How to cope when a con­trol­ling friend makes your life mis­er­able

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Boi­tumelo Mat­shaba

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.


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.


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


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.”


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.


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.

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