Child abuse is an act by a parent or caretaker that results or allows a child to be subjected to emotional harm, physical injury, sexual assault, or death. Emotional, neglect, physical and sexual abuse are different types of child abuse.
It's hard for many of us to understand how someone could abuse a child, but oftentimes child abuse occurs when ordinary parents with underdeveloped coping mechanisms are pushed to the limit. Child abuse occurs in all segments of our society.
Risk Factors for Child Abusers:
- Those struggling economically, with housing or personal problems
- Are isolated from family or the community
- Poorly manage their stress or control their anger
- Have mental health issues
- Have physical health issues
- Abuse drugs or alcohol
- Seem uninterested in the care, safety and nourishment of their children.
Helping parents who are struggling with these challenges reduces the likelihood that the children will be abused or neglected.
Dealing with a difficult child. All children need clear boundaries and all children can be naughty sometimes. Developing rules and a routine will help your child know what is expected of them. Clear boundaries mean you can better handle difficult behavior while rewarding positive behavior.
Is the child actually behaving badly? When frustrated by difficult behavior, ask yourself if you're simply expecting too much. If your child is behaving badly, figure out why. Is it hunger? Tiredness? Boredom? Are they picking up on your bad mood?
Don't hit, shout or threaten your child. When a child behaves badly, tell them you don't like what they are doing. Hitting, shouting, threatening can severely damage a child physically and emotionally. You must develop other ways to handle the poor behavior.
Spanking a child is not okay. Hitting - even a light smack - damages children both physically and emotionally. Spanking a child is a short-term solution that does not teach a child to change the difficult behavior.
What Can I Do When My Child Is Being Difficult?
- Distraction is key. Many children act out because they are bored. Give them something else to do.
- Ignore behavior you do not care for so long as it's not hurting someone. Receiving attention for bad behavior will negatively reinforce the behavior and make it worse.
- Criticize the behavior, not the child. Make it clear that it's their behavior you do not like - not the child.
- Use time-out not as a punishment, but as a way for the child to get a quick cool down, learn to manage his feelings while removing himself from the situation.
- Take away something the child enjoys - television, video games, a toy - for a defined length of time.
What If I'm About To Lose It?
Every single parent has a time when they reach the end of their proverbial rope and feel as though they could hurt their child. Here's how to avoid it:
- Take a couple deep breaths and then count to ten.
- Make sure the child is safe and go to another room.
- Walk AWAY from the child - not towards him.
- Remind yourself you're a good parent and tell yourself to calm down.
Reach out to someone.
- Call a friend or family member to talk things through.
- Ask them to come over or keep talking to you until you're calm.
Don't be ashamed to ask for help if you need it.
- Call a helpline like 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
- Stay on the phone until your anger has dissipated.
Get help urgently if:
- You hurt your child - or worry you will.
- You lose control often enough that your child is afraid of you.
- Your partner hurts and/or threatens you or your child.
- You're miserable, tense and can't cope.
- Can't manage on the money you have.
- Anyone in the house has a problem with drugs or alcohol.
Resources for Preventing Child Abuse:
US Department of Health & Human Services offers information and programs to prevent child abuse and neglect.
The National Parent Helpline provides emotional support to parents from trained advocates. They operate a hotline 1-855- 4A PARENT that operates Monday through Friday, 10am-7pm Pacific Time.
Prevent Child Abuse America has information on research and advocacy related to preventing child abuse. They have a network of 47 regional chapters that provide education, training, and activities for families.
Circle of Parents is a place to connect with other parents for support and advice related to parenting.
The NSPCC is a UK-based organization that aims to stop child mistreatment in a multitude of ways. They provide advice, hotlines, and advocacy services.
Children's Helpline International offers a portal of country-specific websites and helplines for children.
Parents Anonymous is dedicated to supporting parents and building parenting skills in communities.
Darkness to Light - Organization designed to promote child-well being and and end child sexual abuse.