As many people have expressed their horror recently at the news of a young boy who allegedly threw a black cat off the 22nd-storey HDB flat, it is important for parents and educators to spot the warning signs that indicate there’s a serious problem within the child that needs attention. According to The Straits Times, authorities have investigated close to 1,200 alleged animal cruelty and abuse cases each year between 2017 to 2020.
Given that many infamous serial killers, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, have a history of harming animals when they are children, the correlation between kids who purposely harm animals may be a precursor to a future crime. It is, however, more complicated than that, as young children may hurt animals unintentionally due to their curiosity.
Zhang Zheying, Co-founder of Good School Learning Huband father of two, shares that there are a variety of reasons why children may engage in animal cruelty, such as if they possess a lack of healthy coping mechanisms, being victims of abuse themselves, have sadistic tendencies or antisocial personality traits such lack of guilt, remorse or empathy. Another reason could be due to the peers that they are surrounding themselves with and the types of activities that they’ll do together that embolden bad behaviour borderlining on cruelty.
If one happens to encounter a child who is potentially going through serious trauma in their young lives, Zheying recommends the following methods to mediate the situation:
- Do not approach the child alone, but with people that they are comfortable with.
- Seek help from an experienced professional such as a school counsellor or child psychologist, during the confrontation if possible.
- Keep a calm tone and non-aggressive tone when asking the child the reason behind committing the violent act. Stating questions in a composed manner would reduce the chances of the child becoming defensive.
- Be sensitive and stay attentive to the points that they are sharing and feeling during the questioning.
On the other hand, for parents who may discover that their child is starting to exhibit out-of-ordinary cruelty or unkind acts towards others or animals, Zheying recommends 2 methods to intervene:
- Increase the quality time spent together with your child and stay more involved in their day-to-day activities to recognise if there are any changes to their child’s attitude or behaviour.
- Keep open communication with their child to discuss the cause and effect of their actions. Highlight the consequences of their actions.
For parents and educators, it is important to instil a strong value system within the child to encourage and develop positive behaviour towards animals. Through the right education and engaging in activities such as visiting an animal rescue centre, parents and educators can nurture children and teach them about both human and animal emotions, how to care for them and how to be responsible when around animals.