As a parent, you begin with all the power over your new infant. Your job is to steadily transition that power over to him until he can handle all of it. You’re supposed to get that done by the time your child is 18, unless your child is handicapped in some way, and even then, unless you plan on caring for your child for the rest of his life, you still better try to get it done by the time he’s 18.
Power struggles result from a child wanting some new power that the parent doesn’t think they are ready to have yet. The parent is usually unwilling to give the child the power because they are afraid the child will get hurt. Your job as a parent is to immediately begin teaching the child whatever he will need to know to perform that function without suffering a major injury. Once you have taught your child what he needs to know to do that thing without hurting himself, you will feel comfortable enough to let him do it and there will be no power struggle.
Where parents usually make mistakes is in ignoring the importance of readiness for a task. If the child is asking to do something, the child himself feels perfectly capable of doing it. He’s ready to go. He wants to jump right in and get started. If you know in your heart that your child is simply NOT ready to do that thing, then begin teaching him immediately because he’s not going to stop wanting to do it. You can waste your time with arguing and fighting and crying and pouting and temper tantrums and yelling, or you can use the time to teach.
Ask yourself what you are afraid of. What bad thing do you think will happen if you let your kid start learning how to do what he’s asking? Ask what skills your child is missing and begin teaching him those skills. You won’t be saying, “no.” You will be saying, “yes, when …” As your child is preparing to do what he wants to do, there will be no power struggles because he will be able to see that you’re getting him ready to do it.
One of the things that prevents parents from boldly teaching their children independence is the fear that their child will get hurt. Guess what? No matter what you do, your child will get hurt. That’s the way the world works. Sometimes you get hurt. If you teach your child everything you know about not getting hurt, that’s the best you can do. Then you have to let them try it and no matter how well you taught them, sometimes they’ll get hurt.
Another thing that sometimes prevents parents from allowing their children more independence is the warm feeling they get knowing that their child needs them. As parents, they want to feel needed and if they do a lot of things for the children, then the parent feels valuable. Guess what? That’s all very fun and cute until the kid gets to be about 13 and won’t do a darn thing for himself. He won’t clean his room, he won’t do his schoolwork, he won’t take a shower, and he won’t do any chores, because he’ll still expect you to do all that good stuff for him. And, you know what else? He’ll feel like a totally worthless piece of garbage because he doesn’t know how to do anything for himself. Kids that are raised this way become suicidal, they drink and take drugs, they fail school, and they usually find something they can do other than schoolwork or chores, like perhaps stealing. If you want to feel needed by your child, it is important that to realize that your child ABSOLUTELY NEEDS YOU to teach him how to be an independent adult. If you don’t do it, someone else might. Or, maybe no one will.