SPANKING - Questions and answers about disciplinary violence
If you are a parent, of course make the decision to never again resort to disciplinary violence.
Every parent who breaks away from disciplinary violence produces a ripple of children and grandchildren who will likewise not resort to blows in raising their children.
As we have seen, reduced levels of disciplinary violence in Europe began with the realizations of a couple of free thinkers, Erasmus and Montaigne, who had retained enough sensitivity to see what others could not: the tortures to which children were being subjected. As writers, they were able to reach a fairly wide audience, and a more generalized awakening was underway. What is needed, then, is to extend this information further still, to educate ourselves and to educate those around us so that this new awareness will spread.
For in-depth examination of the problem, the best reading comes from Alice Miller, in particular For Your Own Good [Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002; full text also available at www.nospank.net/fyog.htm] and Banished Knowledge [New York, Anchor-Press, new edition 1997]. Pierre Lassus' books, L'Enfance sacrifiée (Albin Michel, 1997) and Être parents au risque de l'Evangile (Id., 1999) also have a lot to offer, as well as those by Suzanne Robert Ouvray, Enfant abusé, enfant médusé and Le Drame de l'enfant sans limites (Desclée de Brouwer, 1998 et 2003). On the relationship between corporal punishment and accidents, there is Jacqueline Cornet's Faut-il battre les enfants? (Hommes et perspectives, 1997). For gaining a better understanding of children, Au cœur des émotions de l'enfant, by Isabelle Filliozat, (J. C. Lattès, 1999) is quite valuable and a source of good advice. On respecting the child's autonomy, the books of Chantal de Truchis, L'Eveil de votre enfant (Albin Michel) and Christiane Bopp-Limoge, L'Eveil à l'enfant, Enfants/adultes, grandir ensemble. (Chronique sociale, 2000) are a treasure trove of ideas.
The best manuals for raising children without violence that are published in French would appear to be Parent Effectiveness Training, by Thomas Gordon [Three Rivers Press, 2000] and The Complete Secrets of Happy Children, by Steve and Shaaron Biddulph [Harper Collins (Australia), Thorsons (U.K.), 2003] [Separate editions: The Secrets of Happy Children (Marlowe and Company, 2002) and More Secrets of Happy Children (2003)]. The Parent's Handbook, by Don Dinkmeyer et Gary D.McKay (Random House, 1997) likewise presents an interesting and progressive approach. And especially for African readers, an excellent manual has been published in Cameroon by the group EMIDA: Une belle aventure : aimer et élever son enfant. Pour comprendre et vivre une relation parents-enfant heureuse [A beautiful adventure: to love and raise your child. Understanding and living a happy parent-child relationship] (Available in French to order from: EMIDA BP 14197 / Yaoundé / Cameroun.)
And for those considering the challenge of disciplinary nonviolence in the broader framework of child-rearing that aims to be as respectful as possible of every aspect of the infant or child's personality , a must-read is the Bible of alternative child-raising: Élever son enfant...autrement [Raising your Child . . . Differently], by Catherine Dumonteil-Kremer, with very active participation by the moms of the Parents_conscients discussion group (La Plage, 2003). Chapter 8 of this book, "Une discipline aimante pour une éducation non-violente," [Loving discipline for a non-violent upbringing], is full of good ideas.
On videocassette, L'éducation sans violence a conversation between Suzanne Robert-Ouvray, doctor of clinical psychology and therapist, and myself, is also a useful learning tool (Association Anthea, BP 219 83006 Draguignan Cedex, firstname.lastname@example.org, 39€).
In France, Ni claques ni fessées (see address above). There is not any international NGO dedicated specifically to the problem of disciplinary violence. UNICEF deals with it, but only as a small part of its activities. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the entity of greatest magnitude working in this area.
In Cameroon, the group EMIDA has undertaken a quite promising effort that with successful expansion could reach all of Africa. They are in need of assistance (EMIDA BP 14197 Yaoundé - Cameroun). In Togo, the LIDE (Ligue Internationale pour les Droits de l'Enfant [International League for the Rights of the Child], BP:7719 Lomé; E-mail: email@example.com, Telephone : 00 228 222 40 54 et Tél / Fax 00 228 221 26 13) in March 2004 launched an information campaign against disciplinary violence.
Each one of us may have occasion to fill the role of "compassionate witness" that Alice Miller talks about. This basically means treating all children who come our way as people, with the consideration and respect that every person is due and recognizing them as unique individuals. The simple act of giving a look of esteem can for some be a real salve.
One person who had been hit as a child still remembered, years later, the "Oh?" of surprise and disapproval by a lady who lived nearby when he told her that he had been hit. That simple exclamation let the child know that what he suffered was not normal. Sometimes a trigger of this kind is all it takes for the child not to copy what he went through.
As for corporal punishments dealt at school, going to have a word with the teacher sometimes is enough to put an end to such treatment, at least for the rest of the year in which the child is in that class. In France, intervention can be backed up with a citation of the law banning this practice:
Circulaire [regulatory notice] n° 91-124 of June 6, 1991If you happen to witness a child being slapped or spanked by their mother or father, on the street or in a store, intervening is a difficult and delicate matter. Catherine Dumonteil-Kremer, author of Élever son enfant...autrement, suggests the following actions: Looking at the parent is sometimes enough for them to stop. Asking the parent, in a way that conveys warmth and empathy, if they need any help. Sometimes, you may settle for asking, "What's going on?" in a sympathetic tone. Otherwise, speak directly to the child. Or at least give him a look of moral support if he's crying because his parent hurt him. If it's an older child, try to explain to them that that it's not right to be hit, but that most likely their mother or father has a hard time finding other solutions because he or she was hit as a child. You might also share: "It was hard for me too when my kids were that age" or "Looks like you've had a rough day". A simple gesture like handing a handkerchief to the crying child can disrupt the parent's anger. If the parent is someone whom you know, you can offer to watch the child for a few minutes to give the parent a chance to calm down.
Sign the declaration (in the appendix which follows) calling on the Prime Minister to bring a bill specifically banning corporal punishment to a vote.
If you belong to a religion, write to those in charge and ask them to make a statement unequivocally opposing disciplinary violence.