If we do not empower strong willed children to their own autonomy and freedom, they will find something to push against and will likely and eventually push away from the parent.
They will fight for their freedom and autonomy if we do not grant it. Good for them! 💪 They will build a case against the parent so they can justify disregarding the parent and then separate from him/her.
If it’s not granted, the child’s freedom will have to be hard won. There is an energy that will build over time inside the child that will eventually propel them to finally escape your grasp.
It usually comes as a shock to a parent when it becomes clear that the child no longer trusts them or is interested in listening to them. But this energy, this escape velocity from the controlling gravitational pull of the parent had been building over time.
Coming back into the parent’s orbit of communication and influence after this, will not be something this child feels safe doing and it will create conflict when the parent tries to pull him back. The child will eventually get his freedom, but at a cost. The relationship will suffer. If the freedom he desired was such a struggle to achieve, rather than being granted, trust will be low, and rightfully so.
Another way this plays out is this: A parent could be particularly good at maintaining emotional control over the child and could break the spirit of the strong willed child. This child never really gets his freedom and eventually succumbs to orienting toward the needs and desires of others.
But this comes at a cost too. The relationship is close, but too close, codependent even. Even if physically separated, a grown child can remain in a emotional orbit around the parent (or other authorities), scared to fully express him/herself and take up space and live authentically.
For this child, confidence and self worth are low, and rightfully so. She doesn’t really know herself or how to believe in herself, because he was not taught how to. She was taught the opposite: consider others first and foremost.
I can’t imagine any parent choosing either of these situations, yet it happens all the time. Empowerment is a central piece of parenting. This must be a constant part of parenting: from toddlerhood to teenage years and beyond. It must be our goal in my opinion. After all, our children are going to grow up. What do we want to equip them with as they mature?
Here is your warning: The number one thing getting in the way of parent’s being able to skillfully and appropriately grant freedom is a desire for control. This comes from one’s own anxiety and fear, from the ego. We have to be willing to see the long term effects of our actions. We have to act in accordance of the best interests of our children. Ego has to take a backseat. We must be willing to acknowledge this and work through our fears and conditioning so we can show up in the best way for our kids.
Here is the upside. It can be done. It can be done skillfully and it can yield amazing results. Instead of power struggles, anxiety and arguing, can you imagine empowered children taking responsibility for themselves and chipping in to help the family too. It is possible. But it will never happen if control is the goal.