Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment Web Site
Wednesday December 26, 2007

Dear Alice:

I have read two of your books and am going to be reading the rest very shortly. I read The Drama of the Gifted Child and Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, and found them quite useful. Also have read most of the posted emails and your and your team's responses to them. I find everything you write extremely helpful to me. Even though reading your books can be painful at times, I'm clear that being willing to be honest with myself and experience the pain of acknowledging my abusive childhood is the only way to heal now.

The above-referenced website talks extensively about discipline and setting limits for children. As someone who is being trained as a teacher, I cringe when I hear the word discipline used in the context of education or child-rearing. The reason for that is that usually people use the word discipline to refer to punishment of some type, and as a formerly abused child, I see nothing valuable in discipline. Nothing. As far as limit setting goes, it is likewise misguided. I am looking to get the books you recommended such as Your Competent Child and The Natural Child by Jesper Juul and Jan Hunt respectively, as a guide in lieu of "setting limits". Setting limits is a convenient way for a parent or teacher to ignore a child's needs, feelings, and behavior, which, if an adult would bother to find out, bespeaks of the innocent child's intention. To thwart that intention, especially when it is done malicously and repeatedly, is an abuse of power by an adult. Children are not driven to do evil things, and it is the parent's responsibility to keep the child safe. Adults must teach through guidance, not through suppression that conveniently reinforces the "might makes right" dictum. That is the truth behind the "limit setting" philosophy.

Thank you for leading the world into a future in which we may hope the cycle of socially-sanctioned violence of any type--most importantly against helpless children who then must deny the violence and thereby perpetuate it--ends soon. J.

AM: I very much agree with you concerning the word "discipline" that I never use. I became also skeptical toward authors who do use it and I no longer recommend them.

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