I went to my trusted Webster.com and I must say I was disappointment in what I learned. Apparently, 'punishment' and 'discipline' are considered synonyms. However to me they are not the same.
Punishment: suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.
Retribution: the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment especially in the hereafter
Discipline: (first the definitions I wasn't thrilled with) 1. to punish or penalize for the sake of enforcing obedience and perfecting moral character 3. to bring under control (and now the one I think of when I think of discipline) 2. to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control
While I was pregnant I put a lot of thought into what kind of parent I wanted to be. I do not agree with how punishment and discipline was handled when I was a child so I wanted to learn about other parenting practices. It's not that I think my parents were 'bad parents', it's just that the way they chose to discipline (mostly my father who was the main disciplinarian in my home) does not fit my parenting beliefs. As I researched ways to discipline without using corporal punishment (because well corporal punishment was BIG in my house when I was a child) I realized that a lot of my parenting beliefs fall under a parenting theory known as Attachment Parenting (AP for short). I bought the book Attached at the Heart and fell in love.
While I may not subscribe to all of the AP practices, I do wholeheartedly agree with the style of parenting. As I read the book I felt my self-confidence rise. I wasn't crazy for not wanting to spank my child. I could still be a 'good parent' without subscribing to the lousy punishment practices from my childhood. It gave me the faith to believe that you can discipline a child without the use of 'punishment'. It was my experience as a child that corporal punishment can interfere with the parent-child bond. Obviously that is not always the case as many families successfully use corporal punishment but it is not for me or my family. It is not something I feel comfortable with nor does it feel natural to me.
The argument is that a child will not respect his/her parent if corporal punishment is not used. I can tell you that I do not respect my father for the way he disciplined. Honestly, it has attributed to my lack of respect for him. I was spanked out of anger which is not recommended even for families who do subscribe to spanking. I must admit that it is not simply the spanking though. It was the verbal and emotional abuse that was also in play.
Of course I doubt any parent feels 'comfortable' or wants to spank their child but they feel it is necessary to do away with unwanted behaviors in their child(ren). I am no expert nor do I claim to be but I feel every parent should follow their heart. If corporal punishment doesn't feel right to you, don't use it. Research other discipline techniques that you feel do feel comfortable with. Trust your instincts and try to ignore the naysayers who try to convince you that things have to be done a certain way just because that's how they've always been done.