"Every Smack is a Humiliation"
By Alice Miller
Many researchers have already proved that corporal punishment can indeed produce obedient children in the short term but, in the long term, it will have serious negative consequences on the child's character and behavior. This disastrous development toward later crimes can be prevented if there is at least one single person who loves and understands the child. During their whole childhood, dictators like Hitler, Stalin or Mao never came across such a helping witness. They learned early on to glorify cruelty and hypocrisy and to justify these actions while committing crimes against millions of people. Millions of others, also exposed to physical maltreatment in childhood, helped them to do so without the slightest remorse.
Children should not be the scapegoats for the painful experiences of adults. The claim that mild punishments (slaps or smacks) have no detrimental effects is still widespread because we learned this message at a very early age 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 physical "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 legislation laws prohibiting corporal punishment were launched in Sweden in 1977, 70% of the citizens asked for their opinion were against it. In 1998, the figure has dropped to 10%. These statistics show that the mentality of the Swedish population has radically changed in the course of a mere twenty years. A destructive tradition of millennia has been done away with thanks to this legislation.
It is imperative to launch such 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 available today on the consequences of corporal punishment. Information on the "well-meant smack" should therefore be broadcasted to all, since unconscious education to violence takes root very early and inflicts disastrous imprints. The vital interests of society as a whole are at stake.
Alice Miller (1923-2010) was the first person to make the connection between corporal punishment and the potential damage it can do to children. She wrote 13 books, which have been translated into thirty languages.
Check out Alice Miller's Web Site at http://www.alice-miller.com
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