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Domestic CP - March 2002
Daily Telegraph, London, 1 March 2002
Short, sharp shock part of life in FranceBy Colin Randall
IN the eyes of the middle-class Scottish parents who saw it, the short, sharp, shock administered by the French tourist to an unruly son was unacceptable.
But to the thousands of British visitors, Scots included, to France each year, the details of this minor domestic drama surely carry a familiar ring.
Even on the worst assessment of the case before the Edinburgh Sheriff - that he kicked and punched the child, as the court accepted, rather than smacking him once on the bottom - the unnamed papa acted in keeping with the approach of many of his countrymen to child-rearing.
As an Englishman married to a Frenchwoman, I have lost count of the number of times I have watched a child's tantrum or misconduct brought to a summary end by a random blow.
"Tu as une tete a claque," the child is told before a claque is duly delivered to the tete or other bodily target.
I should say that neither my wife nor I goes in much for kicks and punches, but in my experience as an observer, one claque may well be followed by more.
It is also my experience that no French person looking on, within or without the family group, gives the matter a second thought. The incident provides instant explanation for British tourists who marvel at how well French children behave in restaurants.
France may have been a century ahead of Britain in banning caning and other forms of corporal punishment in schools. They may, smugly, have invented le vice anglais as a phrase to describe sexual attraction to beating or being beaten.
But in their homes, supermarkets, restaurants and other public places, they show little sign of listening too intently to no-smacking propaganda.
As the Scottish Executive moves towards a formal ban on parental chastisement, no one should hold their breath for news of the French jostling to join the queue to follow its example.
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