What’s worse, abuse or bullying?

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Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m a member of a parenting group and a controversy is dividing us.

Mom A has an emotionally and physically abused second-grade girl. Mom A tells Mom B that abuse is more heinous than bullying. Mom B’s daughter has been horribly bullied. Both moms treat each other terribly. Now parents are taking sides.

Mom A’s daughter still goes to therapy. Mom B won’t allow her daughter to return to school until the school works the situation out.

In my opinion, both moms are bullies and terrible examples. I think they both should send their girls to different schools. It’s distracting and dismaying.


Worn-Out Mom

Dear Mom,

This isn’t a competition. Both daughters are traumatized by maltreatment, and the moms could be aggravating their suffering.

There isn’t any difference between bullying and abuse (except, maybe, by law). The main descriptor is the same: the perpetrator wants power and control over another – using any methodology to achieve that goal.

Unfortunately, bullying is still seen as “less-than” “real” abuse, which only exacerbates the upset which the children experience.

Bullying and abuse can produce the same results (at home, school, church, or wherever they occur): tragic deaths, suicides, mental and physical health diseases, and disorders … the list goes on and on.

According to many statistics, the U.S. has the worst record of child maltreatment among industrialized nations:

  • In 2014, state agencies found over 702,000 victims of child maltreatment, a number that would pack 10 modern football stadiums, and the numbers have been steadily rising.
  • Childhood physical abuse accounts for over 29 percent, sexual abuse – over 21 percent, emotional neglect – over 15 percent, emotional abuse – over 11 percent, physical neglect – over 10 percent.
  • State agencies report 4 to 5 children die each day from maltreatment; 70 percent are under age two.

Abhorrent adult behavior examples cause children harm. Too many parents focus inward on their lives, rather than the needs of their children. The biggest job of every parent is to teach children values, civility, and how to specifically care for each other.

Schools have the power to help reverse childhood mistreatment, by holding monthly guidance and awareness meetings with doctors, nurses, and experts, speaking on childhood abuse and bullying. Many professionals on this subject are willing and wanting to speak to parents and adults at schools.

The problem in this situation is sadly focused on the parents’ need to “be right” rather than to “be good.” Excellent behavior, by example, is the very best way to influence change for our children.

Abuse hurts children (and everyone) mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually … and it destroys societies.


Rhonda and Dr. Cheri