I believe it should, but there is a limit. Anything that seems too harsh whereby you embarrass the child, or hurt them severely I see as excessive. Coming from a child who was spanked, it worked on me, but I vividly remember snapping when my father started being excessive and using items such as a belt and wooden spoon to hit me with. I don't see that as okay, not in the slightest. If you can't get the message through with your hand, find another way.
Is it ever okay to spank children?
I especially agree with the last sentence.
For me, the ongoing threat was worse than the actual beating. Made me wish for a belt or wooden spoon, to be honest (the situation you describe reminds me of mine in an opposite way, hence the comparison). At least that would have given me an excuse to hit them back. As they were aware of this, the scary atmosphere endured.
Spanking could create fear for corporal punishment, but a child is sensitive enough to anticipate a reaction for whatever behavior it exhibits. So maybe it doesn't even need spanking to be disciplined. On the other hand, spanking is the least damaging form of child discipline of the physical kind, like a compromise or a trade-off. It could be argued that (generally speaking, not to deny your personal experience with excessive disciplining) spanking is 'necessary' as a form of long-term imprinting in the developmental stage. At the same time, it could raise the threshold/tolerance for disciplining from then on.
I wonder how being spanked (or beaten) during the developmental stage influences people's emotional/intellectual development in relationship to others, compared to the ones who weren't. Having grown up as someone who feared corporal punishment, I'm often suprised at other grown-up people not taking no for an answer or getting a hint (or perhaps even anticipate other people's discomfort caused by their behavior). It's like I actually need to physically hurt them or say something mean to make them not steal my belongings, pay back borrowed money, respect personal boundaries or care about others.
Yes, I actually care about what others think because I am not a psychopath. I am aware of the consequences of my actions, am capable of feeling empathy and remorse and I don't need (nor have I ever needed) a slap in my face/bum to be reminded of other people's needs, desires and rules.
I'm interested whether these people have been spanked/punished too much as a child (so words don't work), or that they haven't experienced (their own) pain (enough) yet (let alone the pain of others).
I say no. In my observation of children and my memory of being a child myself, I've come to realize that children learn more from following the example of others than they do from what you say to them. So if you tell your child, "Don't hit people," but you're hitting your child on the butt, what lesson do you think your child is learning?
I watched my sister raise my nephew using the time-out method: You tell the child what's expected of him, and if he disobeys, he has to sit in the corner and do nothing for a period of time. Two minutes for two-year-olds, three minutes for three-year-olds, etc. My nephew grew up to be a fine young man who is respectful of others. And he doesn't hit people.
My mom "whooped" me when i was a kid, and i learned not to hit people, and i learned it well because if i did hit someone who didn't deserve it she'd whoop my a** for it, even animals know that you have to use tough love to teach the young, and it is written "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die." (or to make that more clear"Do not hesitate to discipline a child. If you spank him, he will not die. ") and "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (or more clearly "Whoever refuses to spank his son hates him, but whoever loves his son disciplines him from early on.") and by so doing you can save your child from "Sheol" (שְׁאוֹל)
I believe that it's very difficult to talk about one-size-fits-all approaches to parenting. A study that finds that spanking doesn't improve behavioral outcomes on average is going to be a study that is aggregating a lot of different children.
However, the difficulty with any violence, even very gentle and limited violence, is that it always teaches children that the way to deal with people they don't like is to hit them. Even when a parent can hold back their anger so as not to teach a child that it is ever a good idea to hit someone else in anger, it's still very difficult to do so successfully.
I was spanked once. I did something wrong but I was also a child and what I did was based on my inability to communicate my feelings at an adult level. Punishing someone for something that they don't have the capability to avoid is already a difficult pill to swallow. Doing so with physical violence is even worse.
Spanking a child will never be a good form of child discipline, because from young years our children learn coarseness and cruelty. This affects their psyche and then the parents can not communicate normally with them.