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Thursday, 23 February 2012

The "proper" way to smack a child

All right so it's not exactly what a report on TF1's prime time news on Tuesday evening was saying, but in a way, it surely wasn't far from it.

It's all a matter of interpretation.

"Bon usage de la fessée" ran the title of a three-and-a-half minute clip introduced by anchor Laurence Ferrari and although it has been tempered somewhat on the site to read "Pour bien punir ses enfants, tout est question de mesure" the underlying message remains the same doesn't it?

TF1's report was part of an ongoing series looking at the education - in the broad sense of the word - of children and featured a couple with three young boys.

The mother, Marie-Laure Vital, admitted, just as 80 per cent of French parents apparently do, that she occasionally smacks her children.

Vital sometimes feels "unable to cope" and because she reportedly often feels that the punishment - whatever form it might take - isn't doing its job properly or is inappropriate, she has joined a workshop which specifically teaches parenting skills.

"L'atelier des parents" is a one of a kind in France and on the agenda during TF1's filming was the subject of punishment, with one of the workshop's psychologists, Caroline Iruela, detailing what sort of discipline was unacceptable and the eight parents present exchanging their experiences.

So far so good.

But then up pops a doctor - a paediatrician no less - with over 30 years experience.

And while he maintains, just as you would expect from a professional that, "If smacking is carried out to hurt or publicly humiliate a child, it's not effective" take a look at his gesture as he begins this contribution.

Doesn't it seem to imply that an "appropriate" slap on the hands is perfectly all right as it doesn't really constitute smacking?

Last year after a woman was given a six-month suspended sentence for smacking her child, the lines of a 'phone-in programme on national radio were buzzing with indignation.

Listeners were appalled by the decision and critical of the invited guest, paediatrician and parliamentarian Edwige Antier. who has tried to introduce a law to ban smacking.

"A mother should be a 'protector' and what's needed in France is a law, as exists in 18 other European countries, abolishing the right parents have to hit a child," said Antier during the show.

It wasn't a point of view with which many listeners agreed and they're not alone.

A 2010 poll among health professionals showed that 88 per cent of them were also against the introduction of such a law.

While domestic corporal punishment, of which smacking is one form, is against the law in many European countries, it seems to be acceptable in France.

Screenshot from Council of Europe video "Raise your hand against smacking"

And while the prevailing thinking runs along the lines of "A smack from time to time has never hurt anyone," (read some of the comments to TF1's report), that 2008 Council of Europe "Raise your hand against smacking" campaign calling on all member states to pass laws prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment of children, including smacking, looks set to have little impact on lawmakers here.

Smacking's all right isn't it? As long as it's done "properly".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A good smack never hurt anyone!
And read Pamela Druckerman's hilarious book "French children don't throw food", you will understand the benefits of not letting your children rule the parents!


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