For Your Own Good
Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1983
new edition with a new preface 2002
In this book, Alice Miller opens our eyes to the devastating effects of education and care purporting to have “the child’s best interests” in mind. She does this first by analyzing what she calls the “pedagogic approach”, and secondly by describing the childhood of a drug addict, a political leader (Adolf Hitler), and a child-murderer. Her book succeeded in conveying not just factual (and hence uninvolving) but also emotional awareness of the way in which psychoses, drug addiction and crime represent a deferred and indirect expression of experiences undergone in early infancy. For a child to develop naturally, it needs respect from its caregivers, tolerance for its feelings, awareness of its needs and sensibilities, and authenticity on the part of its parents. This authenticity manifests itself in an upbringing style in which it is the personal freedom of the parents – and not educational dogma – that imposes natural limits to the child.