An eight year-old child nearby is in deep trouble. On Sunday, he stomped a kitten to death. I was horrified at the utter violence of it, sad about the kitten’s suffering and extremely premature demise; but sickened to the core about the psychological condition of the boy. I’m terribly worried about his future. What kind of hell is this child living in? What made him do it?
I was a grad student in a counseling program for three years. I can tell you with certainty, without intervention, this child’s future is extremely bleak. Most serial killers start with torturing and/or killing animals. If this child is not a sociopath, the odds are very high, he’s living in a terribly abusive home with another sadist. Destroying something even more vulnerable than he, the child may be attempting to regain the personal power he loses every time someone knocks him down—mentally, physically, or both.
I contacted the police today on this boy’s behalf. All I can do now is to pray hard he doesn’t lack a conscience, and will benefit from intensive therapy. Punishment, in this situation, is less important than therapy. This doesn’t mean serious consequences shouldn’t be doled out. Consequences are to teach right from wrong, primarily; secondarily, they may be punitive to deter future negative behavior. For a child with these issues, simply doling out punishment or consequences for a deterrent, is grossly insufficient.
If he’s already being abused, harsh punishment can bring on more destructive kinds of behaviors, and slam the door on open communication with the giver. This doesn’t mean consequences shouldn’t be given—just that consequences alone will not rehabilitate such a child. The consequences should aim to acquaint him fully with the seriousness of his actions, and attempt to instill empathy at every turn.
Intensive therapy should be court-ordered now, before his behavior escalates any further. He should be charged with the crime, creating a paper trail that can be used to help him and protect others. If the act disappears from the record, no one will see what is to come before it arrives and blindsides everyone. The child would also believe he got away with, well, murder. Then, what limits will be placed on his behavior?
An adult witnessed the boy’s crime, but didn’t report it, likely feeling he didn’t have enough facts. He saw it too late to successfully intervene and save the kitten’s life. I reiterated several times how getting away with it (no report) does a great disservice to this boy. I contacted the police to help rescue the child.
There’s no way to know if he’s tortured or killed an animal before, or what he’ll be capable of later. Without psychiatric intervention now, he may spend the rest of his childhood in juvie, and his adulthood in prison, or a psychiatric ward. It still may turn out that way even with intervention, but at least intervention provides some hope. Please join me in praying for this child.
If you have a child with behavioral or psychiatric issues, you know how difficult it is to accept the troubling things your child might be capable of doing to others or themselves. It’s absolutely crucial to keep aware of these behaviors or the potential for them, in your child. Any good parent (like you all! 🙂 will want to protect a troubled child, but disregarding or minimizing dangerous behaviors isn’t ever in anyone’s best interests!
Playing ostrich when others try to tell you what your child did, doesn’t protect him/her. Instead, it increases the potential for you to be blindsided by something even larger, and for the child to have worse consequences next time, ones that may damage his whole life. Imagine a stubborn child at a stereo, upping the volume to get your attention. Ignoring it makes him turn the stereo up louder. He wants to be heard, and be made to stop, whether he’s consciously aware of that or not. The child hasn’t missed the fact that very loud music is painful to his ears too. He’s demanding a limit be set for him.
The child who stomped the baby kitty will soon be confronted with a startling reality—bad behavior (really bad!) can often be viewed by others and net him unpleasant consequences. I pray he’ll experience genuine remorse. Otherwise, his future is unspeakably bleak, and very likely means he’s missing a conscience. Sociopathy is more common than any of us want to believe. I need to pray for his parents too, because a speeding locomotive is headed for a terrible collision with their ears and hearts. Diverted to the other track, without intervention, the child’s present and future becomes a tragic train wreck.
If you ever become aware of an act like this, please report it to police, even if you don’t have all the information you think you need! Every day a child is in this predicament, he’s careening toward destruction, with more opportunities to make others suffer. You’re not causing trouble for the kid! He’s already immersed in it!