The LINK: Child Abuse and Animal Abuse

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by how people treat their animals.” We as a people are still unraveling the web of inhumane treatment, either of the two or four legged variety. We know that animal abuse may be intertwined with abuse against humans. We also know that when a child intentionally injures an animal, and derives pleasure from it, it may be a red flag in terms of that child being a victim of maltreatment. Even if a child witnesses animal abuse, they could then learn to abuse animals as well and then perhaps move on to humans.

Confusing??? Yeah, but it can be quite clear too. It seems that ANY type of abuse can be interlinked…no matter who is on the receiving end: animal, child, elderly, or domestic partner. To be even clearer, ANYONE who witnesses animal abuse should report it to the authorities, suggesting to them that they also should check on all family members. In Indiana, we do not have laws which mandate “cross -training” or “cross-reporting” between human services and animal services…so that we may find either victim quicker. Other states are working toward this end.

**Special Note: When women and their children seek a domestic violence shelter, their pets at home are more at risk to be harmed by the abuser. Many women will not leave the pets behind, yet there may not be any place to house the pets at the shelter. There is an enormous need to offer shelter to these animals, temporarily, while the family re-organizes their lives.

You may want to check out other resources regarding this topic:

Teaching Kindness

Monday, February 22, 2010

“Be nice.” Do you remember grownups telling you that when you were a kid? I seldom heard specifics about what it meant to be nice. Sometimes they told me to share, or to help others. But most of the time “be nice” meant “Don’t do anything to annoy the grownups.”

Nowadays I think they meant “be kind.” How can we teach kids to be kind? Sure, quoting the Golden Rule is a good start. But as James Baldwin said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

If we model kindness for kids, they will follow our lead. Include kids in your volunteer work. Have them help when you help a neighbor. Treat others with respect. And make sure your actions and words match. If a child sees us being nice to someone’s face, but saying unkind things when the person is out of earshot, the child will learn a very different lesson from the one we intended!

Kids learn a lot from adults when we aren’t thinking about what we’re teaching. In less guarded moments, do your words reflect kindness toward others? Make an effort to eliminate negative, unkind words and phrases from your own vocabulary such as stupid, shut up, idiot, retarded (a particularly hurtful term to many people), or other words that are racist or biased. When your child uses such terms or words, remind him that words can hurt and ask him to rephrase what he intended to say.

Another way to teach kindness to children is by being kind and respectful to them. Having a kind household doesn’t mean never punishing kids for their choices. It does mean being fair and firm and explaining the consequences of their behavior. And it means being polite to them!

And speaking of behavior…remember that kids love attention. If the only attention a child gets is when he misbehaves, you can expect a lot more misbehavior. Catch kids doing something right. Acknowledge it when they are kind and helpful. While you don’t want kids “being nice” only to get a reward, there’s nothing wrong with putting a star on the fridge or bulletin board whenever you catch them being kind. Even better, let them catch you bragging on them to grandparents or other family members.

Remember, though, that praise can backfire if it’s “global” in nature. Say for instance that your ten-year-old child tidies her room. You come in and slather on the praise like Miracle Whip:

“This room is PERFECT!”
“I’ve never seen this room look better!”
“You are the most organized child I’ve ever met!”

Kids tend to internally reject praise like this, because they know it’s bogus. Internally, that ten-year-old might be saying, “Wow, please don’t look in the closet where I jammed all of my toys.” Instead, try being specific with your praise and describe what you see:

“I see a bed that’s neatly made, and a table that’s cleaned off. And I see you stacked all of your books on the shelf. It’s easy to walk in here now that the floor is clean. This room is a pleasure to look at!”

The child’s internal conversation is likely to be very different because you didn’t evaluate the child. You simply described what you saw and allowed the child to draw the conclusion: “Yeah, I did a pretty good job, didn’t I?”

(For more information on praise that works with kids, check out the book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.)

Involve kids in household chores, and be sure chores aren’t used as punishment. Even young kids can do small tasks such as picking up papers or setting the table for dinner. If chores are seen as simply something we all do together to make our home a pleasant place to live, kids will be less likely to balk.

Take kindness outside the home. Sign your family up for a charity walk or a volunteer experience at a soup kitchen or nursing home. If you have some money to donate, talk with your kids about the best way to make a difference with the money.

Here’s one way to start a kindness revolution in your neighborhood. February is National Bird Feeding Month. Work with your kids to create feeding places for the birds in your area. There are some terrific projects available at

Promote kindness with a sense of joy. Help kids see that the adults around them enjoy giving and receiving kindness, and that they can share in this joy.

By Mary Armstrong-Smith, Community Partners Director
Prevent Child Abuse Indiana

Love in Action

Monday, February 15, 2010

Athough often promoted as a romantic holiday for couples, Valentine’s Day has a wider meaning. Each year on February 14, people throughout North America and parts of Europe share tokens of love and affection with one another. Valentine’s Day celebrates every kind of love from friendship to romantic love and marriage.

Working to prevent child abuse and neglect is, at its heart, a loving act. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has several definitions of love, including:

A strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties: We may not have a personal relationship with every child we encounter, but it’s clear that we want what is best for all children. Our children are the future, and we have a personal stake in their well being.
Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: I met Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) years ago. In his speech that day he said something that has stayed with me ever since: “Even if you don’t like kids—and not everyone does—it makes sense to ensure that they are well cared for and prepared for a productive adulthood.” The Captain makes sense. He always did, even when I was four years old! Whether or not we are parents, we need to be loyal to and concerned for the next generation and our actions should reflect those values.

The frustrating part of prevention is that we hear a lot more about the problem than we do about solutions. Sometimes when I bring up the issue of prevention, people around me immediately begin discussing the latest horror-filled headline. I know—it’s natural to go there. But going there leaves us nowhere else to go except to a place of powerlessness. We wring our hands and say, “But what can I do? How can I possibly make a difference?”

As advocates, we have enormous power to help our communities understand prevention by modeling prevention in its most practical forms. We can ask elected officials to support programs and services that help children and families. We can ask our schools to sponsor classes and support programs for new parents. We can be good neighbors, offer to baby-sit, or donate our used children’s clothing for use by another family. We can respond to families in crisis and direct people to services. We can do our part to make our community a place where abuse and neglect is less likely to happen, and we can encourage others to do the same.

Let us remember the love behind the work of prevention. Let us give a year-long Valentine to our communities by working together to improve them.

2010 Breaking the Cycle Mini Conference

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Engaging Dads, Cherishing Children"
Prevent Child Abuse Indiana
Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Time: 7:30am - 5:00pm
Location: Sheraton Hotel Downtown Indianapolis
Street: 31 West Ohio Street
City/Town: Indianapolis, IN

Description Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, a Division of The Villages presents "Breaking the Cycle" 2010 Mini Conference on Tuesday March 30, 2010 at the Sheraton Hotel Downtown Indianapolis. Registration will soon be available at our website ( with complete workshop details. Do not RSVP on Facebook -- please register for workshops at our website.

Have A Heart

Monday, February 1, 2010

February is American Heart Month, and that means a lot more than candy hearts! Parents and other family members can do a lot to help kids develop heart-healthy lifestyles. The American Heart Association recommends the Top 10 Ways to Help Children Develop Healthy Habits:

1. Be a positive role model. If you’re practicing healthy habits, it’s a lot easier to convince children to do the same.

2. Get the whole family active. Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.

3. Limit TV, video game and computer time. These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease.

4. Encourage physical activities that children really enjoy. Every child is unique. Let children experiment with different activities until each finds something that he or she really loves doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it.

5. Be supportive. Focus on the positive instead of the negative. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image.

6. Set specific goals and limits, such as one hour of physical activity a day or two desserts per week other than fruit. When goals are too abstract or limits too restrictive, the chance for success decreases.

7. Don’t reward children with food. Candy and snacks as a reward encourage bad habits. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.

8. Make dinnertime a family time. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get the kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus

9. Make a game of reading food labels. The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime.

10. Stay involved. Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard.