Prohibited in most European countries, it is still in effect in France. The recent book The Truth Will Set You Free by Alice Miller is starting up the debate again.
Swiss psychologist Alice Miller doesn't mince words. We parents are too quick to resort to spanking. It is a vestige of our own childhood, she explains. Aren't we all, come to think of it, from a generation where spankings were routine? Excessive as they may be, Alice Miller's remarks have enough merit to at least reopen the debate: should we outlaw corporal punishment?
Violence begets violence Sweden, in 1979, was the first to ban spanking. Since then, the other Scandanavian countries followed suit, as well as Austria, Italy, and, most recently, Germany. In France, according to a poll conducted in 1999 by Sofres, 54% of parents still "often" give a spanking to their child. A practice which a growing number of doctors and psychologists are taking a stand against. It is a humiliating and completely useless act, they argue. Jacqueline Cornet, a doctor and founder of the group Eduquer sans frapper [To Bring Up Without Hitting], goes further: "A spanking, even lightly, creates a great stress in the home of the child, who gets used to this manner of violent communication and will have the tendency to reproduce it. Only a law will be able to change attitudes." At first, because it will force society to condemn corporal punishment unequivocally. Then because such a law has to be accompanied by an information campaign aimed at families. Only the government has the means to put it in place. "It's not about putting parents in prison for spanking," Jacqueline Cornet clarifies, "but helping them find other child-raising methods."
It is in this spirit that on Sept. 27 of last year, the group Eduquer sans frapper officially asked the Senate for the creation of a ban on corporal punishment.