Madonna's Teenager Troubles: When Rebels Become Strict Parents

Beth Greenfield
Senior Editor

She’s one of the most famous and successful women in the world — but even Madonna is facing mama troubles when it comes to taming her teens. Her two oldest kids, Rocco, 15, and Lourdes, 19, have reportedly had enough of her “controlling” tactics — Rocco (pictured above with mom) to the point of becoming the subject of a custody battle between his mom and his dad, British filmmaker Guy Ritchie.

After the boy refused his mother’s request that he return from dad’s London home to New York City for the holidays, Madonna went to a justice of the N.Y. Supreme Court’s civil branch, who ruled that Rocco must be back in NYC in time to start school this week. But so far, he’s refused, telling a friend “I’m staying here, bro,” via Instagram, from which the teen has blocked his famous mom as of Monday. A hearing on Rocco’s future is scheduled for Feb. 3, and Ritchie has reportedly hired a lawyer in preparation.

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Under the terms of the 2008 divorce between Madonna and Ritchie, Rocco, along with his younger brother, David, now 10, were to live in NYC with mom. (Madonna also has another daughter, Mercy James, 9.)

“The 4 corners of my #rebelheart,” Madonna captioned this collection of photos of her four kids during her recent tour. (Photo: Instagram)

Rocco’s most recent issues with his mother have allegedly been that she has over-shared photos of him on social media, that she’s treated him more like a “trophy” than a son while he worked backstage on her recent tour (during which they suffered through a series of screaming fights), and that she is simply “too controlling” and tries to “micromanage” their lives, an unnamed source told the New York Post. While Lourdes, currently attending college at her mom’s brief alma mater, the University of Michigan, appears to be more able to get along with her mom, she’s both distanced herself and given Madonna her fair share of angst by partying and refusing to stop smoking.

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“Lourdes isn’t as immersed in Madonna’s touring as Rocco. She draws the line at keeping her own space and sanity,” Matthew Rettenmund, author of the Madge anthology “Encyclopedia Madonnica 20,” told the New York Post. “Rocco is in the process of figuring out how to do that.”

David and Lourdes. (Photo: Instagram)

In the meantime, and as the older ones were growing up, Madonna’s children have had to follow the superstar’s macrobiotic diet, with sweets, dairy, salt, and preservatives being banned. TV is also not allowed, and if clothes are left on the floor, they are taken away. Lourdes reportedly got an iPhone only after she turned 15.

All that heavy-handedness can look pretty hypocritical both to the public, which likely views Madonna as a rebel on all fronts, and to her children, who can easily research what their mom — who dropped out of college at 19 to move to NYC to begin clubbing and ruling the world — was doing in her own teen years. 

But according to teen and adolescent clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, “Madonna is someone who has been very in control of her life, and she may not have been the rebel, as a teen, that we suspect she was. It’s possible we’re making the wrong assumptions about her. She really was very goal-oriented and probably wants the same for her kids.”

“Merry X-mas to the Sun-shine of my life!” Madonna captioned this older photo of herself and Rocco recently. (Photo: Instagram)

Still, Greenberg tells Yahoo Parenting, it’s not uncommon for moms with histories of acting out — famous or not — to become very strict in parenthood. “That’s because they know what they did, and how close they came to making some very bad decisions, and they don’t want their kids to repeat that,” she says. “Maybe Madonna is just more aware of what can happen. So I wouldn’t call her a hypocrite, I would call her older and wiser.”

Biographer Lucy O’Brien told the New York Post that the pop star took on the old-school parenting values of her mother, who died of breast cancer when Madonna was 5. “The provocative persona she projects is incredibly controlled,” said O’Brien, “and the way she disciplines her kids is an extension of that. Her mother was an austere Catholic. That heavy-duty Catholicism is about being disciplined almost to the point of self-punishment.”

For parents, Madonna included, who might have their past selves judged by their teen kids and held up as examples of current hypocrisies, Greenberg has some advice. “You can tell your kids, ‘Listen, I made some bad decisions, but without the knowledge I have now. I want things to go better for you, and that’s based on my knowledge now, not on bad decisions I made then,’” she says. “Because of Madonna’s image, her kids are just going to see her as a rebel. But it’s still her job as a parent to keep them safe.”  

(Top photo: Instagram)

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