Prevent Violence in Lives of Children: ACT Raising Safe Kids

June 1, 2021, 10:08 am | Dawn Dunnegan

Parent holding and comforting child by Seventyfour/, Iowa – What if children arrived with an instruction manual? This may be the wish of many new parents, says Dawn Dunnegan, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Parenting is a skill and good parenting may need to be taught, Dunnegan said, especially for those who might not have had an ideal role model when they were children.

ISU Extension and Outreach is addressing this skills gap with “ACT Raising Safe Kids” education for parents.

“ACT means adults and children together,” said Dunnegan, who specializes in family life issues.

ACT Raising Safe Kids is a nine-week, evidence-based program that focuses primarily on educating parents and other adults who raise and provide care for young children. The goal is to help them create early environments that protect children from violence. Research indicates that effective parenting is a critical factor to prevent youth behavior problems, according to the American Psychological Association.

“This program, based on research, shows that early intervention and early effective parenting skills are critical in preventing violence in the lives of children,” Dunnegan said.

Parents will learn about what children can understand and do at different ages and stages of development. They will learn developmentally appropriate methods to manage and respond to children’s difficult behavior.

“ACT experts remind us that children learn from imitation and observation; what adults say and do to children or in the presence of children can have an impact on their development. Early experiences with violence may have long lasting impact on children,” Dunnegan said.

Parents can expect to gain understanding about using positive discipline methods that are age appropriate, teaching children how to resolve conflict without using violence, helping children and parents learn how to control their anger, and the influence of violence in the media.

According to the American Psychological Association, ACT Raising Safe Kids is recognized by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Office of Head Start, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Crime Solutions, California Clearing House for Child Welfare and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as demonstrating positive effects in preventing child abuse and neglect. These institutions see ACT as an effective parenting program.

“According to Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, in 2018 law enforcement received more than 35,000 reports of child abuse in the state of Iowa. The National Children’s Alliance tells us that 92% of child victims are abused by a parent,” Dunnegan said.

“As a parent we all face challenging behaviors such as a crying baby, bedtime routines, grocery store melt downs and other tantrums, sibling fighting and more,” said Dunnegan. “Look to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for many parenting opportunities and an ACT Raising Safe Kids Series in your area.”

The program will be offered virtually beginning Aug. 23. Register now, as class size is limited.

“It is important that we have realistic expectations for our children based on their age and physical, mental and emotional ability,” Dunnegan said. Consider signing up for Just in Time Parenting Newsletters, available in English and Spanish. In each issue look for easy-to-use guides on how your child is developing; tips on raising a healthy, happy child; tools for solving common parenting problems; and strategies for coping with the challenges of raising children.

Ages and Stages publications from ISU Extension and Outreach provide additional research-based information on your child’s physical, mental, social and emotional development to help you set your expectations, available in English and Spanish.

Photo credit: Seventyfour/

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