Parenting Solutions: Bossy (page 3)

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

Step 3. Develop Habits for Change

  • Teach nondictatorial strategies. Bossy kids don't stop to ponder what the other kid may want. So here are a few strategies to help your child learn to consider the other kid's desires. Choose one or two strategies to teach your child. Plan to practice the strategy at home several times until she is comfortable using it with peers.
  • Use decision breakers. These are great when two kids can't decide what rules to play by, who gets to choose what to do, or even who goes first. Drawing straws, picking a number, tossing a coin, and playing Rock, Paper, Scissors are oldies but goodies that help make things fairer.
  • Use "Grandma's Rule." The rule is simple and works like a charm to makes things fairer: "If you cut the cake, the other person decides which piece to take." The rule can apply to lots of things. For example: if you choose the game, the other person gets to go first; if you pour the lemonade, the other person chooses his glass first.
  • Set a timer. Teach younger kids to agree on a set amount of time—usually only a few minutes—for using an item. Oven timers, egg timers, or sand timers are great devices for younger kids to use. Older kids can use the minute hands on their watches or stopwatches. When the time is up, the item is passed on.
  • Compromise. Describe what it means to your older kid: "When you compromise, it means you're willing to give up a little of what you want, and the other person is too. It's a less bossy way to solve a problem because each person can have at least part of what she wants." She should understand that each person always has the opportunity to present her side, and when she does, she should be listened to. That way everyone tends to feel more satisfied. Then look for opportunities to practice compromising in real situations.
  • Negotiate. Show your older child how to work out the shared use of the family computer so that everyone's interests and goals are met in a timely manner. "Let's work together to make a schedule that's fair for all of us and lets everyone get what she needs. That's what it means to negotiate."
  • Reinforce cooperation. Change isn't always easy. Do acknowledge your child's efforts to be more agreeable and be sure to tell her exactly what you appreciate so she'll do it again. "I saw how you waited to hear your friend's idea. You didn't interrupt that time, and Alan appreciated getting all his words out." "I noticed how you asked Juan what game he wanted to play. That was thoughtful and considerate."
One Parent's Answer  

A dad from Toronto writes:

Lectures and time-outs didn't do a thing to temper our son's bossiness. We realized that the only way to change his bad habits was through practice, so my wife and I mandated fifteen-minute evening family meetings. All family members—young and old—must have a chance to be respectfully listened to, and all ideas had equal weight. It took a while, but after a few weeks we saw a change: Justin was realizing he couldn't rule the roost and was actually learning to listen and think about others.

What To Expect By Stages And Ages

Preschooler   This is the developmental stage when kids feel that the world revolves around them, so "Me," "I want," and "My turn" are staples of their vocabulary. Their cognitive capacity limits their ability to realize that their bossy actions appear rude or hurtful, so be gentle; it's best not to discipline them for their bossiness but instead to show them what to do. By age five they gain a bit more introspection and are less focused on control, so you can begin to encourage them to consider the feelings of others.

School Age   At this age, children begin to recognize that bossiness has negative consequences: other kids don't appreciate being told what to do. Bossy kids are likely to be rejected by peers. Organized sports becomes a big part of daily schedules, and kids discover that their teammates don't want to be bossed by another player—regardless of her athletic abilities.

Tween   By now kids have spent a good deal of time receiving instructions, directions, and orders from adults and may express their resentment by bossing you. Don't allow it; expect to be treated with respect. Extraordinarily sensitive to being bossed by peers or siblings, tweens' favorite retort is "You're not the boss of me."13 Those peers described as "cooperative, sharing, and caring" are more popular as well as happier in their peer relationships.14 Bossy girls (unless they're the Queen Bee) are likely to be dropped by the clique.

Pay Attention to This!

Bossy Children Are Unpopular and More Likely to Be Rejected

University of Illinois-Urbana: If you're in need of a compelling reason to change your child's bossy ways, here it is: studies find that one of the five reasons kids are most likely to be rejected by peers is that they are bossy and domineering.11 Kids just don't like it when peers aren't cooperative, helpful, or considerate of others. So by eliminating your kid's bossiness, you increase your child's chances for social success and happiness.

More Helpful Advice

Parenting the Strong-Willed Child, by Rex Foreland and Nicholas Long

Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Five "Difficult" Types of Children, by Stanley I. Greenspan and Jacqueline Salmon

Books on Bossiness for Younger Kids

Bartholomew the Bossy, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Norman Chartier

Franklin Is Bossy (Franklin Series), by Paulette Bourgeois

Little Miss Bossy (Mr. Men and Little Miss), by Roger Hargreaves

Bossy Anna (Silver Blades Figure Eights, No. 4), by Effin Older


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