A Form of Security
All rules are limits (“You can't,” “You must”), but not all limits are rules (“You only have so much money saved to spend”). Come adolescence, if not before, children often protest rules and the demands and restraints they impose. “You're too strict! You're overprotective!”
To make matters worse, many situational rules apply double standards. As parents, you are exempt from many of the rules you make. So your child complains, “How come I have to have a bedtime and you don't? It's not fair!” Rules and those who make the rules are often resented.
On the other hand, rules create a predictable structure to live within, and that causes the child to feel secure. “I may not like all their rules, but at least I know what my parents expect of me.” Having parents in charge of making rules lifts a lot of the burden of decision-making off the child. “I can't because my parents won't let me” is not just a complaint; it is often a relief. The child thinks, “That's one decision I don't have to figure out.”
Extreme obedience to parents can encourage a child to be too dependent on her parents. Because independent children are often less compliant, the price to pay for having independent children may be more resistance to parents at home.
Parents who are unstructured, inconsistent, or extremely permissive can give a child too many choices too early. For example, without sufficient rules to follow, an energetic four-year-old can become frantic with freedom, pushing his parents to exhaustion until, for their own sake and the child's, they finally impose a firm and reliable schedule. The predictability of the stricter system allows the child to settle down.
To feel in control, your child needs to have sufficient parental controls (demands and limits) on which to depend. High-energy children who have a hard time paying attention, slowing down, and keeping still tend to need more structure from rules than more attentive children with less restless energy to manage.