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Parenting Solutions: Bossy

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 31, 2010

The Problem

Red Flags

Tells everyone what to do in a dictatorial and inconsiderate manner, is overly controlling, doesn't listen or consider friends' needs or desires

The Change to Parent For

Your child learns habits that temper her bossy streak, help her consider the needs of others, and channel her pushiness into effective leadership.

Question: "I hate to admit it, but our daughter is so bossy. She dictates orders to her friends and wants everything to go her way. If she doesn't temper her "overly assertive spirit" now, she's going to end up with no friends at all. She's always been controlling, so how do you change a kid like this so she will be more accepted by the human race?"

Answer: Although you certainly can't change your daughter's core temperament, you can temper her bossy streak and teach habits that will help her consider the feelings of others. A simple way to help jump-start that change is to insist that she always ask permission before imposing her agenda on others. For instance: "I'm going to play Chutes and Ladders. Do you mind?" or "I want to sit in the front seat. Is that okay?" Teaching that one little skill just may help her realize she has to stop and think about what others may want instead of always bulldozing ahead with her own agenda.

Why Change?

Bossy kids appoint themselves to be the ones in charge. They set the rules, choose the activities, and decide the game plan. And very rarely do they bother listening to their peers' or siblings' thoughts or concerns. Although their dictatorial skills may someday be the makings of a strong leader and CEO, right now these kids' bossy ways are usually highly unappreciated by peers.

Although you certainly won't want to stifle your child's self-confidence or willingness to take charge and assume responsibilities, you will want to help change a dictatorial, domineering attitude so that your child is more considerate of others' needs and more respectful of their feelings and wishes. Doing so certainly will boost your child's "likeability quotient" and social success. There are definite ways to parent for this type of change. You may see your child as a born leader, and she may indeed be the kind of kid who likes to take charge, assume responsibilities, and get things done. But remember, a true leader considers others' needs, hears where they are coming from, and has a positive goal that can benefit everyone, not just herself.

Late-Breaking News

University of California, Berkeley: Research by pediatrician W. Thomas Boyce found that bossier preschool kids tend to be healthier.12 In fact, less dominant preschoolers at the lower end of the pecking order were found to have more health problems and to respond to stress with higher heart rates and a greater output of stress hormones than their bossier counterparts. Boyce drew these conclusions through observing and videotaping sixty-nine mostly middle-class preschoolers in eight five-week periods. So keep those findings in mind. Your little dictator is more than likely to have a biological tendency to dominate, and that trait may help her stay healthier and handle stress throughout life. Meanwhile, continue to temper that too-pushy spirit when it comes to relationships, so that your child is also happier.

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