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

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.

Does Your Child Say This? “You just want to control me.” reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

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.”

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