Alice Miller: Spanking a child is counterproductive and dangerous

By Alice Miller [1923-2010] (visit

Why spankings, slaps, and even apparently harmless blows like pats on the hand are dangerous for a baby? 1. They teach it violence.
2. They destroy the absolute certainty of being loved that the baby needs.
3. They cause anxiety: the expectancy of the next attack.
4. 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.
5. They provoke anger and a desire for revenge, which remain repressed, only to be expressed much later.
6. They program the child to accept illogical arguments (I’m hurting you for your own good) that stay stored up in their body.
7. 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: 1. That a child does not deserve respect.
2. That good can be learned through punishment (which is actually wrong, punishment merely teaches the children to want to punish in their own turn).
3. That suffering mustn’t be felt, it must be ignored (which is dangerous for the immune system).
4. That violence is a manifestation of love (fostering perversion).
5. That denial of feeling is healthy (but the body pays the prize of this error, often much later).

How is repressed anger very often vented?

In childhood and adolescence: 1. By making fun of the weak.
2. By hitting classmates.
3. By annoying the teachers.
4. 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).

In adulthood: 1. 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.
2. By refusing to understand the connections between previously experienced violence and the violence actively repeated today. The ignorance of society is thereby perpetuated.
3. By entering professions that demand violence.
4. 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, other religious communities etc.
5. 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 of the “educational” violence are hidden in the repressed history of the parents.

Pictures from

H/t projectEnlightenment


6 thoughts on “Alice Miller: Spanking a child is counterproductive and dangerous

  1. Hello Marie-Therese. I’m glad you could find some comfort in the above video. There are very few people who would support and engage with Alice Miller. I am a long-dedicated advocate of everything she wrote and spoke about, so you’re welcome to ask me anything around her. I’m sorry to learn that you are part of this terrible crime that Goldenbridge has been, but I note your great eye for flowers and colours so hope your life is often like that today. Raymond

  2. Hello Raymond. Thanks for the comment. I did find great relief in watching the video. I wholeheartedly agree with what Alice Miller has to say on spanking children. In my estimation, anyway, not one single human being has a right to lay a finger on another human being without their content, and especially not children, who are of a much lighter weight and height. Violence begets violence. Period

    I grew up with violence every single day of my life, and it absolutely traumatises me to this very day when I get recurrent flashbacks of those dark, dank days in Goldenbridge, where I see long queues of young children being lined up in a corridor; or in a classroom; or waiting all night on a cold miserable landing in flimsy sleeveless nightdresses and bare feet, in anticipation of being flogged with a specially designed thick bark of a polished tree stick by the religious head honcho. Violence in childhood of survivors of reformatories and industrial schools has wreaked havoc on their adult lives. The damage done is irreversible.

    I don’t know an awful lot about Alice Miller, despite being somewhat cognisant of her being mentioned in the past – vis-à-vis child abuse – at my regular blog haunt. So her ideologies were not acceptable? I shall take you up on that offer of learning more at a later date. Cheers!

    I’m writing articles (trilogy) for B&W. See Part 1:

    I was interested in pursuing a little further the raison d’être behind the cruelty that occurred in reformatories and industrial schools. I was resultantly shocked to discover that violence has been endemic in religion since the time of the inquisitions and even longer. I read online snippets of work by George Ryley Scott, such as ‘Corporal Punishment,’ and I’m just utterly gobsmacked at man’s inhumanity to man. It’s unsurprising – in that context – as to why the tail end of that brutal mindset would seep over into Irish institutional care in 50s & 60s given its deeply religious status.

    Yes, re ‘eye for colour,’ that was once said to me by a counsellor, as she remarked on my matching outfits. I get the colour sense directly from flowers. It’s so logical. I sometimes stand in awe of retro / modern / historical sprightly / gothic coloured patterned clothes in shops. Funny you should say that, as, just this very morning, I was viewing an online assortment of materials, and was besotted with the intricately designed colours in same. Snap!

    • Thanks for your long reply Marie-Therese.
      In my mind and heart, Alice MIller is at the heart of everything you talk about here, and is the only way through, and forward. I can be at little passionate at times on the subject of violence in childhood, abuse…etc, and not many can stand that kind of heat. But sure, nobody wants to hear the truth! This kind of violence, control from the Catholic Church, right down via government, authorities and ultimately, parents, is the absolute root and cause of all the scandals we’ve had – and are still having. I’m sorry to hear that you are still suffering with flash-backs and trauma from these horrible days (and no doubt plenty of re-traumatizing at the hands of the nuns, redress boards, and legal eagles). There might be a way out of it yet, please don’t despair. For the moment, it may be helpful to read more from Alice Miller: the libraries have a decent amount of her books, and her website has everything you need too. Especially that you can do a local ‘google search’ on the site for things of particular interest to you.

      About the colours, I smile and think of people like the painter Kandinsky, who worked beautifully with colours. Then one day he/they realized he was affected by a certain ‘condition’ which commanded that he could only express his thoughts and feelings, through colours….

      Thank you for writing about your experience in Goldenbridge, with your own details. I am familar enough with the place and these stories of abuse.

      I’ll have a look at your writing mentioned above in the link. Did you say Reading and Writing classes somewhere? Seems to me you’re a very fine writer, with a generous assortment of words on your pallette!

      We have our brushes and colours…
      Paint paradise……and in we go……!

    • Hi Marie-Therese

      I’ve read your Part 1 and the comment at B&W. How awful and terrible these horrors you had to endure on a daily basis, and how it impacted in your life later too, the shame and the ‘shunning’. It great for you – and the world out there – that you can write about this in every detail. I believe it is great help for you, and we need to be told, over and over again, until such time as we ‘get it’. Once again, I’m sorry to hear about the flash-backs. It is quite clear that you are still being affected with post-traumatic-stress.

      I’ve been thinking, and I hope you won’t find this too forward from me. It was not my intention to say anything now. But Alice Miller brought us in contact with each other a few hours ago, and as you know, there’s a big weekend coming up, and they say coincidences are always ‘meant to happen’. I’d like to talk to you about PTSD, and invite you to email me directly. You have my address there don’t you?

      I hope to hear from you soon.

  3. Hi Raymond,

    Thank you for reading the article. I’m just one of thousands upon thousands of industrial school survivors whose life was impacted dreadfully by a childhood that was robbed by a cruel incarceration system.

    I wrote the following article in 2006:

    …which was kindly edited by Ophelia Benson – after being utterly incensed at the blasé manner with which the then Provincial leader of the Sisters of Mercy of the Irish Southern Province – Sr. Helena O’Donoghue, treated the Goldenbridge slave labour task of rosary-bead making at the commission to inquire into child institutional abuse. The anger was such that I was left with no choice but to enter the deepest abyss of my trauma and write the article. It was written from the gut. It was so relieving to let it all spew out in the guise of written words.

    I was really chuffed when at a later date OB sent it to Dr. Zimbardo of the Stanford Experiment fame. She had a nice reply.

    A lot of survivors suffer with every inconceivable type of personality disorder and Complex PTSD and PTSD of the most severest form and physical problems.

    Is it also possible to send your comments on the article(s) to:

    as well, as they’re the direct source of the articles. The comment section on ‘the rosary bead factory’ is the only one that is closed off. Thanks.

    Yes, I see that there is an upcoming conference on child abuse in Dublin. I have the propensity to be re-traumatised by large gatherings associated with child abuse. So, I have to be extra careful. I shall e-mail you soon regarding the second paragraph of your last comment.

    • I understand everything you say Marie-Therese. Thank you for inviting me to comment on the B&W posts. In fairness I wouldn’t like to reply on Formation of reformatory and industrial school without referring to it specifically, so I’ll copy into ‘Shunning’.

      I had just started to read Marie-Therese’s story on Goldenbridge, starting at the beginning and working my way through over the next few days I hope, when I was directed to The Rosary Beads Factory.

      It is still shocking to hear and read the story of what was Goldenbridge, and more so when one can put a specific face on it, when it becomes really ‘personal’, as is the case here with Marie-Therese. I am so sorry you had to go through this – and thousands of others too.

      I have the same reaction as another person on the site, likening – imagining the experience of these poor kids as something out of Nazi concentration camps. However, at this point, I would just like to say 2 things:

      1/ I was shocked and dismayed when the original documentaries came out about Goldenbridge, but my anger soon turned to disbelief, when I realized that the Irish people seemed totally un-aware, that this was still going on, in the 80’s !

      2/ Now that: we know everything the stories have come out the Reports have been published, one after the other
      some bishops, even the Pope, have been toppled while others bishops and cardinals still preside
      and the Government still fights every step of the way

      NOW THAT WE KNOW – IRREFUTABLY AND NO EXCUSES ARE LEFT…..what, WHAT – if anything, has changed? NOTHING.

      The mundane business of Irish life continues: Children (and women) have LESS RIGHTS than before the Referendum
      Women die in childbirth and the Bishop STILL calls the shots (at per the latest news)

      So what does that say about our Society, our Communities, our Families and Ourselves?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s