This article provides insights into the lived ambivalence, between support and control that arises in care work. It does so through an analysis of the spatialised entanglements of emotions, age and formal position in intergenerational encounters at a residence for young people suffering from social and mental distress. By identifying the dominant norms associated with the roles of ‘resident’ and ‘professional in the social space of the residence’, Warming explores what may, drawing on Haraway, be termed popular, oppositional and inappropriate practices and the emotions and power relations linked to them. The analysis reveals how the three types of practices – all framed by neoliberal youth policies and psy-knowledge about age, (ab)normal personalities and ‘professionalism’ as spatialised in the institutional organisation of work and the physical space as well as rules, norms, and routines - represent very diverse ways of navigating. Moreover it demonstrates, how ‘messing with other people's emotions' and trying to change their behavior is regarded as manipulation if it challenges norms or power relations rooted in spatially anchored perceptions of appropriate practices, but as empowerment if it chimes with norms that correspond to the roles and intersecting binary constructions of childish/young/insane client – adult professional.