Should a brawl be humiliating
France's MPs have finally made it through: the right of children to a non-violent upbringing has been enshrined on Thursday night. Opponents describe the change in the law as useless because beating parents face no punishment. However, this change in French civil law is important. Because it makes it clear that a slap in the face or a spanking is not a private parenting decision, but a humiliation and injury to the child.
Far-right politician Emmanuelle Ménard was the only member of the National Assembly to vote against the law because it would encourage children to rebel against their parents. One can only wish children who are beaten by their parents that they find the courage and strength to rebel against these very parents. But the worst thing about violence against one's own children is that it usually takes years, almost a lifetime, before one succeeds in distinguishing oneself from the tormentors. After all, children love their parents unconditionally, they are dependent on them.
The single dissenting vote shows that there is hardly anyone in France who considers beatings to be a successful educational method. But where do the 70 percent of the French who opposed the new law come from? In the debates that preceded the National Assembly's decision in newspapers, forums and television broadcasts, one thing was primarily felt: uncertainty. Only a few professional provocateurs made their mark by claiming that a slap would not harm a child. The vast majority of level-headed voices wanted to understand what a meaningful child-rearing process can look like today and how it must change. And to what extent the state has to help decide. It was a right debate at the wrong time.
The debate is wrong at this point because there is nothing to argue about in the case of corporal punishment. A child who is belittled, exposed and degraded with violence or words not only experiences anger, helplessness and pain. It also doesn't learn anything that could help it in later life.
"Just listen to yourself!" - A piece of advice to parents that is not true
But the debate is correct because it makes sense for parents and non-parents to argue and think publicly about how they want to prepare children for the world. In online forums, mothers and fathers are often given advice: Just listen to yourself, nobody knows your child as well as you do. This advice is not true. Parents have to constantly get to know their child anew. After all, parenting is so challenging because you live with a tiny person with a huge will, who is developing so rapidly that you haven't done it yourself for decades.
It is good when parents are accompanied by doctors, educators, friends, relatives and other parents in this wonderful madness. And not just by telling them: Everything is great the way you do it. But also by giving advice. The most authoritarian form of advice is a state ban. Parents' gut instinct is not always correct, which is why higher authorities are needed to protect the child. It helps children when not only mother and father are interested in what they need at the moment. It is when the whole of society thinks about how it deals with its smallest members.
A society that argues about raising children believes in itself
Parents often tell annoyed anecdotes about how old people on the S-Bahn remark that the baby should rather wear a hat. Or how a man in the supermarket queue, unasked, comments on the decision not to buy the child a lollipop. Such moments are seldom beautiful, in the worst case parents are even insulted. But it is not just tedious when everyone has an opinion about their own child. It is also a sign that the future of the child is not the private concern of its parents. A society that argues about parenting believes in itself and that it can change.
Now that the unspeakable beating is finally clearly banned in France, the debate can continue at a more appropriate level. The fundamental questions that have been asked in the past few days affect everyone anyway, and not just people who are bringing up a child. How do we communicate with each other if we want to make sure this happens without violence? When does care become paternalism? When does the freedom of one restrict the welfare of the other?
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