Dear John -
My five-year-old daughter and I have a combative relationship. A perfect metaphor is a battle we have about her hair. She wants to keep her hair long, and every morning, it dissolves into a big fight (a power play I believe). I have purchased de-tanglers, special brushes that don't pull etc. She cries when I brush it and won't let me braid it or put it in ponytails. I have tried the soft approach, by doing her hair in front of the mirror, so that she can see it being done. I see other girls with beautiful braids, ponytails etc. and long to be able to do that to my daughter's hair. She let's her grandmother and aunt do her hair, but not me. It makes me so mad that I want to cut it short. My mother and husband caution me against this as they believe it to be mean and spiteful. Now, she wants to do her hair by herself - possibly a good thing. I can take it and get it cut to a length that she can manage by herself and leave it at that. But, I'm going to feel resentful for not allowing me the joy of seeing her in braids, ponytails etc. She does this with clothes as well. I also think these issues are setting the tone of our entire relationship and fear that the power play will be the only relationship we have. I know it's up to me.....help!
This is probably just an "I can do it myself Mommy!" stage where she is trying to gain some independence and prove she can accomplish some basic daily hygiene on her own. I would back off for the time being and maybe support her in her efforts to do it on her own by getting some pretty hair things to encourage her. If she can't manage, she may start to give in and allow you the opportunity to help.
However, this is an argument that you can avoid having with her just by letting go a bit. It is up to you~ don't engage. It is not a battle worth fighting. If she was trying to go for dreadlocks or leaving the house naked, I would put my foot down then (obviously). Until that happens, give her the freedom to do things herself, even if they don't quite meet your standards at this stage. You might mention now and then, when things are good between you that you love doing her hair and would jump at the chance to help her if she will let you! She may soften if it is not a power struggle and she sees that you are offering as a mom who would relish the chance to help her daughter look pretty!
Ann Van De Water