“Children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their relations to each other. Character training along these lines will result in men and women of broader sympathies; more humane, more law-abiding, in every respect more valuable citizens." National PTA Congress. Why do some children become violent? Recent schoolyard shootings and decades of evidence show that a child’s attitude toward animals can predict future behavior. According to published reports, in every highly publicized school shootings, one warning sign appeared consistently: All the young killers abused or killed animals before turning on their classmates. “These are the kids who never learned it’s wrong to poke out a puppy’s eyes.” Robert Ressler, founder of the FBI’s behavioral sciences unit, on where serial killers come from. According to FBI profilers, the American Psychiatric Association, law enforcement officials, and child advocacy organizations, people who hurt animals may eventually direct violence toward humans. Cruelty to animals is considered one of three symptoms that predict the development of psychopath and is included as a criterion for conduct disorder in child by the American Psychiatric Association. Experts agree that young people who hurt and kill (and are allowed to get away with it) never learned empathy; the ability to understand what someone else feels. Without empathy, it is easy to depersonalize animals or people into unfeeling machines. So when these kids hurt someone, they don’t realize that it’s wrong, and they can’t feel the distress or agony that they are causing. Teaching kindness and respect for animals is the first step in teaching children empathy. Because young children naturally identify with animals and because animals are living beings like us, we can use our interactions with them to teach children how to behave toward other people. Incorporating the simple concepts of kindness and respect into our daily lives and teaching our children to respect and protect even the smallest and most despised among us will help them to value one another. Teach kindness by example
- Listen to yourself with new ears—don’t yell “shut up,” stupid dog,” or other hurtful things.
- Never hit animals.
- Show that you value animals’ lives by being patient with them, making sure they all wear an ID tag, spaying or neutering them to prevent unwanted litters, giving them plenty of clean water, and providing regular veterinary care.
- Include your animals in your life. Allow your dog to live inside with the family, and spend time with your companion animals daily, brushing them, playing with them, and walking them.
“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” ...Margaret Mead, PH.D.Boys will be boys? Studies show that children who commit a single act of animal abuse are likely to commit other violent acts. Schools, parents, communities, and courts that shrug off animal abuse as a “minor” offense are ignoring a time bomb. If you notice your child deliberately hurt of kill an animal, Don’t let that act go uncorrected. Even if the act seems innocent, isolated, or a case of “exploration,” take the time to talk to your child and explain why it must never happen again. Children who repeatedly hurt animals need counseling from a mental health professional. This behavior may be a warning sign of an increasingly violent child. Encourage your children to extend their compassion
- In winter, break ice on ponds and puddles to allow birds, squirrels, and other animals to drink.
- Sometimes tiny creatures wander into our homes—help them find their way out gently.
- Avoid statements - even those made in jest - such as “I hate cats” or Chickens are stupid.”
Live by and teach the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”Caring Activities
- Go to your local animal shelter and volunteer with your child to help care for homeless animals.
- Plant flowers and shrubbery for butterflies, bees, and other wildlife in your backyard.
- During a walk at the beach, in the woods, or by a stream, pick up plastic rings, bottles, and other trash that can kill birds, turtles, dolphins, and other animals.
- Read your children books that show animals as feeling individuals, such as Lassie Come Home, My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, Charlotte’s Web, Frederick, Blueberries for Sal Make way for Ducklings
- Watch animal-friendly movies, such as Bambi Lady and the Tramp Shiloh Free Willy Babe My Dog Skip