Mama Bear: To those parents that are completely anti-spanking... hey, good luck with that. Technically, a timeout is a short period of solitary confinement, which itself deemed torture, cruel, and unusual... So before you go overboard and compare a measured spanking to beating a child... just remember, you still torture them with solitary confinement, so what makes you parent of the year, eh? ;) I'm sure a few of these velvet glovers will turn out wonderful kids. I'm also sure they will put their child so high on a pedestal to scar their unique little snowflakes in worse ways.
Papa Bear: On the other hand, if a parent ever has to hit, leave a mark, turn something red, or use something other than the palm of their own hand, they're going to far. To that kind of parent: You are bigger, stronger, and in control. For you to use a hanger, belt, stick, wooden spoon, knuckes or other hard part of the body, or anything else on a child is abuse! You're beating your child to quench your anger, not teach a lesson.
Baby Bear: Appropriate measure and balance. My son will be 4 this summer. I'm adamant about teaching him not to grab from the counter, but let's say he goes to grab a knife. I will slap the back of his hand or his bottom (after taking the knife from him calmly, of course). This isn't time to "negotiate". My son permanently injuring himself will receive a swift sting somewhere. He's a small child. He's smart, but appealing to his intellect is completely wrong when it comes to immediate danger. He doesn't run into traffic in a parking lot. He doesn't grab at the stove. He doesn't put coins in his mouth. The key is being consistent, and rare. I think the more you spank, and the harder you spank, work against you. I don't want my child resenting me, or thinking I'm out to hurt him. If he does, then I've failed. But if he gets hit by a car, I've definitely failed!
Very rarely do I ever have to spank for another reason, and that's usually if he refuses to stand in timeout. It's measured, not harsh (I am rougher when he and I are rough housing and playing... so its more embarrassing than anything), and I give him lots of warnings. If I say what the consequence will be, I always follow up. Parents that threaten punishment, and don't follow through do their kids a huge injustice just as if they continually promised ice cream for dessert, and never deliver on that either. Parents that punish without explanation are causing more problems than if they did nothing.
Any form of punishment is followed by having him explain what he did that caused the punishment ("I got a time out because I didn't listen when you told me to put up my toys."), followed by me adding explanations for why what he did was wrong, followed by a big hug, wiping of any tears, a kiss on the cheek, and telling him to go up to anyone he was bad to and apologize.
My son, is healthy, happy, knows he's loved, and is a very sweet and polite boy. He's not mean to animals or other kids. Most of the time, I've found talking quietly and firmly to my son ends all that tantrum business while shopping.