By Alice Miller, Ph.D.
Spankings, Slaps, and even Apparently Harmless Blows Like Pats on
the Hand Dangerous for a Baby?
them to vent
their anger; when they strike, it's because, as children, they
were struck themselves.
- They teach violence.
- They destroy the infallible certainty of being loved that
the baby needs.
- They cause anxiety: the expectancy of the next blow.
- They convey a lie: they pretend to be educational, but
parents actually use
They provoke anger and a desire for revenge, which remain
repressed only to be expressed much later.
They program the child to accept illogical arguments
("I'm hurting you for your own good") that stay
stored up in their body.
They destroy sensitivity and compassion for others and for
oneself, and hence limit the capacity to gain insight
What Long Term Lessons does the Baby Retain from Spankings
and other Blows?
The baby learns:
- That a child does not deserve respect.
- That good can be learned through punishment (which is
actually wrong, since punishment merely teaches the child to
want to punish on their own turn.)
- That suffering mustn't be felt; it must be ignored (which
is dangerous for the immune system).
- That violence is a manifestation of love (fostering
- That denial of feeling is healthy (but the body pays the
price of this error, often much later).
The body memorizes all these harmful traces of the supposedly
How is Repressed Anger often Vented?
A. In childhood and adolescence:
- By making fun of the weak.
- By hitting classmates.
By watching violence on TV, playing video
games that glorify violence, and by identifying with violent
heroes. (Children who have been loved and never beaten are
uninterested in cruel films, and, as adults, will not produce
B. In adulthood:
- By perpetuating spanking, as an apparently educational and
effective means, often heartily recommended to others,
whereas in actual fact, one's own suffering is being avenged
on the next generation.
- By refusing to understand the connections between
previously experienced violence and the violence actively
repeated today. The ignorance of society is thereby
- By entering professions that demand violence: police,
army, boxing, etc.
- By being gullible to politicians who designate scapegoats
for the violence that has been stored up and which can
finally be vented with impunity: "impure" races,
ethnic "cleansing", and ostracized social
- Because of obedience to violence as a child, by readiness
to obey any authority which recalls the authority of the
parents, as the Germans obeyed Hitler, the Russians Stalin,
the Serbs Milosevic.
- Conversely, some become aware of the repression and
universal denial of childhood pain, realizing how violence
is transmitted from parents to children, and stop hitting
children regardless of age. This can be done (many have
succeeded) as soon as one has understood that the causes and
effects of child maltreatment are the same: the repressed
history of the parents.
People often ask for alternatives to spanking. There is no
alternative to hitting children. If your goal is to help your
child to develop his autonomy you don't look for a means to making
him/her obedient. And this is the only thing you achieve with
spanking - but only for a while. Later the whole family will have
to pay the price for their obedience. And this you should know
just from the first day of your child. Then it is up to you to
make the choice consciously.
Consider this quote:
"Kids who have their needs met early by loving parents
... are subjected totally and thoroughly to the most severe form
of 'discipline' conceivable: they don't do what you don't want
them to do because they love you so much!
"If you haven't cluttered the airwaves between you and
your child with a thousand stupid 'don'ts' over your Royal
Doulton china, or not eating their dessert before the main
course, or not finishing their spinach, or not doing this or
that, then those few situations where it really matters because
of safety and impropriety don't need anything approaching the
connotation of 'discipline' to ensure appropriate behavior."
- Dr. Elliott Barker,
Director, Canadian Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children
"All truth goes through three stages. First it is
ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted
|Copyright © Alice Miller,
Dr. Miller is the author of the book
"Paths of Life" (Pantheon, 1998) and eight other books on
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.
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