Should smacking be banned?


France bans smacking, raising pressure on UK to follow suit


France has become the 52nd country in the world to ban smacking despite the vast majority of French being in favour of parents meting occasional corporal punishment on their children and continuing to do so.

The move leaves Britain as one of only four countries in Europe where smacking remains a legal way of disciplining children.

Those in France who break the new law face no criminal sanction, making it a largely symbolic change, but child protection groups say it as an essential one to put an end to what decades of research suggests is a totally counterproductive practice.

Smacking children, a form of punishment the French often call “la fessée”, has long been a divisive issue in a country where 70 per cent of adults area are against a total ban and 85 per cent say they smack their children, according to a recent poll.

Until now corporal punishment was forbidden in schools but the "right to correct inside the family" - a notion dating back to the 1800s similar to Britain's definition of "reasonable chastisement" - was still tolerated as long as it was "light and to educational ends".

But after years of heated debate over the issue, a ban on smacking will now be added to the civil code under a law discreetly passed just three days before Christmas.

Article 68 of the so-called "equality and citizenship bill" forbids "all cruel degrading or humiliating treatment, including any recourse to corporal violence" in the exercise of parental authority.

Smacking is not the only deemed behaviour as it orders parents to "abstain from all forms of violence: physical, verbal and psychological", meaning that humiliating remarks also count as violence.

Laurence Rossignol, the French family minister, called it an "indispensable tool in preventing child mistreatment".

But not everyone is convinced. French centrist MP Jean-Christophe Lagarde has described the law as "a ridiculous attempt to micromanage family life".

The bill came after the independent Council of Europe, the EU’s leading human rights organisation, last year urged France to impose a clear ban after a British charity complained.

French law, it said, failed to make provisions for a “sufficiently clear, restrictive and precise ban on corporal punishment”, threatening to take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights.

The new ban will be read out at by mayors during civil wedding ceremonies and be included in family documents.

Doctor Gilles Lazimi, head of the "ordinary educational violence watchdog", which has spearheaded the drive for a smacking ban, said: "This law is a very strong symbolic act to make parents understand just how all violence can be harmful for the child. Above all, it removes the notion of a threshold: there is no small or big violence. There is violence, full stop."

A major study by the University of Texas and the University of Michigan last year on physically punishing children concluded that smacking could lead to mental health problems, lower cognitive ability and a risk of accepting physical abuse as a norm later in life.

"The more children are spanked, the more aggressive and poorly behaved they are," it found.

Last year, Pope Francis made a surprise intervention on the subject telling a crowd in St Peter’s Square that parents should be free to smack their children as punishment as long as it was not done to humiliate them.

His comments were criticised by victims of child abuse by Roman Catholic clerics.

The French law will raise pressure on the UK, Italy, Switzerland and the Czech Republic to pass similar legislation against smacking.

Comments

José said…
Hi Graham,

I am against all kind of violence, above all if it's against human being and, especially, if it's against children. These are underdog and they have no experience. I think it's very sad that parents hit their children. There are no excuses as the "educational end". It's false. It only deals a lack of imagination and effort. Nobody was born smart, but everybody has to learn.

The child learns that his parents hit him and he thinks that it must be normal because it is done by his parents. If nobody bans this behaviour will be because it's good and he must suffer it. This events will record in his brain as normal behaviour. In the future, they will hit their wife, their children and, of course, other human being.

I always thought that England (no Ireland and Scotland), France and Switzerland were backward nations, although they think that the others are backward. Also Switzerland is the biggest fence in the world because it receives and hides money from crimes.

See you.


Anonymous said…
I would like to remark from the article that despite the fact that most of the French parents confess they occasionally smack their children and most of them support physical punishment, their government has forbidden those measures. I am always wary when bureaucracy interfere in my live. In my opinion punishments and rewards are tools of teaching.

As a father, if I consider that in a precise moment, if I have to stop an inappropriate behaviour of my children and smacking is the fastest solution, I will do it. Later on I will try to reason with the kids about acting and consequences. A typical case would be a street crossing, where a slap on the head is a better reminder than a chat about road safety. I am more concerned about the safety of my sons than in being politically correct.

Other topic of discussion would be about physical punishment at school, which I am completely against, or what should be considered abuse in order to be a crime.

Daniel
Graham said…
Hi José,

I am in two minds on this one.

I can understand why a parent would smack an unruly child. It is sometimes the most effective way to put an end to bad behaviour.

The danger is that it becomes the norm for some parents. They have had a bad day, they lose patience and hit out.

In the past, smacking was commonplace but nowadays fewer parents discipline their children this way. Could this have led to a generation of disrespectful youth?


I am against all kinds of violence, above all if it's against a human being and, especially, if it's against children. They are underdogs (I'd use this word for someone who you don't expect to win a competition) and they have no experience. I think it's very sad that parents hit their children. There are no excuses such as the "educational end". It's false. It only demonstrates a lack of imagination and effort. Nobody was born smart, but everybody has to learn.

The child learns that his parents hit him and he thinks that it must be normal because it is done by his parents. If nobody bans this behaviour, it will be because it's good and he must suffer it. These events will register in his brain as normal behaviour. In the future, they will hit their wife, their children and, of course, other human beings.

I always thought that England (no Ireland and Scotland), France and Switzerland were backward nations, although they think that the others are backward. Also Switzerland is the biggest fence in the world because it receives and hides money from crimes.
Graham said…
Hi Daniel,

I agree that there are occasions when a smack might be necessary. Should you be allowed to smack an eight, ten, twelve or fourteen year old?

I remember getting the slipper at times. I can't remember what I had done but I doubt it was so bad. The physical punishment stopped when I was big enough to defend myself.

I would like to think I wouldn't physically punish any child of mine.

I also remember corporal punishment in schools. Some teachers used to like giving the belt more than others.

I think Scotland was the last country in Europe to ban corporal punishment in schools.


I would like to remark on the article. Despite the fact that most French parents confess they occasionally smack their children and most of them support physical punishment, their government has forbidden those measures. I am always wary when bureaucracy interferes in my life. In my opinion punishments and rewards are tools of teaching.

As a father, if I consider that in a precise moment I have to stop any inappropriate behaviour of my children and smacking is the fastest solution, I will do it. Later on, I will try to reason with the kids about actions and consequences. A typical case would be a street crossing, where a slap on the head is a better reminder than a chat about road safety. I am more concerned about the safety of my sons than being politically correct.

Another topic of discussion would be about physical punishment at school...


José said…
Hi everyone,

When my first child was born, I asked my wife where instructions were and she told me that they there were not. It's not easy bring up children. I remember that when we met with friends of us, who had children, we always talked about this issue.

One conclusion of the long debate was that education always must look at children and their interest, not ours, this is the most important thing. Other conclusion was that it was better to bring up with affection than read many books about pedagogy.

Now, I'm mature adult and I feel very proud of my children (like all parents) because they are well mannered, but I don't know if it is due to my influence or because they were smart.

In any case, this is my experience: I didn't use smacking. I talked with them at any one time (I'm and was a wearisome man). If they wanted to do something which wasn't good behaviour, I told them that I would ban to do anything that they look forward to do it. For instance, they wanted to go to school and I told them that if they didn't tidy their room, they wouldn't go to school. At some other times, if they made a mistake, I punished them to clean or tidy home, that was very demeaning for them. I offered holiday, toys, candy and so on if they obeyed their teachers and parents, I always kept my word.

Anyway, I did what I could. These years were the best of my life.

See you.
Graham said…
Hi José,

I don't think it is just down to luck if a child grows up to be a polite, respectful adult.



When my first child was born, I asked my wife where the instructions were and she told me that there were not any. It's not easy to bring up children. I remember that when we met with friends of ours who had children, we always talked about this issue.

One conclusion of the long debate was that education must always consider children and their interests, not ours, this is the most important thing. Another conclusion was that it was better to bring them up with affection rather than read many books about pedagogy.

Now, I'ma mature adult and I feel very proud of my children (like all parents) because they are well-mannered, but I don't know if it is due to my influence or because they were smart.

In any case, this is my experience: I didn't use smacking. I talked with them at any one time (I am and was a wearisome man). If they wanted to do something which wasn't good behaviour, I told them that I would ban them from doing anything that they were looking forward to. For instance, they wanted to go to school and I told them that if they didn't tidy their room, they wouldn't go to school. At some other times, if they made a mistake, I punished them by cleaning or tidying the house , that was very demeaning for them. I offered holiday, toys, candy and so on if they obeyed their teachers and parents, I always kept my word.

Anonymous said…
Should smacking be banned?

Hi Graham, I find this issue very interesting because it reveals how our contemporary society is, how we live surrounded by old behaviors and new attitudes. The society changes although it’s not always clear towards where.

First of all, I thought that the smacking was a typical British custom, something that someone can find in the English contemporary literature, but I see that this behavior with the children (in the family or at the school) exists in other countries. I don’t know if there is one law banning the smacking in Spain. According to my experience it’s not common in the educational system, of course. In fact, the teachers would have problems (with the parents and the authorities) if they decide to practice this “form of education”. But the situation is very different at home and I suppose that nowadays the smacking is relatively frequent.

The question is: is it absolutely necessary the corporal punishment in order to educate children? Of course, not, but we should not be naive as far as this topic. It’s difficult to avoid the violence in the human behavior and it’s very, very difficult not to use some kind of violence when we want to educate children. We can avoid corporal punishment, but obligate them to go school, eat politely or sleep at the same time every day is only possible if you use some form of violence.
José Luis professor
Graham said…
Hi José Luis,

Apparently Sweden was the first country to outlaw all forms of corporal punishment of children in 1979. I wonder how many parents are prosecuted for smacking their children.


I find this issue very interesting because it reveals how our contemporary society is, how we live surrounded by old behaviors and new attitudes. Society changes although it’s not always clear towards where.

First of all, I thought that smacking was a typical British custom, something that someone can find in English contemporary literature, but I see that this behavior with children (in the family or at the school) exists in other countries. I don’t know if there is a law banning smacking in Spain. In my experience it’s not common in the educational system, of course. In fact, teachers would have problems (with the parents and the authorities) if they decided to practice this “form of education”. But the situation is very different at home and I suppose that nowadays smacking is relatively frequent.

The question is: Is corporal punsihemnt absolutely necessary in order to educate children? Of course not, but we should not be naive as far as this topic is concerned. It’s difficult to avoid violence in human behavior and it’s very, very difficult not to use some kind of violence when we want to educate children. We can avoid corporal punishment, but making them to go to school, eat politely or sleep at the same time every day is only possible if you use some form of violence.

José said…


Hi everyone,

¡Be careful partners!

The Spanish Criminal Code establishes, in its article 153, that who by any way causes to another physical damage or injury and who hits or mistreats to another without causing injury, when the offended was wife, people with especial affectivity or people especially vulnerable who is living with the author, will be punished with the punishment of the prison for six months and when the judge considers suitable to interest of the minor or people with disability who needs especial protection, disqualification to parental authority, tutelage or custody for five years. (This is a summary of the so long article 153). When you practice smacking you could go to the prison if you are denounced by your child. The smacking could be a crime of the domestic violence.

The physical punishment is against the Convention about Child’s Right of 1989 because its article 19 says that it’s necessary to protect children against any way of physical and mental violence.

See you.


Graham said…
Hi José,

A whole week has passed without me replying to your comment. If I were a child, I might be smacked.


The Spanish Criminal Code establishes, in its article 153, that who causes another person physical damage or injury in any way and who hits or mistreats another without causing injury, when the offended is a wife, people with especial affectivity (??) or people especially vulnerable who is living with the author, will be punished with the punishment of the prison for six months and when the judge considers it suitable in the interest of the minor or people with disability who needs special protection, disqualification to parental authority, tutelage or custody for five years.(Such a long sentence!) (This is a summary of the so long article 153). When you smack you could go to prison if you are reported by your child. Smacking could be a crime of domestic violence.

Physical punishment is against the Convention of Child’s Right of 1989 because its article 19 says that it’s necessary to protect children against any kind of physical and mental violence.