Child abuse includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Avoiding all types of child abuse starts by educating parents on the causes of child abuse and teaching children what abuse is.
To educate parents on the causes of child abuse, communities should offer parenting classes and support to parents in order to help them avoid engaging in behavior that constitutes child abuse. Similarly, schools and daycare centers should teach children to be aware of inappropriate behavior by adults and to recognize indicators of abuse.
Many people don’t know how to properly raise a child because they themselves weren’t raised properly. Thus, their parenting skills are lacking, which in turn may lead to them engaging in behavior like yelling and screaming at a child or hitting them.
Community centers can offer parenting classes where parents can learn the skills necessary to be successful parents. This includes learning to avoid bad behavior, manage their stress and frustration in a more constructive way, how you create structure in the household, and how to use positive reinforcement instead of corporal punishment.
Emphasis on expectations
Child abuse often occurs with small children who are too young to understand what exactly is expected of them. Parents often order their children to sit still, be quiet, stop crying, or stop making a mess. However, very young children are often developmentally unable to follow such orders.
Teaching parents what to reasonably expect at their child’s developmental stage can help them avoid becoming frustrated and angry when their young children don’t behave in the way they want them to behave. Likewise, teaching parents what they should expect from children with mental or physical disabilities will also help them avoid getting stressed out and exhibiting abusive behavior.
Discipline vs Abuse
Many parents don’t know the difference between discipline and abuse. Parents should be taught what constitutes abuse of a child and what is considered to be appropriate discipline for a child.
The purpose of disciplining a child is to correct his or her behavior. Discipline becomes a problem when it’s more about inflicting punishment and instilling fear and submission in a child’s mind. The difference lies in the severity, frequency and unpredictability of the parent’s actions.
Parents should be instructed never to strike a child in anger and that discipline should never cause any injury to a child. Any physical contact that results in bruises, swelling, bleeding or the need for medical attention is abuse.
Some parents can also go too far with non-physical punishment. This can result in emotional or psychological harm which is also abuse. This often occurs when parents discipline their children with “time-out” or loss of privileges but take it too far. Locking a child in a dark room or a confined space for an extended period, as well as, tying them up or depriving them of food until they starve are all examples of child abuse.
Support for parents
Parents should be made aware of helpful support programs in their area. This is especially true for parents who have no extended family to help with babysitting, parenting advice, and other aspects of raising children. Local parenting classes, latchkey programs, and support groups can offer much-needed assistance to parents who are at risk of becoming abusive.
If you know of parents or families who are struggling or going through a great deal of stress, you can offer your support. Stressful situations often lead to child abuse. By offering your help, you can help reduce the stress and make a positive impact before any abuse occurs. Offer to babysit, or help with chores like shopping and cooking.
Parents should be taught how to reduce stress. This can help them avoid getting overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry, all of which can lead to child abuse. Some common stress release activities include, deep breathing exercises, going for a walk, listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, yoga, and mild exercise.
Teaching children to be aware of inappropriate behavior
To help avoid child abuse, children should be taught the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior when they are young. Let them know that there are places on their bodies that no one is allowed to touch.
Children should also be taught that they have a right to say no and to refuse anyone’s touch if it makes them uncomfortable. This includes other children.
Furthermore, children should be taught how to remain safe from an early age. This includes being safe when playing outdoors and how to avoid bullies and strangers who may pose a threat to them.
Reporting inappropriate behavior
Teach your child how to trust his/her own judgment and to report to an adult or another child who has behaved inappropriately with them. Help them to understand that they will not get in trouble if they tell that someone has hurt them or behaved inappropriately with them.
Children often refrain from reporting about abuse because they are afraid or feel somehow guilty for being abused. Explain to them that abuse is never their fault and they should never fear reporting this abuse to you or other authority figures.
Careful who you allow around your children
Know the people you let around your children. Child molesters try to get close to children through employment, volunteer work, community organizations, and even church. Make sure you choose the people whom you allow to interact with your children carefully.
Never let adults whom you do not know be in private places with your children unless there are other adults or multiple children present. Activities such as sleeping, bathing, and clothing should be done in private and not alone with an unknown adult.