France Just Made Spanking Illegal — Should the U.S. Be Next?

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

France recently became the 52nd country in the world to place a ban on corporal punishment in an attempt to protect its 14 million children. The country officially passed the Equality and Citizenship Bill this week, which calls for an end to violence towards children by explicitly banning “any cruel, degrading, or humiliating treatment, including corporal punishment.” This includes the still-popular practice of spanking and slapping children into obedience.

Laws like this one have been implemented in countries around the world for decades, with Sweden leading the pack as the first nation to ban the use of physical punishment back in 1979, when the country made a deliberate attempt to educate parents about the adverse effects of corporal punishment and replace the behavior with better parenting techniques.

The United States currently does not have federal laws prohibiting the use of corporal punishment. Back in 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (Ingram v. Wright case) that corporal punishment was in fact constitutional, which left a lot of room for states to implement varying laws. For example, the state of Delaware prohibits a parent from hitting their kid with a closed fist, whereas in Oklahoma, parents can even utilize a switch to hit their kids with as long as they only use “ordinary force.” (Yes, really.)

And if that’s not troubling enough, it turns out that 19 states still allow for public schools to use physical forms of punishment on students from pre-school all the way up to 12th grade. Crazy, right? Surely it’s just some ancient draconian legislature that has never been updated and probably never gets used … right? Wrong, my friend!

Estimates from the 2013-2014 Education Week Research Center analysis reported more than 109,000 students were subjected to physical punishment (such as paddling or swatting) WHILE IN SCHOOL. Yes, American schools. And want to know something even more troubling? A 2016 Social Policy Report analyzed 36,942 public schools and found that in states like Alabama and Mississippi, African American students were 51% more likely to get corporally punished than Caucasian children. And there’s more: Children with disabilities were also 50% more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment.

This is confounding information to say the least, but regrettably not uncommon. In fact, UNICEF found that roughly 6 out of every 10 children around the world are habitually subjected to corporal punishment by a caregiver.

And all of this despite the colossal amount of research that has proven such practices have inarguable detrimental effects on children. A June 2016 study analyzed data for more than five decades and concluded that children who were spanked or paddled were more likely to have mental, health, and cognitive challenges as adults. It also revealed the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment since those same children were more likely to disobey their parents when compared with children who weren’t disciplined in the same manner. Another study found that the long-term effects of corporal punishment had a correlation with negative developmental outcomes in children such as aggression, antisocial behavior, mental issues — to name a few. The research concluded that the only positive (but inconsistent) outcome was that of immediate compliance, but had no other long-term positive effects.

The word “consent” has become such a hot topic in recent years — particularly within the parenting sphere — and we all need to be doing our part in teaching young boys and girls about the concept from an early age. And I for one can’t help but see physical punishment as a complete contradiction to what we’re actively trying to teach our kids about consent.

Corporal punishment is, by definition, the act of physically touching a child in a way that scares them into acquiescence. No child would willingly agree to a spanking or a slap so essentially, it is the act of touching a child without their permission. Why are we teaching our children to model this behavior where putting your hands threateningly on someone by force is acceptable if they aren’t doing what you asked or are behaving in a way you don’t like? It’s way past time that these antiquated state laws be allowed to expire and federal legislature be amended to reflect the comprehensive studies that have shown little to no positive effects of corporal punishment. Our children deserve it.

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