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.
About James Lehman, MSW
James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.