I’ll never forget the day a four-year-old nanny charge told me I wasn’t doing my job right. Like most adults, my natural inclination was to respond with something like, “I was doing my job right before you were walking!” but fortunately, I resisted. Most children go through an incredibly bossy phase in preschool, and normally sane adults can be driven to the brink by it. But getting into a power struggle with your child is always a bad idea, and there are much better ways to deal with a child’s bossiness.
Bear in mind that bossiness is typically a normal part of development. Preschoolers are notorious for their bossiness, but children of any age can go through a bossy stage when they’re learning more about how to control the world around them and asserting their independence. In short, bossiness is a sign of developing intellect, emerging independence, and increasing competence, so though it may be annoying, a bossy child is a child who’s learning and growing.
Of course, children can’t run the world of their parents and caregivers, so it’s important to know how to deal with bossiness without either stifling a child’s independence or allowing a child to bully the entire house. Here’s what to do about your bossy child:
Validate Your Child’s Needs
Children tend to become bossy when they’re feeling insecure, so it’s important to take bossiness in context. A child who is struggling with homework or fighting with a sibling is more likely to start bossing other people around. Don’t reward the bossiness, but listen to the need behind the bossiness.
Don’t Reward Bossiness
It is a simple truism of parenting that rewarding bad behavior yields more behavior. Don’t give into your child’s bossiness simply for the sake of convenience. Instead, encourage her to talk about things in a kinder way. Tell her you know she wants something and ask her if she can think of a nicer way to say it.
Encourage Good Leadership
Older siblings often become bossy with younger siblings as a way of asserting authority and sometimes even in an attempt to help the younger sibling learn something. Talk to your child about being a good leader. Explain to him that the best older siblings are kind to their younger siblings, and that good bosses aren’t necessarily mean or bossy. You should also model this behavior to your child, by speaking to him respectfully rather than an authoritarian manner. Children often mimic their parents, so if you’ve got a bossy child on your hands he may be imitating your parenting style!
Act Out Good Behavior
Children often learn through playing, and one way to teach a child to ask for things in a kinder, gentler way is to encourage your child to do it with her toys. Act out scenes that happen in your house with toys and encourage your child to think about how someone might feel when they’re being bossed around.
It can be difficult to completely eliminate bossiness, but with a bit of patience your child will soon be out of this stage. Remembering that your bossy child is an emerging leader who wants to help and participate can be helpful in getting through the often very trying stage of bossiness!