16 Green lawmakers were behind a proposed amendment to a wide-ranging family law which French MPs began debating on Monday.
The amendment stipulated that "legal guardians cannot use corporal punishment or physical violence against children".
But the socialist-majority in the National Assembly decided to postpone the debate on banning corporal punishment, including smacking by parents, to an unspecified date.
French lawmakers are currently studying a controversial new Family Law bill under which children of divorced parents would have both homes as their legal addresses, and step parents would have more legal rights in connection with the care of step children.
The bill has given rise to stiff opposition from the centre-right UMP party, and also raised concerns among psychologists and single mothers.
Junior minister with responisability for family affairs, Laurence Rossignol, said that while the issue of smacking was important she would prefer that this point be discussed "in the context of the prevention of mistreatment of children"
Rossignol noted that current law already includes provisions for the physical protection of children
The Green MP behind the amendment, François-Michel Lambert, accepted the delay but declared that it would only have brought France into line with legislation that has already been adopted by 18 other European countries.