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Power Struggles with Teens: How Parents Get Trapped

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Power Struggles Battle for Control

When you're in a power struggle with your teenager, do you always win? Our expert parenting authors Marney Studaker-Cordner and Kimberly Abraham warn that tug of wars give you rope burns. In today's excerpt from their book, The Whipped Parent, they explain the power dance. Do you recognize it?

The Power Dance

Adolescents are notorious for engaging parents in a power dance. You may be minding your own business, enjoying a rare peaceful moment, and your son walks in. He's bored, spiteful, or in the mood to feel powerful.

He plops down next to you and says casually, "I'm going to get my tongue pierced next week." (Translation: Would you like to dance?)

You look up, dismayed and fearful, thinking of how you'll explain this to friends and family. You reply, "Oh, no, you're not." (Translation: Sure, I'll dance with you.)

Your son cocks his head, physically puffs up, and says confidently, "Oh, yes, I am. I already saved the money." (Translation: Isn't this fun? I'm not bored anymore.)

The dance is in full swing now, as your son leads you across the floor, stepping on your toes all the way. Your face gets hot, and adrenalin pumps as you reply angrily, "Well, you're under eighteen, and I am NOT signing the permission slip. Besides, don't you know how dangerous that can be? Do you want to look like a freak?"

The two of you continue in the power dance until someone either get tired and gives up, gets angry and stomps off, or the situation escalates. More explosive subjects get brought up, things snowball and may even get violent.

A power struggle begins with a battle for control. It comes from the need to have the upper hand, the final say or to be the one who is right.

A difference in opinion can come down to,

"I'm right and you're wrong. There's only one way to do things in this situation, and it's my way"

Power struggles can be very destructive. If (your) Jack is spending all of his time trying to gain control, he won't learn how to think his actions through. He'll be too busy trying to win a tug of war. A parent can waste valuable time and emotional energy trying to hang on to that upper hand. (From pages 97-98)


The authors gave us valuable insight but what can a parent do? In the next section of their valuable book they share several ways to avoid the power dance. You'll smile as you see how simple and sensible their advice is.

Pick up The Whipped Parent: Hope for Parents Raising an Out-of-Control Teen

The Whipped Parent
Available at Amazon.com

Let 's HONOR Marney Studaker-Cordner, MSW, CSW and Kimberly Abraham, MSW, CSW for sharing their knowledge and social work experience with difficult teenagers. Their wisdom is a guiding light for all of us.

Authors Marney and Kim
Kimberly Abraham & Marney Studaker-Cordner


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With warm wishes,

Jean Tracy, MSS

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