This afternoon I was at my girlfriend's house, and she has a 7 year old son. He was not putting his toys away after he was done playing with them. My friend Gina asked him to please put his toys away, and he said "no" and back talked her. She grabbed him by the arm, told him to go get the paddle, and he came back with it. She grabbed him, held him very tightly so he couldn't get away, and spanked him 5 times. She said that it was for his own good. She then grabbed a belt, gave him one good spanking, and made him sit in the corner. Is that normal? PLEASE BELIEVE ME! You can even email my friend and ask her if that is true.
The use of the word "normal" makes the question too vague. "Normal" is a relative term comparing people to people, where what most people do is considered "normal." Being a Christian is not about normality, but what is right and wrong. "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (II Corinthians 10:12). The reason is simple, people have a tendency to think that whatever they do must be right and if others go along with them, then it "really" must be right. Jesus warned against this sort of reasoning. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). Therefore, even if something turned out to be common or normally found in a population, it doesn't mean it is right.
There are several aspects to your story that don't match. I am unable to tell if this is yet another fabrication, or if you are describing a family with some serious problems.
First, you tell me that the seven year old was defiant about picking up his toys and back-talking his mother, but you told me he was willing to get a paddle for a spanking. This is inconsistent behavior in the boy. It is not what I have seen in well-managed homes. That a child suddenly becomes "inspired" to pick up his toys once a threat of a spanking is realized, now that is typical. There is not enough information to pinpoint the cause of the inconsistency, but if we grant that the situation did happen as described, then I would have to hazard a guess that the mother is very inconsistent in her punishing defiant behavior. She obviously allows back-talk some of the time. Likely, she was using the spanking as a way of showing off in your presence that she is a "good" mother. Still, even this doesn't explain everything.
Second, the use of two different means of spanking is again an inconsistency in behavior. It still smacks of showing off. The excessive details that I edited out of your story is again like those of your prior notes. I wonder if the story has been embellished. It indicates a person fascinated by the punishment and not in molding the behavior of a child so that he grows into a responsible adult.
Third, you describe the use of excessive force, completely beyond what was needed for the situation. If this was true, it indicates a person who believes she doesn't have adequate control, doesn't know how to get a child to behave properly, and is making up for her poor parenting skills by using force. You described this about yourself, so I can't say I'm surprised that your friends exhibit similar traits.
Correction of the situation requires that the parents involved realize that their role is the raising of responsible, godly adults. Instruction and discipline are all directed toward that goal. "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Meanwhile, I really feel sorry for the poor children being brought up in such environments.