patience.
This is the key though - understanding where your child is developmentally. You kind of just know. If you ignore some of the so-called experts, you recognize where your child is developmentally. You've got to have some confidence in your instincts. Parents know their kids best after all.
Now, some will say that this kind of parenting leads to low expectations of their kids. I'm not saying we should leave kids to run amok and wreak havoc just because they are not developmentally ready to handle certain expectations. We need to have expectations of them, train them toward it, and remove them from situations or closely supervise situations that they are not developmentally ready to handle. But as I've said before, this takes patience. Spanking, I don't think, requires patience. Although I understand that not all parental situations allow for that much patience all the time.
I hope I wasn't too self-righteous. Hey, I've only got two kids. I understand that I can't possibly understand the position of say, someone with 5 kids.