A Specialist in Psychological Trauma in Adults Who Were Abused As Children, Alice Miller Became a Promoter of Non-Abusive Pedagogy

“Most people show not the slightest interest in the question of why a child has turned out this way or that. When the causes are pointed out to them – the brutality of the father, the inner absorption of the mother – they say: that’s no excuse for stealing; everyone has had problems in childhood, but that’s far from turning him into a criminal. The fact that differences in development can be accounted for by the degree of affection received by children does not interest them. So, there remains only one question for them: How can I discipline my child, how must I punish him so that he will grow up into a decent human being and not lie, not steal, not run away?… When I question such views and say, for example, The child must have the freedom to set us limits when we demand too much of him, mistreat or humiliate him, I meet with great astonishment. I am asked: Do you have any children of your own? Don’t you know how wicked children can be? You idealize children…”

“Future life is sacrificed to secure a forced respect for people who, having grossly misused their power when their children were small and trusting… Nevertheless, almost every culture adheres to the commandment to respect one’s parents. Over and over again, Indians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabs, and Africans have told me the same stories: ‘We had to be beaten to learn respect for our parents. Whatever they said or did was always sacred.’ Some of them add: ‘We, too, must raise our children to have respect for us; otherwise they’ll turn into vandals.’ Only in rare cases do they realize that by beating their children they are – just like white people – laying dynamite and generating vandalism.”
Alice Miller, “Banished Knowledge (Facing Childhood Injuries)”, Doubleday, 1990, p. 49, p. 32 – 33

“Anorexia nervosa exhibits all the components of a strict upbringing: the ruthless, dictatorial methods, the excessive supervision and control, the lack of understanding and empathy for the child’s true needs. To this is added overwhelming affection alternating with rejection and abandonment (orgies of gluttony followed by vomiting). The first law of this police system is: any method is good if it makes you the way we want and need you to be, and only if you are this way can we love you. This is later reflected in anorexia’s reign of terror. Weight is monitored to the ounce, and the sinner is immediately punished if the boundary is overstepped.”

“Everything these people [adults who were abused as children] do to others when they despise and demean them is the attempt to exterminate their own former weakness and to avoid sorrow… Adolf’s [Hitler] mother unconsciously ‘delegated’ him to come to her rescue [from a despotic and an abusive husband, Hitler’s father]… Oppressed Germany would then be a symbol for the mother… Children very often fantasize that they must save or rescue their mother so that she can finally be the mother to them whom they needed from the beginning… the liberation of Germany and the destruction of the Jewish people down to the last Jew, i.e. the complete removal of the bad father, would have provided Hitler with the conditions that could have made him a happy child growing up in a calm and peaceful situation with a beloved mother… The persecution of the Jews ‘made it possible’ for Hitler to ‘correct’ his past on the level of fantasy. It permitted him: 1. to take revenge on his father, who was suspected of being half Jewish; 2. to liberate his mother (Germany) from her persecutor; 3. To organize concentration camps in which people are treated the way he was as a child…”
Alice Miller, “For Your Own Good (Hidden cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence)”, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1985, p. 131, p. 189 – 190

“The more our…fathers make a show of being mighty and authoritarian, the more certain they are to be insecure children inside.”

“Children who are respected learn respect. Children who are cared for learn to care for those weaker than themselves.”

“For millennia it has been permissible and customary for children to be used to satisfy a wide variety of adult needs. They have provided a cheap source of labor, an ideal outlet for the discharge of stored-up affect, a receptacle for unwanted feelings, an object for the projection of conflicts and fears, compensation for feelings of inferiority, and an opportunity for exercising power.
Alice Miller, “Thou Shall Not Be Aware (Society’s Betrayal of the Child)”, Meridian Book, 1986,
p. 96 – 97, p. 310