How to cope when a controlling friend makes your life miserable
Ways to handle a bully
AS a teenager, you sometimes want to fit in and it might come at a cost. One thing you might have to endure in order to fit in is to be controlled by someone and do things you are not comfortable with just so you seem ‘cool’.
Alessandra Newton, who is a counsellor at the Family Life Centre in Joburg, says there is a subtle difference between bullying and meanness. The difference is that there isn’t a power difference with meanness.
“It is important to differentiate between the two in order to address and overcome both situations. Meanness is common among peers and a mean person might say things like ‘you can’t play with us’ or ‘you are not part of our group’,” she says.
“It only becomes bullying when there is a power difference and a particular person is regularly targeted.”
Claudia Abelheim, an educational psychologist, adds that bullying is when one person intentionally tries to hurt another person.
“This can be physical or verbal, which is known as emotional bullying. We also have cyber bullying, which is when an individual uses the online world, usually through social media, to hurt another person,” says Claudia. According to Mandisa Murunge, a counsellor also at the Family Life Centre, bullying is a deliberate and harmful behaviour. She says bullies have the desire to hurt, frighten, oppress, intimidate and subdue their victims, often for no apparent reason.
Mandisa also says the bullies also seem to derive some satisfaction from hurting others and witnessing their discomfort and misery.
SIGNS YOUR FRIEND IS A BULLY
Life coach, Amanda Ndiki, says your friend may be bossy, demanding and unreasonable, especially when they don’t get their way.
“They might also be controlling and want to dictate who you as their friend can and cannot play and be friends with,” she says.
“They may also be selfish and want the attention to be on them.”
Amanda adds that constant attention seeking, unreasonable demands and over-reaction are signs your friend is a bully.
WHY YOUR FRIEND IS TRYING TO CONTROL YOU
Amanda says when your friend is bossy it could be something that stems from how they have been raised.
“Usually, parents who are bossy tend to raise bossy children. A child that always gets what they want from their parents by either throwing a tantrum or by the parent’s free will to always give
CHILDREN WHO HAVE BEEN BULLIED CAN BECOME BULLIES THEMSELVES
them what they want, can become a spoilt brat,” she says.
“More to that, such a child will grow up with a bossy personality due to being raised in an environment where they were constantly enabled to get what they want.”
EFFECTS OF BEING BULLIED
According to Thuli Bottoman, who is a senior social worker at the Family Life Centre, the effects of being bullied include you feeling fearful, angry towards those who bully you and those around you, a low self-esteem and a lack of trust towards others.
“Some children who have been bullied can become bullies themselves,” she says.
Alessandra says bullying can be very damaging to both the victim and the innocent bystander. She says being a bully is a manifestation of something deeper, they too need help.
“It can be as a result of very low self-esteem or being bullied, possibly at home. Bullying has all sorts of implications for the bullied as well as the bystanders,” she says.
“Observing bullying can make the bystander feel many negative emotions, including shame that they didn’t intervene and fear that they if they intervened they might become the next target.”
She also emphasises how the lack of parental support and guidance can be the cause of bullying. Bullies can generally be defiant and more inclined to break school rules.
“They are often physically stronger and bigger than the children they bully, they are aggressive towards adults and authority,” she says.
Mandisa points out the effects of being a bully is that they lose out in school work because their concentration is on hurting others and they can drop out of school and join gangs for the purpose of terrorising other people.
Most bullies end up in prison or dead because some people retaliate.
HOW TO GET OUT OF IT
Advising on how you can get out of it, Alessandra says you need to have some skills to address this negative behaviour, either through seeking the assistance of a parent, guidance teacher, counsellor, older sibling, a family member or adult.
As a teen, Alessandra advises that you need to learn coping skills. “If your parents aren’t able to provide these skills or assist with the situation, they could go with you to see a counsellor who can assist you with coping skills,” she says.
“It is advisable for parents to first address the issue with a teacher as the situation can become worse if the parents simply confront the friend.”
Alessandra says sometimes teachers can advocate mean behaviour without intending to do so. “A perfect example is when two learners are nominated by the teacher to pick teams. Invariably there is one child that is left and not chosen. This leaves the unchosen child feeling isolated and unwanted,” she says.
Mandisa’s views differ slightly to those of Alessandra. She reckons teachers and parents can help a child who is being bullied by addressing the issue with the bully and the parents of the bully.
“Bullies need therapy because there is an underlying factor to the behaviour. A therapist from Family Life Centre, for example, can help in that situation,” she says.
A friendship is of equal give-and-take but bullying is not a real relationship.
Talking to a parent or a teacher can help the bullying and the controlling to stop.
Do not be afraid to say ‘no’ to bossy instructions from bullies.