Does Your Child Say This? “You just want to control me.”

by James Lehman, MSW
Does Your Child Say This? “You just want to control me.”

When a child says to you, “You’re just trying to control me,” usually he or she is inviting you to a fight. The perception for parents here is that your child is challenging your authority. If you respond to that, you’re giving them more power. Try not to get into a power struggle or screaming match, and don’t deny the obvious. Sometimes parents say, “No, I’m not trying to control you,” when in fact, they really are. Generally, the best thing for you to do is to avoid that fight. Remember, you don’t have to participate in every fight you’re invited to attend.

Child: “You just want to control me!”

Translation: “I’m not going to do what you’re asking me to do—instead I’m going to argue with you about it.”

Ineffective response: “It’s my house, and I will control you.”

Effective response: “I’m trying to get you to meet your responsibilities, not control you.” Or, “I want you to take responsibility for your behavior. That’s not trying to control you.”

How to use this in an everyday parenting situation:  Say your teenage son or daughter refuses to comply with their 9 pm curfew and comes home an hour late. If you hold them accountable for their curfew time and they come back with, “Why are you being such a pain? You’re just trying to control me,” remember: that’s an invitation to a fight that will lead to nowhere but more frustration. Keep the focus on the child’s responsibility—meeting curfew—and stay out of the quagmire of an argument by saying, “It’s your responsibility to be home by nine. That’s not trying to control you.” When a child wants to get out of meeting responsibility, the quickest way to do that is to make a power thrust at you and try to make you angry. Don’t fall for it.

Enter your email address to receive our FREE
weekly parenting newsletter.

James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."


Why not treat this behavior like the eye-rolling and just ignore the comment? The child will still think you are trying to control them, no matter how you respond verbally, so don't respond to the statement directly, take it in the direction of what you want the child to do -- which is to be responsible -- without commenting on the control issue.

Comment By : Michael

I have a 26 year old daughter who says this all the time. Allthough she is mentally ill and we have guardianship of my grandson. We have learned from trial and error that telling her that we want her to take responsiblity for her actions; doing drugs, illicit sex, panhandling, lying.

Comment By : PAPA

The response I use most often to my 14.5 yr. old son's comment that "I'm trying to control him", or "You're just trying to be in control", or my very favorite, "You're such a control freak!!", is a calm reply. I simply tell him that I'm NEVER in control of his choices, nor am I ever responsible for them. He never knows quite how to respond. It's a sure- fire argument stopper.

Comment By : adoptivemomof4

How do I start getting my sons to eagerly do chores- I am a newbie and I am a singel dad-not of my choice-They are teen and a 9 yr old Help!!!!

Comment By : steakman

Eagerly doing chores???? Not sure that is possible. But we have a point system that seems to work where 0 is the worst day possible on chores and 5 is all chores are done--to the best of their ability. They earn points up to 5 for each day. These can be redeemed for anything from an energy drink to a weekend away with Mom or Dad (of course the point values vary). We also let the kids have a lot of input into what they wanted on he point list.

Comment By : Renae

How to get the Stubburness out of a kid-short of "buying it" Procrastination on chores and when they aren't done then what??

Comment By : steakman

* Dear Steakman, Please check out this article: "Does Your Child Say This? 'I'll do it later'". Also, "Motivating the Unmotivated Child". Hope this helps!

Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor

This is a problem I'm having with my 10yr. old. He's 10 going on 20. We do monitor him very well and have set standards at home, but lately he seems to think that he could do whatever he pleases. What seems to work for my husband and I is taking away any video games and having him read more than his 30 min. a day. That really seems to do the trick. Does anyone have any other ideas? Please share.

Comment By : gypsy

Rate this article by clicking the stars below.

Rating: 2.5/5 (150 votes cast)

Related keywords:

James Lehman, Total Transformation, children respect, child discipline techniques, Rebellious teenager, evil children, Disrespectful child, behavior modification, problem kid, Defiant teenagers

Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

We value your opinions and encourage you to add your comments to this discussion. We ask that you refrain from discussing topics of a political or religious nature. Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to respond to every question posted on our website.
If you like "Does Your Child Say This? “You just want to control me.”", you might like these related articles: