Every Smack is a Humiliation - A Manifesto
by Alice Miller
Many researchers have already proved that corporal
punishment on children may indeed produce obedience in the short term
but will have serious negative consequences on their character and
behavior. Only if there was at least one single person who loved and
understood the child, the disastrous development toward later crimes and
illnesses could be prevented. During their whole childhood, dictators
like Hitler, Stalin or Mao never came across such a helping witness.
They learned very early to glorify cruelty and hypocrisy and to justify
them while committing crimes on millions of people. Millions of others,
because also exposed to physical maltreatment in childhood, helped them
to do so without the slightest remorse.
Children should not be the scapegoats of adults'
painful experiences. The claim that mild punishments (slaps or smacks)
have no detrimental effects is still widespread because we got this
message very early from our parents who had taken it over from their own
parents. This conviction helped the child to minimize his suffering and
to endure it. Unfortunately, the main damage it causes is precisely our
numbness as well as the lack of sensitivity for our children's pain. The
result of the broad dissemination of this damage is that each successive
generation is subjected to the tragic effects of seemingly harmless
"correction". Many parents still think: What didn't hurt me
can't hurt my child. They don't realize that their conclusion is wrong
because they never challenged their assumption.
When in Sweden legislation laws prohibiting
corporal punishment were launched in 1978, 70% of the citizens asked for
their opinion were against it. In 1997, the figure had dropped to 10%.
These statistics show that the mentality of the Swedish population has
radically changed in the course of a mere 20 years. A destructive
tradition of millennia has been done away with thanks to this
It is imperative to launch legislation prohibiting
corporal punishment all over the world. It does not set out to
incriminate anyone but is designed to have a protective and informative
function for parents. Sanctions could simply take the form of the
obligation for parents to internalize information on the consequences of
corporal punishment available today. Information on the "well-meant
smack" should therefore be broadcasted to all, since unconscious
education to violence takes its roots very early and inflicts disastrous
imprints. The vital interests of society as a whole are at stake.
Does Not Work"
Copyright © Alice Miller, 1998
Although this document is copyrighted and
must be not shortened, added or changed, it can be used for pamphlets,
leaflets or posters. It can be distributed as widely as possible, above
all in schools - before young people decide to have children without
knowing what this decision involves. Everybody, young and old, can
participate in this action.