On the naughty step again
Sometimes it takes people on the outside to hold up the mirror and force us to realise how others see us.
The British pride themselves on their tolerance, their sense of fair play, their respect for the rule of law and human rights. So it is both humbling and galling when the United Nations tells us we suffer from a "general climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes towards children, especially adolescents".
It is almost as if the social services have arrived and informed us that we aren't suitable parents.The UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child has just published its 'concluding observations' on Britain's human rights record with regard to children.
It makes uncomfortable reading - 120 separate recommendations littered with "regrets" and "concerns" over our failure to protect our children.
It is not the first time the British government has got in the neck over its treatment of the young. The UN, the EU, the UK's four Children's Commissioners and a range of children's charities have regularly accused Ministers of failing to protect young people in the justice system, the immigration system, the mental health system and in the home.
Today's criticism from the committee in Geneva broadly comes down to a fundamental difference of opinion on how young people should be controlled and disciplined.
The UN wants an end to ASBOs. They are offended by the use of 'mosquito sprays' to disperse threatening groups of hoodies in shopping centres. The committee is opposed to any physical restraint of young offenders. And they demand an end to the use of smacking or any other physical punishment in the home.
Instead, the United Nations urges Britain to "actively promote positive and non-violent forms of discipline and respect for children's equal right to human dignity and physical integrity, with a view to raising public awareness of children's right to protection from all corporal punishment and to decreasing public acceptance of its use in childrearing".
Government ministers, while accepting the principle of always putting a child's best interests first, are not convinced that those interests are necessarily served by "going soft" - particularly around the issue of youth justice. It is certainly a view held by many of the people they want to vote for them.
A new poll of 6,000 teachers by the Times Educational Supplement found one in five thought it would be a good idea to bring back the cane - outlawed in state schools twenty years ago.
One supply teacher told researchers: "Children's behaviour is now absolutely outrageous in the majority of schools. There are too many anger management people and their ilk who give children the idea that it is their right to flounce out of lessons for time out because they have problems with their temper. They should be caned instead."
There are plenty of child psychologists who would say such attitudes reflect the failures of adults rather than the indiscretions of children.
Britain does find itself with an ignominious reputation for locking children up - around 3,000 behind bars today - a higher proportion than almost any other country in Europe.
The age of criminal responsibility, set at just 8 years in Scotland and 10 years for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is among the lowest in the world. When we do incarcerate children, we find it impossible to prevent self-harm on a truly alarming scale.
Since the UN last reviewed Britain's treatment of children a year ago, six youngsters have succeeded in killing themselves while under lock and key.
The behaviour of our teenagers - under-age pregnancies, drug abuse, drunkenness, public disorder - finds the UK close to or at the top of European bad kids' league.
So something is clearly amiss. For many in Britain the answer is tougher discipline, a move away from the "my rights" attitudes that prevents parents, teachers and police from dealing with young miscreants in the way they want.
But the view from Geneva is rather different. They see a country which has become disconnected from its young: hostile to them, frightened of them and unable to keep control without resort to violence. Britain's adults are on the naughty step once again.