Parents throughout France now need to think twice before spanking children who misbehave, as it could land them in hot water with the law. According to a new law that was recently passed, parents will be required to spare the rod and turn to other measures of discipline — like positive reinforcement — instead.
On December 22, the French parliament successfully voted to enact the “Equality and Citizenship” bill, which places a country-wide ban on all forms of corporal punishment, including harmful physical treatment like caning, flogging, or, a more common form of punishment — spanking.
Child abuse was already illegal in the country, but this new law, which makes spanking a civil rather than criminal offense, was created to eradicate all forms of “degrading, cruel and humiliating” treatment of kids by their parents.
“Ending cruel, degrading or humiliating treatment is an indispensable component of a comprehensive national strategy for the prevention and elimination of violence against children. It lays the foundation for a culture of respect for children’s rights; safeguards children’s dignity and physical integrity; and encourages positive discipline and education of children through non-violent means,” Marta Santos Pais, a special secretary representative of the United Nations who specializes in child protection, said in a statement supporting the new law.
Turns out, the French might be on to something. Studies have shown that spanking basically doesn’t work: It can not only impair a child’s IQ and their overall ability to learn, but it can also lead to low self esteem, aggressive behaviors and substance abuse and addiction problems in later years.
According to a June 2016 study that appeared in the Journal of Family Psychology, more than five decades of research revealed that children who were spanked were more likely to encounter mental health and cognitive difficulties and obstacles, become anti-social and introverted, and were more likely to defy their parents.
Reports have revealed that, since 1986, the practice of spanking children has decreased among women. However, parents across the U.S. say they still approve of spanking as a form of discipline. According to a 2016 TODAY.com survey of 3,500 people, parents are split equally down the middle, with 50 percent saying they approve of spanking.
So what are frustrated parents to do? Research shows that techniques like timeouts, reasoning and removal of privileges can be effective if done correctly.
Researchers agree that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. “What parents need to do depends upon the kind of non-compliance that the child is showing,” said Robert Larzelere, a professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University.