Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Limit-setting
Monday July 24, 2006

LeCuyer-Maus

(copy to Alice Miller)

I see that you have conducted studies on limit-setting for children. In Scandinavia we are now moving away from the paradigm of limitsetting that has clouded the sky of emphatic child rearing for the last 25 years.

In a statement all pro-limit-setters agree with; "children need limits set by adults", exchange the word 'children' with 'women' and adults' with 'men', and you see the horrendeous ethical implications of the statement.

For people left in the paradigm that adults have the right to rule children, the absence of limit-setting seems impossible and unthinkable, and the very thought of "disobedient" children make the stress respons go sky rocketting. But the fact that the children groving up being treated with equal respect and with equal rights as adults, become the most emphatic, warm, considerate and loving people you can imagine, proving (in addition to the ethical flaws of the limit-setting paradigm) that limit-setting has no scientifical foundation. In fact setting limits for children creates the very basis of which limitsetting is founded; setting limits produce protests from children - protests that "prove" the importance of limitsetting. And one can arrange the practical life of the childern with dangers, so that one can use this to show the importance of limit-setting; putting "rat poison" on the dish together with the "apple", to "prove" that children need limits in order not to harm them selves.

The big Danish study "Grenser eller ej?" (limits or not?)from 1996, showed that limitsetting only taught the children that power rules, and that the stronger has the right to rule the weaker. A very dangerous lesson indeed, that instead of "socializing" children, do the exact opposite, so the "socialized" people later are held on the "mat" by outer or inner rules and fear of the consequences of breaking those rules, a fear referring to the internalized parents, and not geniune empathy for others. Infact, the lesson that power rules, reduces empathy.

I've heard from people arguing against the non-discipliners, that not setting limits produces antisocial people. Research finds however, that these people have experienced anything but freedom and love (Appleyard et al.2005, Bierer et al.2003, Bolger & Patterson 2001, Counts et al.2005, Crowley et al.2003, Finzi et al.2000, Famularo et al. 1992, Keiley et al.2001, Lansford et al.2002, Luntz & Widom 1994, MacMillan et al.1999, MacMillan et al.2001, Nelson et al.2002, Nix et al.1999, Smith et al.2005, Stouthamer-Loeber et al.2001). In fact, the very message that power rules seems to be the only essential lesson they have picked up.

Children do not need to be socialized or disciplined in any way. If you have "found out" otherways, you should be looking at your own childhood to find the connections to your cognitions today, and the interpretations of children as not knowing their own good.

Your studies on the "right way" to set limits are parralleled by the studies of the "right way" to physically abuse children of Larzelere and others and the studies of the "right way" to sexually abuse children by Rind and others. The onle right way is NO abuse.

Suggested reading:
For Your Own Good, by Alice Miller.
Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, by Alice Miller.
The Body Never Lies, by Alice Miller.
The Natural Child, by Jan Hunt.
Your Competent Child, by Jesper Juul.

Best, V. J., Norway

AM: You are right; the story of limit-setting is a kind of power game where only the adult can win. You know perhaps this kind of limit-setting: A father spanks his son and says: "You pushed your little brother, and he is crying now, I must spank you so that you can learn not to offend someone smaller and weaker than yourself." Is this father aware of the fact that he is doing exactly what he actually wants to forbid (for good reasons)? Probably not. Why? Is he stupid? No, he might even be a professor of psychology, but his first teacher in behavior was his mother whose lessons he never dared to question. So he does the same to his son.
Will we ever change anything as long as once beaten children (and almost everybody was beaten) are so afraid of their parents that they don't dare to question them? They seem to live in a constant fear of the next punishment if they dare to condemn the mistreatment they suffered in childhood. However, only then could they become adult and stop to behave unconsciously like a child scared to death if he or she fully recognize the cruelty and perversion of the treatment they were subjected to.

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