You know how it works with anything you want to learn. You put on a pair of skates for the first time and...you spend as much time on your butt as on the skates, right? You wobble, you fall, you keep going. You practice. You repeat the activity over and over and eventually you don't even have to think about it anymore, you simply "skate." Falling becomes a ghost in your past and you feel like you could "skate in your sleep."
Practice makes perfect, right?
Have you ever thought about "what you practice" with your children and what that's training you to be able to "even do in your sleep?" People often approach their babies and toddlers with the attitude/belief that children "can't be reasoned with" and that is how they begin to practice relating to their child. What they don't realize is that this doesn't reach a point where it changes...but becomes that well-practiced thing they do on autopilot.
When we arrive at the place where our children begin to behave in ways we don't want them to we are at an intersection. The intersection of our desires for their behavior and our choice of reacting to it. We could choose the path where every time our child displeases us with their behavior that practice talking to them, and investigating all the reasons why they could be acting this way. We could begin go practice seeking out ways to change how they feel inside so that they will no longer act in the ways we dislike. We could begin to practice that and make that become our automatic reaction to our children.
Or...we could go down another path. We could begin practicing punishing them and telling them to stop acting that way.
Whichever thing we begin to practice will eventually become "second nature." If the path we have chosen is punishment and spanking, when our child misbehaves it just comes automatically to give them a swat on the hiney, even for minor infractions.
While I don't have statistics for it, if you think about it, what's one common cry of our teenagers? Listen to them complain and listen to their music and you can hear it over and over..."My parents just don't understand me." Where do you think that comes from?
Would this universal lament of teenagers come from children who are listened to and reasoned with...or from children whose parents didn't feel children could be reasoned with and approached all misbehavior with punishment?
If you start off your relationship with your child believing that the child cannot be reasoned with and that "talking" to them is not the way to go...and you practice over and over, "misbehavior = punishment" rather than "misbehavior = attempting to understand why this behavior is happening"...if your teenage children start to engage in self-destructive or unhealthy behavior...your autopilot reaction will not be to talk to them and try to figure out what's wrong.
How you have trained yourself to relate to them...the autopilot that you have programmed yourself with...will lead you to not even consider all the things that might be causing their behavior. The autopilot that started off dismissing what was inside your toddler's brain because they were "too little to reason with," will lead you to ground, punish, and dismiss your child as just "being a typical rebellious teen."
And, this approach to parenting won't only affect your parent/child relationship. If you have been training yourself to deal with displeasing behavior not with investigation and understanding but with "punishment" what will be your automatic reaction to someone pulling out in front of you while driving? What will likely be your first automatic reaction to anyone doing anything "wrong" to you? To reason? Or lash out, control and punish?
Spanking trains a child to expect punishment, and go into "fight or flight" when they do something wrong, and it trains the parent to "attack and punish" when someone does something wrong.
Even without a degree in psychology it's easy to see how unhelpful both of those reactions are in any relationship. If you want to train yourself and your child to have an autopilot that will lead them to first wonder about the many reasons why a person has just pulled out in front of them while driving without feeling the need to "punish" them (give the finger) when they're grown...you must practice doing that with them...
What you practice with your children will program their autopilot...and yours...
The choice is yours.
You want to see your children making good choices? Start off by making one yourself...