For Your Own Good

For Your Own Good

“Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence.”

Is anyone else as heartbroken, as scared, as I am when you read a book by Alice Miller? Some of her commentary and evidence is absolutely chilling and it almost has to be digested in small doses. As a person who actively seeks out fictional thrillers and scary content, I must confess to being much more fearful of humanity, of my own impact on my child, by Miller’s works than anything else.

I have had a copy of For Your Own Good for about two months now, and I am having trouble making my way through it—not because it’s incomprehensible or boring or anything like that, but because I’m worried about what I will find. I think most people find that Miller’s works resonate within them deeply, and while I read her to help myself be a better parent, I also find things that make me, well, sort of hate myself.

I do yell at my child. I have never, ever spanked her, but I have given time-outs, which is essentially the same thing as withholding love. The traditional way we have been brought up to raise our children, Miller argues, is inherently violent—and this violence simply begets more violence within our culture itself. In this particular volume, she actually analyzes the childhood of Adolf Hitler—and while I haven’t read that yet, I fear it. What parent doesn’t worry about raising some sort of sociopath who goes postal on his or her community, after all?

My priority this week is to plow through this book with courage, unflinching, and to really absorb and analyze what Miller has to say. This visionary psychologist had so much to teach us about parenting, about our own humanity and being loving to one another, and I want to read all of her works. And as difficult as it is to pinpoint this analysis toward ourselves, if we can’t do it, what separates us from the other mammals?

What kind of parent, after all, can raise a child who becomes a violent dictator, a drug addict, or even someone who simply doesn’t love him or herself? The choices we make today, the things we learn about ourselves and what we choose to do with that knowledge, may truly determine it all.

Once I’m finished with this volume, I think I’ll also finish reading Parenting Without Punishing… You can find a free copy here.