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Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?

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Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?/ © flickr

There are a number of us in the States who seem to be falling over in toddler-styled apoplectic fits over the positive press French parenting has been receiving of late. One of the most common complaints I saw emerging from the comment discussions is the French propensity for la fessée or spanking.

 

I think it is best we clear the air and address this head on.

 

For the sake of clarity, I want to start by defining what I mean when I use the term spanking. By spanking, I am referring to a swat across the child’s behind. Spanking a child in this way, as long as you aren’t in a fit of rage, is not the same as beating a child. You don’t have to condone spanking to accept this difference and research backs up this up. (See NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children chapter: Plays Well with Others). When I talk about spanking, I am only talking about it as defined above and nothing else.

 

A phone call with a very good American friend of mine summed up what I think is a common misconception about the French and discipline. In response to a comment I made about a behavior seldom seen in French kids, she replied laughing, “That’s because the French would beat the shit out of them if they tried it.”  Of course she was exaggerating—if she wasn’t, she would not have been joking about it—but I also know that there is a grain of truth to it. Many people ascribe French kids’ good behavior to a fear-induced state from the trauma of physical punishment.  And this is simply wrong.

 

It is true that parents around the world abuse their children in the name of discipline. I’ve seen parents in Asia beat their kids, I’ve seen Brits beat there kids, I could barely restrain myself from grabbing a young Russian woman who had grabbed her toddler’s hair, pulling while screaming at her for taking off her shirt at the airport in Thailand when it was boiling hot. I’ve seen Americans beat their kids and of course some French beat them too. It happens everywhere and it is always tragic. But beating your child is not the same as giving a spanking.

 

So where do the French stand on spanking? Well they are, overall, totally fine with it, which is interesting given that neighboring Belgium is utterly against this method of disciplining children. I’d always thought it was a north (and to a certain extent Anglophile) / south divide. But I learned this isn’t the case while I was researching this post.

 

I am not sure why the French have stuck with spanking but it is something they appear to deem necessary in order to bring up well-behaved children. From my experience observing and talking with French parents, it is a punishment handed out quite rarely. With many kids, you only need to spank them once or twice and then the mere mention of it is enough to deter them. Yes, kids don’t like to be spanked and yes, they will stop what they are doing for fear of a spanking, but it is far different than a brutal beating as some believe. In fact, it doesn’t strike me as terribly different than the 1-2-3 Magic time-out system I use with my kids. They fear being put in time-out so they adjust their behavior to avoid it.

 

Growing up Franco-American, the to spank vs. not to spank debate was one I encountered frequently. One thing mentioned routinely was how children should only be spanked until they reach l’age de raison or the age of reason, considered to be around six or seven years old. I can’t really speak to this; I know that I was spanked maybe once after this age. I distinctly recall being angry about it but also ashamed, as I was totally aware that I had pushed my mother too far and, as angry as I was, I understood why she did it even though we both knew once it had happened that she shouldn’t have. Upon becoming a parent, I even forgave her for it and felt bad at how relentless I had been in my disobedience, something I am now experiencing with my own kids. Karma?

 

I spoke about spanking or la fessée with my older brother pretty often. He was struggling between cultures and how to discipline his kids. At the time he had young children and I had none. I told him, and believed it at the time, that I would spank my children. I didn’t feel scarred by my experience, nor did any of my friends, and I struggled to see how, if distraction and redirection didn’t work, one could get the message across.

 

Ironically, I’ve never—until very recently—felt the urge or necessity to spank my girls. Anyone who knows me and knows my kids, knows that I run a pretty tight ship and am fairly strict. The system I’ve adopted works well so why change that. And of course, no sane person wants to spank their child so despite not being against it, I didn’t use it, until that is, I had to write this article.

 

Most, though not all, of my French friends spank their kids. None of them particularly like doing it. And in fact, I’ve never seen it happen so I continue to believe it is a pretty rare occurrence. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you if any of my American friends spank. I think they don’t. Maybe they do on occasion in a fit of anger but it is something I would imagine most would feel ashamed of and wouldn’t willingly share.

 

I think the cultural norm of where you are raising your children has a lot to do with how discipline affects them. This was supported by the extensive research conducted by Drs. Jennifer Lansford and Ken Dodge quoted in NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. It may have played into why I ended up spanking both my kids once, along with having this unwritten post bubbling in my subconscious. Being surrounded by the normality of it and, having my other system fail me, I decided to try it. I won’t go into the details, only that it was ineffective for my eldest who found the experience hilarious. My youngest was mortified and…well…pissed. Personally I hated it. For experimentation sake, I threatened it another time to see what would happen and she immediately ceased the bad behavior. Still, I am pretty sure I could have stuck to my original method and had the same results.

 

Most of the people I interviewed told me they saw spanking as part of their culture. It was part of their parenting toolkit but it was definitely something they tried to keep to a minimum. A few told me they believed spanking was something that would eventually become rarer as the French imported more U.S.-based parenting styles. I am not so sure about that. I guess only time will tell.

 

On the whole, I have consistently found French kids to be much better behaved than American kids. Yes, there are exceptions but this isn’t about the exceptions. That said, I don’t ascribe the good behavior to spanking. I believe their success can be attributed to their general parenting approach.

 

French parents don’t try to be their children’s best friend. Basic rules are set and they are to be followed at all costs. They are also remarkably good at being consistent about enforcing the rules and consistency is key.

 

In the U.S., I’ve often found on the one hand we want our kids to obey, but then we praise our kids within earshot on how clever and precocious they are when they  ‘negotiate’ (read argue) with us. The French don’t believe in children negotiating. Period. It’s not that they don’t want their kids to acquire these skills, but they are learned when they are older, often under the guise of the philosophy requirement for the French Baccalaureate.

 

Next Post: French education: survival of the fittest

© 2013, Cordelia Newlin de Rojas. All rights reserved.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Born in New York back when subway graffiti was rife, Cordelia Newlin de Rojas mostly spends her time pondering, parenting, and writing. Franco-American, she spent her summers in the Loire indulging in heart-arresting foods. An eclectic background ranging from Japanese art and postal history to environmental social innovations and rigging dinghies has taken her to England, Turkey, Singapore and now Thailand, where she resides with her Mexican husband and their two daughters. They are attempting to raise trilingual kids in Spanish, French and English with some Thai thrown in. She can also be found blogging at multilingualmama.com.

Leave us a comment!

31 Comments
  1. CommentsAnnabelle   |  Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 9:15 am

    There is currently a campaign running in France against spanking. It is meant to encourage parents to think more before they do use this as a last resort. It has been talked about a lot in the media in France.
    I also think that one of the main differences between the anglo-saxons and French may be that the first wouldn’t really dare admit they do spank while in France, people do talk about it more openly, maybe giving an impression, it is used more often.

  2. CommentsAnnabelle   |  Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 9:15 am

    Here is a link for the campaign: http://paris-ile-de-france.france3.fr/2013/06/18/nouvelle-campagne-de-sensibilisation-contre-la-fessee-et-la-gifle-272439.html

  3. CommentsShannon   |  Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I guess the thing is that it’s very hard to compare the behavior of children from two different countries. It’s not only whether or not spanking is involved. There are huge differences between American and French societies that have to be taken into account. The foods eaten, the working hours, the social support (or lack thereof) from the government, the school system, the behavior of the adults. So for those reasons, I think it’s very hard to pinpoint areas of parenting and say THIS is why the children (are perceived) to be better behaved. And because the States is such a mix of cultures, it’s unfair to generalize. I do think you could venture to say that American parents sometimes lean towards unhealthy permissiveness out of fear of damaging self-esteem- perhaps that points to the heart of the matter more?

  4. CommentsGreer   |  Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for an honest and balanced article Cordelia. It made me laugh to think of you trying to spank your kids! I can totally imagine the scenario. Brilliant! And love the idea of negotiation waiting until they get older. Keep writing and tackling the ‘grey’ areas of life – this is where it is experienced in all its shades – much more thrilling than a life lived in black and white.

  5. CommentsLynne   |  Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 1:37 am

    It depends on the child’s personality. My parents beat us with belts on our bare skin until we bled, and we had bruises for six months. I said I would never spank my own child. But I think parents are sometimes pushed into it as a last resort when the child will not cooperate any other way. That being said, I never spanked my daughter abusively. I visited France a few years ago and had occasion to see how my French sister-in-law was raising her preschool children. She told them as young children to keep their voice down whenever it got loud, and never let them run or roughhouse in the house. I then went with her child to the first day of preschool (I’m a teacher by profession) and was AMAZED to see how well-behaved ALL the French children were compared to American children. They all sat down in their chairs (age 3-4) and listened well to directions. I could see clearly that it was a function of raising the children since the day they were born to behave well and not be rambunctious–it is the norm in the whole society.

  6. CommentsKim at Mama Mzungu   |  Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 1:55 am

    Thanks so much for this article Cordelia! I’m so glad to finally see someone at least incorporate this into the analysis of “why french children are better behaved.” And, I have to say, I heard the same thing “well, the just beat them” as an explanation of why Kenyan kids are so well behaved, but we know that’s not the whole story.

    A few other things: I’ve seem some longitudinal research (can get you the source) which says that those kids who are occasionally spanked *before the age of 6* actually do better along a number of dimensions than the “never spanked” group.

    And also most of my American friends do not spank as a policy but several of them have admitted to resorting to it to teach an crucial lesson (like not hurting a sibling or walking out the door unattended) and each one says that it worked to correct the behavior when other methods failed.

    I don’t think it causes permanent damage if used this way, but I think the risk is that once you start spanking it can easily slip into using it out of anger instead of as a controlled consequence.

    Anyway lots to think about and thank you loads for this terrific article!!

  7. CommentsSonia   |  Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 5:13 am

    I don’t think it’s that hard to pinpoint the differences at all, frankly. Both the author and I were raised as French children in the US so many of the other sociocultural issues that Shannon mentions become somewhat irrelevant. Personally, I can only remember ever getting hit in the way that Cordelia describes on one occasion and I was never threatened with it verbally. The key in terms of my mother’s (French) parenting style was consistency and an unwillingness to wage war over dumb things just to prove a point.

  8. CommentsClair   |  Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I am Franco-American and raised my children when they were little in France. I also experimented with it when they were smaller and found it didn’t work for me either. But this is because of what I bring to it. Spanking or any disciplinary method doesn’t work if you feel guilty about it; then the child perceives your shame in having done it and the one the most punished is the parent. Also French parents who still spank tend to give one swift swat on les fesses (bottom) as soon as they notice an undesired behavior as a way of waking the child up: “hey, I really mean it!” But Americans who use it as a last resort are probably very mad by that point and it’s no longer just a spanking, as you are right to point out. I think it’s interesting and helpful to compare parenting styles, but “French parenting” is not like learning French cooking; it’s part of a whole cultural system. You can’t practice French-style parenting it if you’re not French AND living in France.

  9. CommentsOlga   |  Saturday, 24 August 2013 at 1:27 am

    Cordelia, this article was very balanced and very well researched. My father grew up in France and he always told me how strikt the French were with their children. I hva elived in France as well for a while and while I didn’t have children, the French were usually very independent and self-assured. I like how you mention that American families probably do spank but don’t talk about it while French spank and admit it.

  10. CommentsCordelia Newlin de Rojas   |  Saturday, 24 August 2013 at 2:45 am

    I want to thank everyone so far for their comments. This was such a difficult piece for me to write. I really appreciate hearing different people’s views on this. Kim @Mama Mzungu, I would be interested in the longitudinal research you mention. Some sites stay away from topics like these because they can potentially cause a lot of heated exchange, so I am extra grateful to ICP’s amazing founder and editor Stephanie Meade for her willingness to publish this post and to all the readers for their constructive comments.

  11. CommentsJonathan   |  Saturday, 24 August 2013 at 1:03 pm

    This is a really thought-provoking article. I am from the UK and lived in France for three years but can’t really say that I was all that conscious of what the culture was regarding smacking and to what extent it was different from in the UK or US. I think it’s important to take things back a step here and ask on what basis we can see that French children are really better behaved (presumably than US or US & UK kids?). Within the UK and US there is at times a tendency to overly idealize French lifestyles (and especially food) in a way that ignores certain negatives. I’m not setting out to be critical of France and French lifestyles here as there are a lot of things that I feel that we could really learn from in the UK (e.g. in terms of how we treat food and eating), but rather than the British or American perspective is sometimes a bit one-sided and smacks of the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality. Please don’t take this as a criticism of your article as it isn’t meant as such at all. Your article raises a lot of really important issues and I’m just throwing one or two other questions into the mix.

  12. CommentsGail   |  Thursday, 19 September 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I recently visited a friend in France who has 4 kids, ages 3 – 10. They spanked in a way I thought was quite severe, but after giving it some thought I’ve decided it’s actually a good way of disciplining children. The used a martinet, which is a small whip with 10 or so leather thongs, about 12 inches long. When the kids got spanked they had to get undressed and they got 10 – 20 lashes with the whip. It seemed to hurt a lot and the kids would scream, but as soon as the spanking was over they stopped crying. I asked my friend why they spanked that way, especially why the kids were naked. He said the martinet doesn’t hurt at all over clothes, and can’t possibly cause an injury because it’s so light. I even hit my bare leg with it and it didn’t hurt that bad, just stung. And these kids are the best kids! If causing a little temporary pain creates such good behavior, I’m for it. There are a lot of kids I know who could use this kind of discipline.

  13. Commentsleah g   |  Tuesday, 15 October 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Anyone who strips their kids before whipping them is SICK and has serious problems . Thats a fact !

  14. Commentsdesert voice   |  Tuesday, 05 November 2013 at 4:38 am

    Let one thing be clear. I am not against spanking.” What I am trying to convey, is that the role of spanking needs to be explained better, so people won’t draw wrong conclusions as it is so common these days. Essentially, spankingis about spiritual fatherhood! This may sound strange, but that’s the truth! A person needs an adjustment of character and attitude. It happens all the time in all families and in society et al. The spanking that is coming, has usually been “asked for”, and threby, in consequence, ordered by a person of unquestionable authority. What really matters here, is not that the discipline will be on bare posterior or other such secondary details, but that, after the spanking, a person will be a better human being, more respectful and more responsible!

  15. Commentsdesert voice   |  Tuesday, 05 November 2013 at 4:40 am

    By the way, leah g is utterly wrong. Spanking is close to useless, lest it comprises a strong element of shame! That is what the stripping is for!

  16. CommentsIuliana Calin   |  Wednesday, 06 November 2013 at 8:41 am

    I salute the attempt to explain spanking in the French culture. I grew up in Romania, and although my Mom never slapped me as she had very bad memories about it from h childhood, I saw it happen to other kids. I also remember a Math class in which the teacher would spank our hands with a ruler if we got a wrong answer. He came across as stern man with a dry sense of humor, but ironically enough under that facade we knew he cared for us very much, because other times he was quite flexible and bet the rules. Despite of his unorthodox method I think of him with fondness, which is strange from a North American perspective. I think to one of the commentator’s point his spanking was not performed in anger, it was deliberate and very short. Having said that I still think nowadays spanking is not condone and will disappear more more in the future. You could parent your children with consistency and rules without spanking. When you spank you sent the message that you do it because you can and that teaches your child he/she can do the same when in positioned of power. regarding undressing your kids and spank them as a form of punishment with even a very light whip is a total no no in my arms. Although the friend may be a very reasonable person in other aspects this is not a form of French parenting to be emulated in my view. And the last point recently we admi French parenting, French rules regarding kids eating etc. and there are great lessons to be learned from. But I fully agree you can not entirely French parent outside of the French culture. Regardless of how much you try your behavior is influenced by the society at large you live in. The most important thing I learned about French parenting from reading books and observations is that as a parent you have an intrinsic authority you display. When you discipline you should not doubt themselves, and kids feel that. This is primarily the main lesson I try to use from French parenting, as I live in Canada.

  17. Commentskristina007   |  Friday, 27 December 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Yes, the Bible speaks on how to spank a child, not to beat a child. And you do it with God’s help. The Bible does not talk about spanking a child with a belt or a whip, but with a rod. (Wood) A wooden spoon would be okay. You do not ever spank out of anger and never scream at them. If you spank out of anger or scream at them that is child abuse and you will need to repent. You let some one else to do it if you are too angry because it is then child abuse if it is out of anger. Use the word discipline. When you discipline do not do 3 spankings if it was bad and 5 if it was really bad…do it based on his repentance. You will know when they cry and by there spirit. The rod is to drive foolishness out. Remember this is discipline not punishment. It is for them, not you. Do not ever, ever, discipline out of anger. The scripture says be angry, but sin not. If you jerk that child up and give him a whack on the backside and you are mad…you just sinned and you would need to repent. And if you scream at that child you would need to repent. The word says that he that spares the rod hates his child. It is not beating or punishment, it is correction, and discipline. If it is done correctly, it will build a bond so strong between you and your child they will learn to trust you and come to you. And will avoid the spirit of rebellion away. Let the word do it’s work. Read this scripture to the kids and give them a hug when you do. Ephesians 6:1-3. Don’t water it down to their level, let them ask questions. If your kids come to you and repent, forgive them and do not bring it up again. 1 John chapter 1. But if the kids do not repent and keep doing it, and know it is wrong…you will have to intervene in this action and make the kids repent. Love is primary. Do not discipline out of love. Send them to the Bible and teach them because if you don’t somebody else will and you do not want to reap the harvest of that. Do not ever say “as long as you live under my roof….” speech because they will think God is like that too and you will loose all of your influence. What ever you do they will think God is like. Don’t want them to think “God doesn’t want them unless they are perfect”. Do not put demands on them, teach them the grace of God and for them to seek his plan in their lives. Find out what your children want to do and go and do it with them. The Bible is for all, toddlers, teens, adults, even when they are still in the womb. Do not ever water it down, but let them ask questions and answer it for them. Do not let the world teach your children. Grab them and hug them and show and quote verses. Discipline is a nice word. Discipline comes from the word disciple. To change the way you talk, think, and act. To become exactly like your instructor (Jesus). Continue in his word by doing, acting, and speaking. Disciple yourself and kids to do the word. what ever is inside someones heart will come out just as if you put pressure on a lemon. What is on the inside will come out. Provoke your children not to wrath. God is your partner in every level. God knows how to reach your kids at any age and it is never too late. Cast your care on God for your kids. 1 Peter 5:6-10. It is easier to teach them now, today, than it would be to wait. Mark 10:14 “suffer” means to send fourth, propel them to Jesus. Children are top priority compared to a adult ministry. Public schools are a hot bed of socialism. (which is there ways of doing things without God). Public school systems hates God. Children grow up and raise their children the way that they are raised up. Child psychology is manipulation and is not what I am talking about at all. And if your child tells you that you are doing something wrong and you know it do not get huffy about it, just say, “oh ya, thank you for correcting your mama baby, I repent in the name of Jesus.”

  18. Commentscalliope   |  Saturday, 18 January 2014 at 11:08 am

    Very interesting article on a hot topic. I think it is interesting that neither the author, nor many of the commentators, are bi- or multi-nationals raising children in France. Although the author had a French parent, she neither married into a French family in France or is living there. I am an American who lived in France, completely integrated (read: French university, French employers, entirely French language, French husband), for more than 10 years and have been living transcontinentally for another 10. My husband is from Paris with a large, extended family living all over France. I have two daughters that I have raised half of the time in France, half of the time in the US. This is where I am coming from and I often think it strange that so many books and articles are published about a culture in which the author does not exactly live (living as an American expatriate couple in Paris among mainly expatriate families at an American or non-French company for a few years does not count – I am not referring to this article’s author, obviously).

    In the name of teaching good behavior, I am appalled by the constant hitting, grabbing, and spanking I see in French households as well as in the parks and schools that we attend in France. I am saddened by how my children are treated by their French grandparents. As a contrast, I am also appalled by the sense of entitlement and materialism in the US. I am livid at how little the children learn in US schools. They are very different systems. This being said, I take issue with the idea of “well-behaved,” what this means exactly, and what the consequences are for society. I have come to understand the French obsession with and desire for authority as a way to rise above the early humiliation of corporal punishment and the early feeling of inexistence, or being “caged/owned.” When I watch my children play with our French cousins and friends, I see a battle, I see a fight for existence, for a voice, for authority that these kids yearn for because they are negated and taught to see the authority figure as the model. I see this desire for authority in adults in France when I go to the bank, stand in line at the movies, drive the car, get my carte de resident renewed…. this has nothing to do with being well-behaved. It has to do with wanting some kind of control and gaining authority.

    On the other hand, when I watch my children play with their cousins and friends in the US, I see a competition, boasting, and wasteful behavior. But when I go to the bank in the US, I get service. When my car gets stuck along the road, someone always helps me. When my husband needs to renew his green card, we follow the rules and get it when they told us we would. When my kids are having trouble with a subject matter in school, the American teacher offers advice, even a program, to help them do better. And they do! In France, we got a spanking and my children’s learning plummeted. What’s worse, their French classmates noted the open humiliation on my honest kids’ faces (they didn’t hide it) and hopped on their new authority like lions.

    I guess my point is that the system of discipline of any society creates a foundation for what is important to people and the way adults behave in society. There are many ways to encourage good behavior, just as there are many ways to exercise, encourage good eating habits, learn about the world… In our household, my kids love vegetables (as well as pastries!), they love math (as well as playing with the ipad!), they love to read, and, most importantly, they treat everyone always with kindness and respect – and there is no corporal punishment and no humiliation. Period. There is also no constant “good jobs” or constant praise. These are not the only choices. You are not required to do one or the other.

  19. Commentscarmen gloser   |  Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 8:09 am

    Being Franco-English,I remeber that when me and my two brothers where in England mum gave us the slipper on our asses,but when moving over to france in the 70’s First we all had to put on long nylon overalls usualy buttoned in the back with big plastic buttons ( wich I liked ),but as soon as we got in France mum utilised the French discipline method!,that is having a Martinet ( a childrens small whip composed of a round wooden handle 30cm long and attached to it were 12 thick leather tails 50cm long),wich really bit your asses and buttocks,and every French mum had one usualy hung up in the kitchen ready for use!I .But mum gave us Martinet whippings really when we merited it,because I admit that sometimes we could really drive her up the wall!So we were warned and if you were not reasonable and you had over crossed the line The Martinet came into action,Myself like my brothers received it mostly bare-ass and up to 16 ( like the other French children,but I don’t have any hard feelings on mum,because in those days at least we knew what “respect” ,and hard working meant,and honestly when you see all the violence in the world going on , the Martinet should make a comeback!

  20. Commentsdesertvoice   |  Tuesday, 25 March 2014 at 7:28 am

    “As a parent you have an intrinsic authority you display. When you discipline you should not doubt themselves, and kids feel that.” Luliana Calin makes a crucial point. When it comes to parental discipline, in our home children never doubted an adult’s authority over their buttocks! That was taught from the earliest childhood! Like in Japan, as long as a teenager or even adult leaves in other peoples’ home, we were told that our naked buttocks do not belong to us! It never crossed our minds that it could be otherwise. This authority was written in stone, unquestioned!

  21. CommentsMark Saniez   |  Sunday, 30 March 2014 at 10:18 am

    Back in the mid-70’s I refused to put on an nylon buttoned overall because it looked too feminine to me,so my mother came back with the Martinet in hand ( a childrens whip,looks like a flogger but the leather tails are much harder and bites your skin!),and told me it’s up to you to choose it’s the nylon overall or the Martinet,anyway one won’t go without the other,and very rapidly she lowerd my short pants and knickers down and I got 15 hard stokes on my bare ass!I started dancing with pain,and during that time my mother put the nylon overall and buttoned it up,no need to say that I did’nt argue anymore with mum and did as I was told

  22. Commentspenelope   |  Thursday, 03 April 2014 at 7:12 am

    It’s very funny that people (who aren’t French) believe that French children behave all the time, eat everything and never throw tantrums etc. But French children are some of the worst-behaved kids I have ever been known! Maybe not as toddlers, but when they grow up they are just all over the place. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to raise your child “the French way”, but just remember that it isn’t such a good way after all. (Some French kids are super nice and well-behaved but the majority isn’t. And that’s probably because of their parents who sometimes need a reality check.)

  23. CommentsDan   |  Friday, 04 April 2014 at 7:38 am

    I believe that in America we have gone too far in protecting and isolating children from world realities. The helicopter parent mentality has taken over our thinking that kids must be shielded, guided and protected which leads to allowing kids to do as they please and to not have to follow rules.

    When I was growing up if you misbehaved or didn’t follow the rules we got a good locking with the strap from dad or a thorough hiney warming with the hairbrush from mom. Somehow my generation has moved away from the merits of effective discipline.

  24. CommentsAndrew   |  Sunday, 06 April 2014 at 6:15 am

    @Calliope: Below is written with no offense given with the hope that none is taken. As this is just an online blog discourse, not some academic cultural theory debate and most importantly the comments below are just some ramblings from someone who studied childhood psychology, art therapy, and cultural theory; whilst living in nine different countries, travelling for extended period of times to over 50 others, and multi-national and bi-lingual.
    Does one need to have a passport and citizenship or even married to someone from a particular culture to write an op/ed piece about one aspect of the generalities and stereotypes of that culture? I just came from Myanmar and some of the foremost experts who speak Myanmar, study in Myanmar, lecture in Myanmar universities about ancient and current culture and political affairs are often from the UK or USA. Does that preclude them from sharing their experiences or writing scholarly articles about Myanmar culture, traditions and behaviours?
    I came out of my mother’s uterus within the borders of Canada who was a Polish immigrant as is my father. My mother tongue is Polish and I was raised within a “Polish culture” as well as a “Canadian culture”. I moved to the USA, lived in Poland, England, Uganda, UAE, Cambodia, Switzerland, (French part) and have a French wife – which of course includes spending time enjoying traditional French cultural holidays and bearing witness to French children playing and being disciplined by French parents in France. I have had Canadian, US, UK, UAE, Ugandan, and Polish employers. Would you (Calliope) grant me permission to share my menial opinion on friends and family observations I have noticed while in these countries experiencing and living amongst “their” cultural practices, their festivals, treatment of and raising children, traditions, and more? Or could one only share their opinion on such topics if one was married to a particular national and lived for 10 years in the particular country in question in order to share an opinion?
    Is the author’s opinion so groundless and unfounded if she lived in and grew up within a culturally French household, speaks French fluently, and has friends and family in and out of the borders of France, whilst experiencing corporal punishment and witnessing her multilingual children (French, English, and more) playing with other French children and noticing their French parents behavioural treatment?
    Would you be in a position to provide some expert cultural input on Russian vs American child rearing for an online blog if you (Calliope) got divorced and married a Russian while living in the US?
    Regardless of your seemingly “cultural high horse” or rather “small pony”, let’s get slightly back to the issue raised in this article. And yes, I am also referring to the praise you give yourself for rearing children that eat vegetables, love math, your ipad! and how they treat everyone “always” with respect and kindness. Personally speaking, again with no offense given, sounds like your children may end up quite average and mediocre, which is not at all negative, as the far majority of the people in the world are. It is in a child’s nature to push boundaries throughout their development in order to understand what is acceptable or unacceptable social behaviour within their environment. Pushing boundaries is a sign of growth, creativity, and understanding one’s social environment; and it is up to the parents to help define those boundaries until kids become self-aware and independent adults.
    Disciplining children is an extremely complex topic with many bona fide experts and professionals still disagreeing as to what is best. From all my experience and literature read, there is never one solution to one problem when it comes to behavioural psychology. Alternative methods will work for different children’s personalities as well as their parents’. I feel it’s not a question of to spank or not to spank, but whether there is consistency and congruence in disciplinary action as to not confuse children as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour from day to day, week to week or month to month.
    On a side note, some of the worst misbehaved kids I have ever seen were in the US, France, and UK, and interestingly enough some of the best behaved children I have ever seen were in developing countries.
    Though I do find your (Calliope) statement of having “come to understand the French obsession with and desire for authority as a way to rise above the early humiliation of corporal punishment” and that you “see this desire for authority in adults in France” quite humorous. Mainly because the French are stereotypically notorious for disputing, contending, and striking for equality and social rights against “authority”. Is protesting a sign of obsession and desire for authority?
    Anyway, spanking and corporal punishment has been going on since we walked out of the jungle. This business of time outs is something very new. Regardless, the most important is that any form of supporting the growth of a child in society is a delicate balance of letting them explore and push boundaries whilst at the same moment guiding them and being consistent with what a parent thinks is socially acceptable behaviour, spanking or not. Again, there is no one magic solution that will work for every child, every parent and every family.

  25. CommentsClaude kohler   |  Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 10:58 am

    Well in the 80’s it was the norm in France,you were disiplined by your mother,boy or girl,at least until 16,sometimes even latter!.First of all you had no say concerning clothing,to go to school,for boys you had to wear,very short pants held up with clip on suspenders,a nylon buttoned overall,+a beret,and if you did’nt do things right it’s sure you got whipped with the Martinet,on your buttocks or on your bare ass!.For girls it was a neat white blouse buttoned with big buttons in the back,a long pleated skirt with suspenders the nylon buttoned overall and the beret to go to school+the girls got Martinet whippings like us the boys,letting alone that even at school ,especially the lady teachers utilised the Martinet too on your buttocks in front of all the class!.I remember once ,on a day we did’nt have school,me and my sister ( I was 14 and she was 16),we went out and climbed a big tree,and we cameback home late and our nylon overalls all dirty!,Well before reaching our house,our mother was allready “patroling in the streets of our village ,she too in her very long and large nylon overall and the Martinet at hand,and when she saw us,she got furious! and drove the two of us back home whipping our legs with her Martinet,It was a specially hand made one with a round wooden handle and it’s 12 thick black leather thongs 50cm long,and once we got in,our mother took off our nylon overalls,pants,skirt,suspenders,and knickers too,and we had to bend over a high chair and received at least 20 hard stokes with her Martinet on our bare asses!,the we git washed,and our mother took out her electric hair shaver and both of us got our heads shaved!( that too was very comon in France in those days!!),and no television,our playing outdoor,for a week,and once we were in bed our mother told us “Now if I hear a sound i’ll be back with the Martinet again,so you’re warned,but as I said before It was just the norm in those days,but on second thoughts We don’t have any hard feelings because ,we were afraid of the Martinet Whippings and so we had respect,and worked well at school ans succeded our lives latter on ,so Martinet Whippings all though painful got good results!!

  26. CommentsDanny tier   |  Sunday, 11 May 2014 at 12:04 pm

    I remember in the mid 70’s,me and my sister were afraid of mother’s Martinet whippings,especially as she was a primary school teacher,letting alone that she was allways wearing her pretty white nylon overalls with big blue plastic buttons in front and the collar too in blue,we too had to wear theeses type of nylon overalls but not of the same color,ours were either royal blue or nevy blue,and even at the age of 14/15 me and my sister had our heads shaved too,but it was just the norm in those decades.Concerning the Martinet it was hung on the kitchen wall on a nail so everybody saw it,and when we did something wrong or had bad school marks our mother allways in her nylon overalls took the Martinet and gave us a good sermon waving the leather tails of the Martinet in front of our face,there we knew she meant business!!.Then puting our nylon overalls over our heads and lowering our short pants or skirts with our knickers we had to bend over a high chair ,and even when we started crying and saying to her no mummy please not the Martinet ,she remained stoic and before the whipping begun she told us ,now darling mummy has to discipline you it’s for your good !it will sting you but afterwards the pain will dissapear.Then the whipping begun ,allways the same sound,a kind of sound of “wish-schlack, wish-schlack…,then full of pain it was 30mn kneeled down in the corner hands on your head,+ if mum decided so once again your head was shaved,and my sister got the same treatement as me,but as said before it was the norm!,Anyway in those days it would have seemed not normal a mother without a Martinet in the house !.and a lot of sort of shops sold Martinets too,( ironmongers,toy shops,on the place markets etc…,so so the mothers had a great choice,as for us we feared them especialy on the markets with their leather tails blowing in the wind!!

  27. CommentsSarah   |  Tuesday, 13 May 2014 at 8:54 am

    Spanking is never right. Not at home, not at the supermarket, certainly not at Disneyland Paris (shame on that French mother) not with an open hand or just across the butt. Never never never is it ok. YOU chose to have that child, YOU chose to bring it into the world and its siblings. YOU not the child. I was hit as a child and it was degrading and painful and cruel and completely unnecessary. I would never ever beat something smaller than me, it is just so wrong. Countries like Sweden and New Zealand have outlawed physical abuse on children so should the rest of the world!

  28. CommentsJP   |  Monday, 19 May 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Spanking is a great tool when used properly. We spank when our children are doing anything harmful to them selves like running in a parking lot or leaving the house without permission to retrieve something from the car. Children of a certain age can not be reasoned with and you have to be a little Pavlovian with discipline to ensure they do not injure themselves or other people. We don’t swat out of anger and they always understand why they are getting a spank.

  29. CommentsJeanne   |  Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 11:07 pm

    I’m not against spanking but the martinet seems like such a harsh instrument. It’s an actual whip and looks very frightening to me, and it must be worse for a little child. I was in a restroom in France where I saw a woman whipping a naked little boy with a martinet very hard on his bare penis. He was only 5 or 6 years old. I was horrified but no one else seemed to think anything was wrong. After at least 20 lashes this poor little guy was completely red between his legs, and he was just screaming in pain. I can’t imagine what he could have done to deserve this abuse.

  30. Commentsernest   |  Tuesday, 01 July 2014 at 6:06 am

    In our house, hidden in the woods, the playful sound of the strap resounded daily on the surface of the tables or against daddy’s riding boots. No one made much of it. Sometimes it was the birch rod that wrapped itself on the edge of the sofa. Those were the most common sounds among which we grew up. I often was invited to stick out my naked behind, just for no real reason, other than to receive a friendly slap. All was natural, normal, not threatening. So when the day of first punishment came, after I broke the neighbor’s window with a stone, I was ready, with my bare ass stuck out as ordered the best I knew. It was just a game, I kept saying to myself. This perception vanished for ever with the first swish. The birch rod, soaked in water wrapped itself on my behind with all force, even on the genitals. Then the shock, piercing pain, and the begging for mercy. But the rod kept striking relentlessly with ever increased force. The grandpa knew what he was doing. The grandma was watching in approval, with undisguised satisfaction and owe. She knew that she was witness to something to be remembered for life. The swishing was prolonged and memorable, accompanied only by loud weeping and crying. After ten minutes, my ass was crisscrossed with red and blue welts branching in all directions. I noticed that, additionally, the genitals were covered with grits-like black spots, left by the tips of the rods. Each welt engraved itself in my mind and soul, with a warning never to break windows again! It sure worked! I became a different boy, much more thoughtful and careful, polite and obedient. I understood why we have butts! In our teenage years, we need chastisement oftentimes! We keep asking for it with our foolish and rebel behavior! We need to feel the consequences, and to hear the swishing and the exploding of the paddle or strap! We need a stern daddy who is always there to attend to these our vital needs of growing!

  31. CommentsJean   |  Friday, 05 September 2014 at 12:41 am

    I am in complete shock by most of these comments. Spanking is nothing but a fancy word for beating and no child is ever “asking for it”. In progressive countries such as Sweden and Denmark, it is illegal to strike a child as any form of discipline – as it should be. There is no excuse for using any kind of violence against your children. I can’t believe we’re still having this discussion in the 21st century…









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