As a parent, how do you respond to an overly controlling or argumentative teen? It’s frustrating and draining to feel that your teen is resistant to your authority or trying to push your limits. Do you wonder why this started happening? Do you feel at a loss for what to do about it?

Hey, Read Me Later (Download this article as a free .pdf – click here)

What To Do If Your Teen Is Overly Controlling or Resistant to Rules

If your teen is trying to control their surroundings, they are really trying to feel more in control of themselves.

Many teens are rebelling against being controlled by others. They are trying to exert their independence.

The most important thing for you to recognize as their parent is that if your teen is trying to control your behavior (or anyone else’s) they are not feeling as though they have enough control over themselves. This can be incredibly anxiety provoking, and anxiety also feeds the perceived need to control what is happening around us.

This is a form of anxiety that can create a trap for your teen because they look outward to seek comfort through controlling situations around them rather than looking inward to reflect on what they can control.

Teenagers are bombarded with new thoughts, drives and emotional patterns at this age. A teen who is overly controlling, angry or exhibiting bullying behavior is often struggling with high levels of stress, which may indicate anxiety or depression. Trying to control their surroundings is likely a symptom of this stress.

A teen who struggles with anxiety may even appear to have less empathy for those around them.

Teens are naturally more self-centered because their personal values and boundaries are forming, requiring them to think of themselves or their own needs before others. New emotional reactions can feel strange to your teen, and they can lash out when trying to learn to manage these emotions. This often looks like disruptive or manipulative behavior.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. A typical day for a teen involves being told what to do by teachers, parents, other adults and peers. True, these may be people who have excellent guidance for them. It’s still difficult to always have to be listening, rather than listened to. It is healthy for a teen to want to assert control over themselves in order to have a voice and learn responsibility.

The frustration of being in this situation where they are always expected to listen will cause a teenager to bully or control the adult who will never leave them (yep, you). This is not meant to excuse the behavior; in fact, it is vital for your relationship with your teen that the behavior is not tolerated. This simply offers you an opportunity for insight into your teen’s struggle.

Teens often worry about what others think.

Your teen’s mind is wired to be learning about themselves and the world via social situations. They may be expending a lot of energy wondering what the people around them are thinking, even if they don’t want to be or wouldn’t admit that they are. Teenagers are learning about themselves by being hyper-aware of others. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

Your teen can’t control what others think, but many teens find themselves desperately wishing to do so – even if it’s out of character for them. This can be frustrating and confusing for a teenager to deal with.

Believe it or not, your teen is concerned with what you think of them, too.

Be cautious of the messages that you are sending your teen about their power to make smart choices for themselves. It is important for a teenager to feel capable and valuable, even if they don’t yet have all of the responsibility of an adult.

Your own frustration or fear may cause you to criticize or micromanage your teen. This will only leave you grappling with more rejection and resistance from your teen.

Hey, Read Me Later (Download this article as a free .pdf – click here)

So what can you do as a parent?

Your teen needs clear boundaries and limits, and part of seeking those out is pushing against ones that exist. Your role is to stay within a balanced range between rigid and chaotic, where your rules and limits are clear yet flexible. In other words, you are open to the idea that your rules are imperfect or that they will need updating as your teen grows. However, you are also willing to stand by any rule that you do set until a change is necessary.

You have another challenging task, which is keeping your cool and remaining the “mature” one. If you engage with rude behavior like name-calling, you show your teen that you will allow it. If your teen is purposefully rude to you, walk away from the conversation. Then, attend to it later. Rude teenagers often need the most attention and care. Many teens feel they are not being heard, and because of this, they are less careful (or more purposefully disturbing) with their words.

More Helpful Ways to Approach Your Teen

Pursue activities and experiences for your teen to develop their knowledge, interpersonal skills and problem solving abilities. Let your teen’s interest guide their behavior and give them freedom to choose activities that interest them. In order to help them focus on the things they can control, don’t tell them what they should be doing or thinking. Instead, ask them questions that help them focus on what they do that makes them feel good about themselves.

Finally, rather than engage in a power struggle with your teen by trying to assert control over them, have a collaborative conversation about rules and roles at home. Clarify what you expect from your teen as far as contributions at home and in relationship with other family members. Truly be open to your teen’s opinion and input about these topics, and consider their feedback when setting your rules. Many rules can be agreed upon together (such as fair chores to do at home). It is your job to enforce consequences and maintain clear expectations when adjusting to new practices at home.

It is absolutely vital for a teen who seems overly controlling to find ways to understand and address emotions of frustration, fear or stress. Find a therapist who specializes in helping teens understand and manage their emotions, communicate clearly and grow in healthy ways.

Do not let your teen develop negative habits that need to be unlearned. Now is the time help your teen stop the controlling behavior and feel more in control of themselves.

Download this article and get updates on the next live round of my online course for parents of teenagers, The Parent-Teen Guide.

Hey, Read Me Later (Download this article as a free .pdf – click here)

Posted in Teen Counseling | Comments Off on What to Do If Your Teen is Overly Controlling or Resistant to Rules