Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Thank you, Alice Miller
Sunday March 16, 2008

Hello Alice,

Here is a text I wrote and sent to the site ourchildhood.int, which I found on your site.I felt an urge to share that important experience with other people. However Barbara decided not to send it to the list and advised me to send it to you instead. I entitled it: "How I totally abandoned spanking my children"

When I first got pregnant, 7 years ago, I promised myself I would never have any violent gestures towards my child. I managed to respect my promise although I couldn't help screaming at him sometimes when I didn't know how to deal with him. Luckily, when he was 6 months I read a book about the children and their need to express themselves by crying and how to help them by holding them and allowing them to cry. It worked until he was 3 but the method had its limit. Again I felt powerless when we had a conflicting situation.
I got my 2nd child when he was 3,5 years old. The pressure and tiredness increasing, I started to lose my patience and one day I crossed the line, I spanked him furiously. I could not believe I had done that but I had. It was as if it was not my own hand which had acted and I felt terribly ashamed. I apologized to him and tried to explain to him my gesture. This kind of fury didn't happened regularly or often but every now and then I could not help but spanking him in order to stop an intense conflict with him. This could not possibly be me, I was doing the exact thing I absolutely didn't want to do to my child.
My daughter had escaped from it so far. Then my patience towards her also dropped as if I considered that she was old enough to know what she was doing and not before (so she was excusable). I also breastfed her until she was 16 months, which helped to create a stronger bond, I think. Nonetheless, she started to have a taste of my violence (I cannot call it any other name) soon after she turned 2. Little spanking on her hand or her leg. Every time it happened, she was devastated "My mommy hurt me!". Same feeling of shame for me. But at the same time, I had the example of a couple of friends who were really though with their child so I was giving myself the excuse that I was not that though after all. And I read a (stupid) book about raising children in which it is written that until the child is 6, it is ok to give a little spanking here and there if it can stop a crisis from going too far ("Petits tracas et gros soucis de 1a 7 ans" from Christine Brunet and Anne-Cecile Sarfati). It was exactly what I needed to read to justify myself! Now I just feel like denouncing this book and its authors!!!
My whole attitude changed the day I went on the site NoSpanking mentioned in Alice Miller's site (A friend offered me her last book "L'avenir du drame de l'enfant doue" which I loved and which got me so interested in her work and her analysis). I was horrified, I saw the pictures of those powerless children with their bottom full of bruises. I cried. Then I declared to my children and my husband (who doesn't caution the spanking at all) that I would never ever spank them again, that it was not right and that a loving parent doesn't do anything like that to his children. I also explained that I got spanked sometimes as a child, which is why I thought it was kind of normal.
Another realisation was to stop excusing my dad for hitting me a couple of times as I was a teenager. Until recently, if I was telling that story, I would always add that I had deserved it since I pushed his button too far. I was 13 but I remember I got so scared that I pied in my pants! Still now I can't connect to that fear even if I can understand it. By not finding excuses for my dad anymore, I stopped excusing myself for doing it.
Since then, and also because I read a lot of good materials that help me in that direction, my family and I are getting much closer and we are developing a real relationship based on trust and real love.

I got very sensitive to every kind of violence towards children around me but it's still hard for me to stand for a child when I see it. Or to even declare that I am against any sort of punishment (physical or not). I guess I'm afraid to look like a non responsible parent or too liberal. I'm working on it because I realize it is the only way to awake people's conscience about a so called 'education' which is just violence towards children.

Voila. I don't know why I need to express this part of my life to you. I know I 'm proud of my step forward but I still feel very ashamed of even losing my patience sometimes with my children (although I was never violent to them from that point). I do scream at them sometimes but less and less and the funny thing is that they are not afraid of me anymore. My daughter said once I was very loud: "I haven't heard you!". I couldn't help but laugh... she had caught me! And my son says: "Why do you speak so loud to me?". Then I calm down and apologize. It's hard to be fair with them or with me but I'm learning... Thank you for all the work you do and the help you provide around the world. I do believe peace in the world starts with the peace we can create in our family.

Warm regards, B.

AM: Your letter shows how hopeless all the well intended books are, which tell the once mistreated parents how they should behave towards their children without telling them that their violence, hate and lack of love come from their own childhood and are blocking their best intentions. Even the well-known books by Juul avoid this topic. You show how you want to be a good mother etc., but you never mention how and when you learned to become cruel to your children. Obviously you protect in this way your mother and father, and your children will have to pay for your tolerance towards your parents.

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