The body slam that shook the world

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Casey Heynes has become an Internet sensation, not a bad feat for a teenage Australian boy who told a television reporter that he has been bullied most of his life.

But that life is over. No one will ever bully Casey Heynes again. Not unless that person wants to be body slammed, I should say.

Casey was in a courtyard at school in Sydney one day last month when Richard Gate, a younger and smaller boy, started punching him as some friends egged him on.

Casey took several of the punches before reaching his limit. He picked up Richard and body slammed him into the concrete. Richard stumbled away, avoiding serious injury.

The scene was caught on a grainy 40-second video — presumably a cell phone, according to several accounts on the web — that went viral. He’s all over the Internet now, and even has a Facebook page dedicated to him, www.facebook.com/CaseyThaPunisher, that had 65,057 people who “liked” it as of Sunday night.

Predictably, most of the comments support Casey. He was merely defending himself and had every right to fight back, people are saying. They are living vicariously through Casey, and rejoicing that someone had the nerve to stick up to a bully.

A big part of me agrees with that sentiment. People have a right to defend themselves, and that 40-second video clip clearly shows a boy doing just that. Both boys are lucky that Casey did not seriously injure Richard with that body slam.

But I’m most interested in what the video does not and cannot show — the fathering of both boys.

I don’t know either father or families, and have only seen them on television interviews I found online.

Still, I wonder what roles both fathers played.

In one interview, Casey’s father said he didn’t know about the bullying even though his son said he had been bullied most of his life. How could the father not know? Does he not ask his son about his school day? Does he not talk to his teachers?

In another interview, Richard’s father said he knows his son is “no angel, but this is out of character for him, really.” Well, if he knows his son is no angel, how is bullying not out of character.

I have never had to deal with a child who is, or who has been a victim of, a bully. Most bullying surfaces in middle school, and my children are in elementary school.

I’m sure the reasons why kids become bullies are many and varied. Some probably learn it at home. Perhaps they have an abusive parent, and they are merely mimicking in the hallways what they see in their family room. Others probably learn it from other kids and copy it so they can fit in.

Either way, the majority of bullying seems to have a common thread — the desire to tear other people down because the bully does not feel good about himself.

In other words, it’s a lack of self-esteem. I doubt children who feel good about themselves bully other kids.

So what’s a father to do? The Internet is full of articles that give advice on ways parents can teach their children self-esteem.

But it starts with being a decent role model and playing an active role in your child’s life. Ask them how their day was, and how they are doing in school. Talk to their teachers. See how they interact with other kids.

Praise them when they do well, and correct them when they do wrong, but the former should far outweigh the latter. Hold them up high where they belong and hold them responsible.

And it doesn’t hurt to teach a little self-defense, just in case your child is the one who is bullied.

This is a repost of a blog entry I wrote for www.dadtrends.com on April 5.

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