But parents who have had to repress the fact of having been abused [which Alice Miller has admitted was the case with her at the time she was a mother of her young daughter] and who have never consciously relived it can become very confused in this regard where their children are concerned. They will either suppress their genuine feelings of affection for fear of seducing their child or they will unconsciously do the same to the child that was done to them, without having any idea of how much harm they are causing, since they themselves always had to distance themselves from their suffering.
Open Letter to the Holy Father. I take the liberty to write to You again… I can’t imagine that any other person in the world would have Your courage, Your credibility, as well as Your personal talent and God's grace to be able to speak up against an old tradition [of parents beating their children]… I am asking You again to make an appeal to all parents urging them to no longer beat their children, and to tell them that it is highly dangerous. If the Church continues to ignore the new scientific information and to stay silent about this issue in spite of the lessons of Jesus, who else can be asked to open the parents’ eyes in order to prevent the blind escalation of violence? I am sure that if my letters succeed to reach You personally You will not stay indifferent to the knowledge they are trying to pass on to you. With my most profound respect, Alice Miller.
Our contempt for egoists begins very early in life. Children who fulfill their parents' conscious or unconscious wishes are good, but if they ever refuse to do so or express wishes of their own that go against those of their parents they are called egoistic and inconsiderate. It usually does not occur to the parents that they might need and use the child to fulfill their own egoistic wishes. They often are convinced that they must teach their child how to behave because it is their duty to help him along on the road to socialization. If a child bought up this way does not wish to lose his parents' love (And what child can risk that?), he must learn very early to share, to give, to make sacrifices, and to be willing to do without and forgo gratification-long before he is capable of true sharing or of the real willingness to do without.
Sanctions deriving from it could take the form of parents being obligated to internalize information on the consequences of corporal punishment, in much the same way as drivers of motor vehicles are required by state law to be familiar with the highway code. In the case of our children, the point at issue is not only the welfare of individual families-- the vital interests of society as a whole are at stake. Physical cruelty and emotional humiliation not only leave their marks on children, they also inflict a disastrous imprint of the future of our society. Information on the effects of the well-meant smack should therefore be part and parcel of courses for expectant mothers and of counseling for parents. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other dictators were exposed to severe physical mistreatment in childhood and refused to face up to the fact later. Instead of seeing and feeling what had happened to them, they avenged themselves vicariously by killing millions of people. And millions of others helped them to do so. If the legislation we are advocating had existed the time, those millions would simply have refused to perpetrate acts of cruelty at the command of crazed political leaders.
The claim that mild punishments (slaps or smacks) have no detrimental effect is still widespread because we got this message very early from our parents who had taken it over from their own parents. Unfortunately, the main damage it causes is precisely the broad dissemination of this conviction. The result of which is that each successive generation is subjected to the tragic effects of so called physical correction.
The fact that children are sacrificed to their parents’ needs is an uncomfortable truth that no adult likes to hear. Even adolescents find it difficult to bear, because they are bound to their parents by ambivalent feelings and would much rather direct their split-off hatred toward institutions and ‘society’ in the abstract. This provides them with objects they can unequivocally reject, and they hope in this way finally to rid themselves of their ambivalence.
The following points are intended to amplify my meaning: 1. All children are born to grow, to develop, to live, to love, and to articulate their needs and feelings for their self-protection. 2. For their development, children need to the respect and protection of adults who take them seriously, love them, and honestly help them to become oriented in the world. 3. When these vital needs are frustrated and children are, instead, abused for the sake of the adults' needs by being exploited, beaten, punished, taken advantage of, manipulated neglected, or deceived without the intervention of any witness, then their integrity will be lastingly impaired. 4. The normal reactions to such injury should be anger and pain. Since children in this hurtful kind of environment are forbidden to express their anger, however, and since it would be unbearable to experience their pain all alone, they are compelled to suppress their feelings, repress all memory of the trauma, and idealize those guilty of the abuse. Later they will have no memory of what was done to them. 5. Disassociated from the original cause, their feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, longing, anxiety, and pain will find expression in destructive acts against others (criminal behavior, mass murder) or against themselves (drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, psychic disorders, suicide). 6. If these people become parents, they will then often direct acts of revenge for their mistreatment in childhood against their own children, whom they use as scapegoats. Child abuse is still sanctioned -- indeed, held in high regard -- in our society as long as it is defined as child-rearing. It is a tragic fact that parents beat their children in order to escape the emotions from how they were treated by their own parents. 7. If mistreated children are not to become criminals or mentally ill, it is essential that at least once in their life they come in contact with a person who knows without any doubt that the environment, not the helpless, battered child, is at fault. In this regard, knowledge or ignorance on the part of society can be instrumental in either saving or destroying a life. Here lies the great opportunity for relatives, social workers, therapists, teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, officials and nurses to support the child and believe in her or him. 8. Till now, society has protected the adult and blamed the victim. It has been abetted in its blindness by theories, still in keeping with the pedagogical principles of our great-grandparents, according to which children are viewed as crafty creatures, dominated by wicked drives, who invent stories and attack innocent parents or desire them sexually. In reality, children tend to blame themselves for their parents' cruelty and to absolve their parents, whom they invariably love [I would say 'need' - SH] of all responsibility. 9. For some years now, it has been possible to prove, through new therapeutic methods, that repressed traumatic experiences of childhood are stored up in the body and, though unconscious, exert an influence even in adulthood. In addition, electronic testing of the fetus has revealed a fact previously unknown to most adults -- that a child responds to and learns both tenderness and cruelty from the very beginning. 10. In the light of this new knowledge, even the most absurd behavior reveals its formerly hidden logic once the traumatic experiences of childhood need no longer remain shrouded in darkness. 11. Our sensitization to the cruelty with which children are treated, until now commonly denied, and to the consequences of such treatment will as a matter of course bring an end to the perpetuation of violence from generation to generation. 12. People whose integrity has not been damaged in childhood, who were protected, respected, and treated with honesty by their parents, will be -- both in their youth and in adulthood -- intelligent, responsive, empathic and highly sensitive. They will take pleasure in life and will not feel any need to kill or even hurt others or themselves. They will use their power to defend themselves, not to attack others. They will not be able to do otherwise than respect and protect those weaker than themselves, including their own children, because this is what they have learned from their own experience, and because it is this knowledge (and not the experience of cruelty) that has been stored up inside them from the beginning. It will be inconceivable to such people that earlier generations had to build up a gigantic war industry in order to feel comfortable and safe in this world. Since it will not be their unconscious drive in life to ward off intimidation experienced at a very early age, they will be able to deal with attempts at intimidation in their adult life more rationally and creatively.
The reason why parents mistreat their children has less to do with character and temperament than with the fact that they were mistreated themselves and were not permitted to defend themselves.
To be sure, I had no memories at all of the first five years of my life, and even those of the following years were very sparse. Although this is an indication of a strong repression – something that never occurs without good reason – it did not prevent me from clinging to the belief that my parents had provided me with loving care and had made every effort to give me everything I needed as a child. That was the way my mother would have described it had anyone asked her about my childhood. I had accepted her version all these years, in spite of the fact that my professional training had included two analyses and even though I should have been struck by the many similarities between my own history and the case histories of my patients.
Wherever I look, I see signs of the commandment to honor one's parents and nowhere of a commandment that calls for the respect of a child.
As soon as Goals 2000 passed, it was attacked by extremists, who stirred up anxious parents with visions of totalitarian control over their children's minds and of secular humanists stealing their children's souls. What are these goals that promote such reactions: By 2000: All children in America will start school ready to learn. High school graduation rates will increase to at least 90%. All students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter. US students will be first in the world in science & math. Every adult will be literate and will possess the skills necessary to compete in a global economy. Every school will be free of drugs & violence. Teachers will have access to continuing education. Every school will promote partnerships with parents. These goals are hardly the stuff of revolution and are not likely to be fully achieved by 2000. We cannot expect to reverse decades of declining standards in a few years.
As we learn more about the kind of intensive child care that gives our kids the best start, parents worry that their kids' care doesn't measure up. Our tax policies do not reflect the cost of raising children, which is why we should expand the child tax credit for the first year of a child's life to help parents stay home and give lower-income parents who receive government support for child care the option to sue the subsidies to cover the costs of staying home and caring for their own children. I want to see the Family and Medical Leave Act expanded so that all families who need it can use it without losing their jobs. It is past time for our national politics to do more than just talk about family values. We need to value families by helping them raise resilient, productive children.
First, we parents have to back up school authority and quit making excuses for our kids when they misbehave.
I feel very lucky because of my parents and then my education, the opportunities that I've had, so I would like to continue working to improve lives for others.
New research in childhood development establishes that a child's environment affects everything from IW to future behavior patterns. These studies confirm the importance of breast-feeding infants, of setting aside time for family meals, and of empowering parents to shield their children from predatory marketing and the violent and sexually explicit media that contribute to aggressive behavior, early sexual experimentation, obesity, and depression. The case for quality early childhood education and programs like Head Start is stronger than ever, and we should expand them. According to a study conducted by Federal Reserve economist Rob Grunewald and conducted by Nobel laureate economist James Heckman, high-quality preschool programs are among the most cost-effective public investments we make, lowering dependency and raising lifetime earnings.
Some critics of public schools urge greater competition among schools as a way of returning control from bureaucrats to parents and teachers. I find their argument persuasive and I favor promoting choice among public schools, much as the President's Charter Schools Initiative encourages. Charter schools are public schools created and operated under a charter. They may be organized by parents, teachers, or others. The idea is that they should be freed from regulations that stifle innovation, so they can focus on getting results. By 1995, 19 states had enacted charter school laws about 200 schools have been granted charters. The Improving America's Schools Act, passed in October 1994 with the President's support, provided federal funds for a wide range of reforms, including launching charter schools. Federal funding is needed to break through bureaucratic attitudes that block change and frustrate students and parents, driving some to leave public schools.
The characteristics that keep kids from using drugs are hard to quantify but not to understand. Children who truly grasp that they have a choice to make in the matter are more likely to make a responsible one. So are children with high self-esteem. Most influential of all is the optimism and awareness that comes from knowing their parents are interested and involved in their lives.
Today's electronic village has certainly complicated the challenge of parenting. When It Takes a Village was published, the Internet was largely the province of scientists; no one owned an iPod; and cell phones weighed as much as bricks. Innovations are now coming at an exponentially faster pace, and media saturates our kids' lives as never before. Many of these changes are for the good: when I was in college, a phone call home was rare and a flight home, a once-a-year luxury. Now I know parents who see and speak to their kids every day by computer and video hookups, and I think how much Bill would have loved that when he was campaigning. But knowing that one third of kids under six have TVs in their rooms, that the fashion industry is marketing its latest styles to preteen girls, and that predators stalk our children through the World Wide Web makes me thankful to have raised Chelsea in a less media-saturated time.
Would you tell your parents something for me? Ask them, if they have a gun in their house, please lock it or take it out of their house. Will you do that as good citizens? [to a group of schoolchildren]
THE lessons of fear which the child receives from its parents are intensified by the methods employed at the school in which he receives his education and life-training. We glory in the fact that we have made great strides in the science of education, that we are more practical in the choice of subjects for study, that we have a deeper insight into the soul of the child. And yet, in our method of imparting knowledge and in the relations between teacher and pupil, we can boast of but little progress. We still look upon the child as a more or less unwilling receptacle that must be stuffed with learning. The teacher is still a being to be feared, the school room still a prison house, and learning a punishment. Our system of education is still based on reward and punishment. A high mark is still the encouragement for zeal in study, while the backward student is haunted by the prospect of a low grade. The child, under present methods, prepares his lessons either in order to gain the reward of a high mark, or for fear of the contempt and humiliation that accompanies a low grade. In other words, he works not because of the intrinsic interest of his work but in the hope of reward or in the fear of punishment. The first motive breeds the harmful spirit of competition in the young mind.