clip (one's) wings
To restrict one's freedom, power, or full potential. A reference to the practice of clipping a bird's wings to prevent it from flying. The kids need to be able to explore the world around them—don't clip their wings. The boss is always trying to clip my wings and micro-manage me.
clip someone's wings
Fig. to restrain someone; to reduce or put an end to someone's privileges. (Alludes to clipping a bird's wings to keep it from flying away.) You had better learn to get home on time, or I will clip your wings. My mother clipped my wings. I can't go out tonight.
clip someone's wings, to
To deflate a conceited person. Although at first glance this phrase might seem to have a military origin (from demoting an officer whose rank is indicated by wings), the metaphor actually comes from birds— specifically, the practice of clipping the wings of domestic fowl so they cannot fly away—and dates from ancient Roman times. “Away to prison with him, I’ll clippe his winges,” wrote Christopher Marlowe (The Massacre at Paris, 1590, 3.2).
See also: clip