Childhood : Alice Miller gives us pause for thought.

“Every life and every childhood is filled with frustrations; we cannot imagine it otherwise, for even the best mother cannot satisfy all her child’s wishes and needs. It is not the suffering caused by frustration, however, that leads to emotional illness but rather the fact that the child is forbidden by the parents to experience and articulate this suffering, the pain felt at being wounded; usually the purpose of this prohibition is to protect the parents’ defence mechanisms. Adults are free to hurl reproaches at God, at fate, at the authorities, or at society if they are deceived, ignored, punished unjustly, confronted with excessive demands or lied to. Children are not allowed to reproach their gods – their parents and teachers. By no means are they allowed express their frustrations. Instead, they must repress or deny their emotional reactions which build up inside until adulthood, when they are finally discharged, but not on the object which caused them. The forms this discharge may take range from persecuting their own children by the way they bring them up, to all possible degrees of mental illness, to addiction, criminality, and suicide.”*

Alice Miller wrote the above in 1980. Her interpretation of childhood  may have been  open to question even when she wrote these words, but would they hold true now ?  Are children allowed to be their true selves? Certainly some would argue that the nature of parenting and teaching nowadays has become even more prescriptive, giving less space for children to express themselves freely.


*The text quoted  is an extracted from page 254  of Alice Miller’s book For Your Own Good Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearingThe Roots of Violence  published in 1980  by Virago Press, London.