Why are spankings, slaps, and even apparently harmless blows like pats on the hand dangerous for a baby?
What long-term lessons does the baby retain from spankings and other blows? The baby learns:
- They teach it violence
- They destroy the infallible certainty of being loved that the baby needs
- They cause anxiety; the expectancy of the next break
- They convey a lie: they pretend to be educational, but parents actually use them to vent their anger; when they strike, it’s because, as children, they were struck themselves
- 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
How is repressed anger very often vented? In childhood and adolescence:
- That a child does not deserve respect
- That good can be learned through punishment (which is usually wrong, since punishment merely teaches the children to want to punish on their own turn)
- That suffering mustn’t be felt, it must be ignored (which is dangerous to the immune system)
- That violence is a manifestation of love (fostering perversion)
- That denial of feeling is healthy (but the body pays the price of this error, often much later)
- By making fun of the weak
- By hitting classmates
- By annoying the teachers
- By watching tv and playing video games to experience forbidden and stored up feelings of rage and anger, and by identifying with violent heroes. (Children who have never been beaten are less interested in cruel films, and, as adults, will not produce horror shows).
Alice Miller is author of Paths of Life (Pantheon 1998) and eight other books on childhood.
- 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 perpetuated
- By entering professions which demand violence
- 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”, ostracized social minorities
- (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 Milosivic. 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 of the “educational” violence are hidden in the repressed history of the parents.