After his stepdaughter was being tormented by a bully in school, Mark Bladen took matters into his own hands.
The 53-year-old Australian father recently spoke with 60 Minutes Australia after a video of him choking and abusing his stepdaughter’s alleged bully last month went viral.
Bladen said he wanted to give the teenager a “good old-fashioned talking to” but after the alleged bully kept smiling, he snapped.
“I’m not proud of it,” he recalled. “I was sucked in, I let my standards drop and, you know, Doctor Jekyll came out.”
“We live in a day of PC, political correctness, and I hate it,” he continued. “When I was young, you treated a lady like a lady… so it’s not hard to have respect for somebody.”
His stepdaughter Kalani, 15, told the broadcast she was being bullied for her body hair, pushed and was spat on over the course of six months. While she kept most of the details from her family, one afternoon she called her stepfather crying and told him the bully was at a local skate park.
And although he regrets his actions, Bladen told the show he still doesn’t think he was a bully, “I would say that I was out of order.”
Parenting expert Julie Romanowski in Vancouver says while it is important for parents to step in if their child is being bullied, this is not the way to do it.
“I think a parent helping their child through their distress is extremely heroic, however, not in the manner that this father did. This was not a situation where more physical aggression is the solution. Heroic in intention, not heroic in action,” she tells Global News.
She adds parents can help the child overcome the issue or their help can exasperate it.
“The key thing here to remember is to help ‘guide’ the child through the situation in a responsible, proactive and positive manner,” she continues. “This is challenging because when faced with an attack on your child, most parents are emotionally invested and can ‘react’ from that emotional place versus ‘respond’ from a connected perception. Reacting on that emotion or becoming emotionally attached, can turn negatively quite quickly.”
Parenting expert Tia Slightham of Toronto agrees and adds we shouldn’t be labelling this father as a hero.
“Stepping in is ‘heroic’ as he is helping to take a stand against bullying and helping others see how hurtful and scary bullying can become. When the father acts out with aggression and becomes physical, it’s at this point in which it went too far,” she tells Global News via email. “At this moment he stepped down to the same level of the bully and in a way was doing the same thing to him as the bully was to his daughter.”
“Exerting your power and your ability to overpower someone is an act of bullying.”
Social media reacts
On Facebook, some users agreed with Bladen’s actions.
“Bullying can cause suicide. I don’t blame the father for protecting his daughter. The kid clearly has no respect,” user Belinda Holmes wrote.
“I commend this man for standing up for his daughter. I would do anything to protect my kids as well,” user Paula Alevizos noted.
“So let me get this right… Its OK for the boy to bully the girl and do what ever he wants,but it not OK to get some of his own medicine back. I stand buy this man 100% and this is why we still have bullies because there is NO Bloody consequences to their actions any more,” Susanne Wardlaw wrote.
Others, however, did condemn his use of violence.
“Violence is never OK. Why didn’t he demand his address, go see his parents and require a consequence of the boys behaviour. He is being just as much a bully in this moment as the boy had been to the father’s daughter,” user Helen Roach wrote.
“A grown man physically attacking a slight teenage boy, I don’t care what the child did, how could anyone find this acceptable, all this is teaching the kids is that the biggest bully wins, in this case the girls father, you don’t fight bullying with bullying,” Katrina Daley wrote.
Approaching the bully
Slightham says when it comes to dealing with bullies, parents should know they can’t control a bully or anyone else for that matter.
“We can only control one person and that person is you,” she continues. “We have to work on our own skills and ways of coping when situations like this arise. We need to teach our kids to use their words in an assertive and clear way. We need to teach our kids the ‘power’ they have in walking away and not reacting. When kids react to the bully it feeds the bully’s fire.”
She adds bullies exert their power to make others feel worse, to in turn help themselves feel better. “This is why walking away and ignoring are tools that deflate the bully and help put out the fire.”
Romanowski says when we teach children to fight bullies with aggressive behaviours, we make them seem acceptable.
“It also teaches contraction which can lead to confusion instead of providing a solid boundary and expectation for our children in how to solve problems, protect yourself and stand up for yourself. It also furthers the bullying message that physical and verbal aggression are part of the solution.”
You can watch the full 60 Minute interview here.