This post was originally published June 7, 2015. I have updated it extensively and republished it on April 26, 2016.
How is a parent to know when the power struggle they’re having with their teen is normal, and when it’s truly become a serious problem?
How do you tell the difference between a normal parent-teen power struggle and one that has crossed the line to become a destructive Parent-Teen Control Battle?
It’s very confusing these days in particular, with so much literature available on the dos and don’ts of raising teens.
And, of course, modern technology brings new issues to teen life that parents have to figure out as well.
Normal & Health Parent-Teen Struggles
In normal family life, parent-teen struggles are normal and healthy. It’s in the context of these struggles that parents and teens constantly renegotiate their relationship. This is important because it’s one way that kids grow, become gradually more independent, and take on greater responsibility.
Let’s look at 14 year-old Vanessa, who wants to take the bus downtown to meet up with her friends.
She’s never taken the bus before and Mom is apprehensive — to put it mildly.
There are some unsafe areas downtown and Mom wonders if the girls know how to make good decisions… or will they look for adventure and put themselves at risk?
So Mom and Vanessa “discuss” the situation. But the discussion really sounds more like an argument:
Mom: No, you’ve never taken the bus downtown before and I don’t want you going in those dangerous neighborhoods.
Vanessa: Why are you always so strict? You treat me like a baby. I know how to take a bus! I’ll just get off downtown — it’s no big deal.
Mom: Well, what are you going to do there anyway? There are too many ways to get in trouble. Why don’t you go to the roller rink instead?
Vanessa: You’re so mean. I can’t make all the rules for my friends and we’re not going to get in any trouble. We just like going into the shops and seeing all the cool things. Marlene has some birthday money she wants to use to get some things and it will be fun.
Mom: Well, that sounds okay, but I worry about you girls going to the part of downtown where the marijuana shops sell pipes and everything. I don’t like the crowd that hangs around there. You could be hassled, robbed, or hurt.
Vanessa: That’s so gross. We’d never go there. Those people are weird and scary. Why would you think I’d want to do that? We’ll probably get a drink at the Starbucks and then walk to Lani’s house. She only lives about five blocks from there and we’ll just goof around and maybe watch TV, that’s all. You could pick me up around 5:30… I can text you.
Mom: Okay, but 5:30 PM at the latest because I don’t want to stop in the middle of cooking dinner to come get you. Just call or text me so I know for sure… and remember, you can call anytime if you need a pickup.
And so Vanessa and her Mom engage in this little struggle and now Vanessa has a chance to demonstrate her ability to manage an increase in her level of independence.
And Mom, with a certain amount of concern — and maybe fear — has supported it. All this is normal stuff.
Destructive Parent-Teen Control Battles
A Parent-Teen Control Battle is quite different.
When parents and teens are locked in a Control Battle, it feels like there is no good answer.
In the situation with Vanessa and her mother, Mom would feel like she has no workable option.
- If she says no, Vanessa will call her names, go into an even deeper brood and withdraw, or harass her.
- If she says yes, she has little faith that Vanessa will follow the protocols; and even if she does, when she picks her up, Vanessa will still be angry that she had to come so early.
So if you and your teen struggle a bit over the rules and limits, you’re doing great.
If everything is a struggle — and it feels like you can never win — you may well be in a Control Battle.
Still Not Sure…?
Are you wondering whether your situation at home is a normal and healthy power struggle, or if it’s a destructive Control Battle?
If so, you’re not alone. And I can help:
(1) Free Checklist
Below this post, you will find an option to download my free checklist entitled, Is It A Control Battle?
This document will allow you to assess your situation at home by choosing between a series of ‘A’ or ‘B’ answers.
(2) Ask Questions
Have a specific question? Feel free to publish it in the comments below. I would be happy to give you feedback.
(3) Read My Book
Lastly — and perhaps most importantly — I’ve just completed my first book entitled Ending the Parent Teen Control Battle.
It is being published by New Harbinger Publications and is to be released October 1st this year. Currently, it’s available for pre-order on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.
If you believe you are in a Control Battle with your son or daughter, I recommend that you pre-order now.