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Controlling Confrontation: Identifying Parental Buttons & The Role Of Family Therapy

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To many parents, it is no secret that teenagers are adept managers of confrontation.

You have come up with the perfect consequences and exactly what you are going to say to get your teenager to follow the rules of the house, only to have the conversation explode with no resolution. In this blog post we will discuss how parents can control confrentation and how family therapy can help to develope the tools to healthier confrentation.

Confrentation Approach & Controling Emotions

Due to teenagers having different goals for a confrontation, they often can take control of the mood and direction it takes. A parent typically approaches confrontation with a long term goal in mind while an adolescent often cannot think beyond the present moment. With a focus on the present moment, the teenager is willing to steer the confrontation in a direction where the parent loses emotional control and therefore is unable to enforce rules effectively.

It is important to note that teenagers do not do this to be manipulative or bad. Everyone

has the potential to be resistant to change, even positive change. Change is unknown territory; there is comfort in the status quo. Family therapy is a valuable resource that can provide insights into understanding the dynamics of these confrontations.

Buttons That Are Pushed

& How to Navigate

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In order for parents to effectively enforce rules and consequences, they must be able to control their emotions during confrontation. Family therapy can provide a safe setting to explore these emotions and find tools to help navigate them. Below is a list of common “buttons” teenagers push in order to unbalance parents during confrontation. Alternative ways of dealing with these buttons will be discussed in a future post.

Parental Buttons:

1. “You never let me do anything!”: In order to distract from the issue of discussion, a

teenager may throw out this line. If the argument becomes about what you have or have

not allowed them to do you are no longer enforcing a rule.

2. “You do not love me!”: This line is used to induce guilt in the parent. It wrongly frames

setting consequences and enforcing rules as an unloving act. In reality setting

consequences and boundaries for children helps create a sense of safety. Studies show

children feel more free to branch out and explore when their play area has a fence than

when it has no boundary. It is the same with boundaries and rules at home.

3. “I hate you! or You are a terrible parent!”: By attacking the character of the parent, the

teenager can get the parent to lose their temper and lose the ability to enforce rules.

4. “You are not my real mom/dad!”: This is often used with step-parents and has nothing to

do with not being a biological parent. It is often another way to push a parent’s buttons to

distract from the issue being discussed.

5. Body Language: Teenagers often use tone of voice, gestures, and body language to

control the direction of a confrontation.

6. Using vulnerability: A difficult teenager may use a parent’s most vulnerable points to

control a confrontation. For example, a child born through IVF may use not knowing who

their dad is to throw a parent off. Again, this is not because they are mean or truly

believe what they say; it is a tactic for controlling the situation.

7. Threatening harm to self or others: Often as a last resort, a teenager may threaten to

harm themselves or someone else to avoid rules and consequences.

8. Lying: It is not uncommon for a teenager to lie about something inconsequential.

Because this is frustrating to most parents, lying is often used to change the direction of

a confrontation.

9. “I hate school!”: Failing out of school is less concerning for a present focused teenager

than a future focused parent. For this reason a parent may find themselves lecturing

about the importance of education instead of enforcing a rule.

10. Threatening to run away: Similar to threatening harm, teenagers sometimes threaten to

run away in order to get parents to back off of an issue.

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The Role Of Family Therapy

Family therapy plays a pivotal role in addressing the complex dynamics of confrontations between parents and teenagers. It offers a structured and supportive environment where both parties can openly express their thoughts and feelings, fostering better understanding. Through guided discussions and interventions, family therapists help parents recognize their emotional triggers and develop strategies to respond calmly and effectively to their teenager's behaviors.

Additionally, therapists assist teenagers in articulating their concerns while encouraging them to consider the long-term implications of their actions. By promoting healthy communication and providing tools to navigate conflicts, family therapy empowers families to establish stronger connections and navigate the challenges of adolescence more harmoniously.

Identifying your parental buttons is the first step to effectively enforcing rules and

consequences. If you are unaware of the phrases that decrease your self control, you will find it difficult to stay on topic and enforce a rule. For this reason, many parents find it helpful to speak with a counselor experienced in family therapy to help identify their buttons and find alternative ways to react to them.

References-(Sells, S. P. (1998). Treating the Tough Adolescent: A Family-Based, Step-by-Step Guide. The Guilford Press.

Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Specializing in Teen Therapy & Young Adult Counseling Katy, TX & Houston

If you're finding yourself caught in the whirlwind of confrontations with your teenager, it's time to take a proactive step toward harmony and effective communication within your family. Embracing family therapy can provide you with the tools you need to navigate these challenging situations.

We also have our Sugar Land location. Sugar Land Teen & Family Counseling is located in Sugar Land, TX, we specialize in family counseling. We are conveniently located off of US 90 and Dairy Ashford Road.

At our Katy, TX location, we have 70+ years of combined experience. If you are ready to meet with one of our teen therapists, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:

  1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling

  2. Talk with one of our caring therapists

  3. Begin the healing process today!

Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling

At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:

Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy

Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)

Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)

Group Therapy for Teens

Body Image

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling

Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling can be very effective. The secret ingredient to success is each person willing to look at themselves and work to do things differently, together. When a marriage counselor or couples therapist has this to work with, the success rate can be very high.

Sometimes life will throw challenges at us that create situations that put strain on our marriage or relationship. It may be due to:

Choices and actions that have been made by one partner.

  • Financial downturn in the economy creating financial strain.

  • Feeling like you're growing apart.

  • Feeling like you don't have as much in common as you used to.

Whatever the reason may be, marriage counseling and couples therapy can help. Couples therapy and marriage counseling has also been found to work in less time than individual therapy.

If you've worked hard for this relationship and find that there are now barriers in the way of maintaining a healthy relationship, contact us at Katy Teen & Family Counseling.

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