I don't think at all that it means beating the shit out of your kid. The scumbags who do that are going to keep doing it regardless of this law. All this law does is to disable parents who are trying to do right by their kids. Before you twist my words to say I agree with beating the shit out of my kid, let me explain myself.
I disagree totally with using smacking as a regular form of discipline. I've even almost completed a parenting course so that I can use constructive methods to teach my daughter good behaviour and values and bring her up to be confident in herself and have the ability to make good choices in life.
However, I do believe that there are certain situations where it is appropriate to hit first and explain later. It does not have to be a painful smack at all. If you do not smack at all in normal circumstances, a light tap on the backside or hand has enough shock value to stop a small child in their tracks. I believe that the circumstances in which this is appropriate are when the child is doing something that could result in them ending up in intensive care or in a grave.
The most recent time I have smacked is when my daughter stuck her fingers in the toaster. Thankfully it was turned off at the wall. I gave her a light smack on the backside which was enough to shock her into removing her fingers from the toaster, then explained to her why I had done that. Let me clarify that when I use other methods like the thinking spot, naughty spot, removal of priviledge etc, the behaviour is repeated many times over the course of about a week or so while my daughter tests the boundaries until she is sure of the consequences of what she is doing, at which point she gives up on that behaviour. I do not want her repeatedly sticking her hand in the toaster - the next time it could be turned on and she could get burned or worse, electrocuted - or repeatedly running out into oncoming traffic, or repeatedly doing anything else that could result in serious injury.
I want to make it clear that I do NOT advocate violence at all and especially not towards children. A smack does not have to actually be painful to the child to teach them not to carry out a certain behaviour. If you normally discipline in positive, non physical ways that build the relationship between you and your child, the mere fact that you have done it is enough to send a clear message that this is a line they absolutely must not cross under any circumstances. I do think that in a situation where this is necessary, an explanation should be given to the child afterwards of why it was necessary.
Ok, now bring on the firing squad haha