Ya know, I had a ton of trouble with tension when I first started knitting, but I can't figure out how the problem got fixed. Right now I loop the yarn around my pinky, under the ring and middle finger, and then it goes over my index finger (I think... I'm at work and don't have any knitting with me). When I first started I didn't wrap around the pinky - that sort of a new thing. I think that the majority of my tension is controlled by my index finger - how close it is to the knitting, and the length of the yarn before it hits my index finger. I think that when I first starting to continental the only tension I had was by looping the yarn over my index finger.
One thing that helps me is that I have make sure that the yarn either coming out of the skein very very loosely, or make sure that I have a lot of slack - if there's additional tension pulling the yarn out of the ball then it messes me up.
Anyways, sorry I don't have a better solution for you, but I can definitley sympathize, and I do think it will get better with practice. I think I would recommend that you keep struggling with the finger only method unless you think you'll always be able to involve your feet in the knitting (might not be so feasible in a waiting room or airport).