Who wears the trousers in your house?
When your toddler or pre-schooler tells you to get her a snack now
you’ll probably be tempted to laugh. You might even watch fondly as she shows her little brother or sister the ‘right’ way to do things, thinking what a great teacher she is. Perhaps you find yourself thinking that it’s just a little bit of personality coming through - and it’s true to say that it’s natural in a child this age. After all she’s getting to the stage where she’s had enough of other people telling her what to do and she wants some control herself.
Five years down the line you could be stuck with a tween who’s been getting her own way for so long that you’re no longer in control of her behaviour. That scenario simply won’t work, because your child doesn’t have the wisdom or experience to take charge. Plus, there’s a danger that bossiness could affect your child’s friendships – after all, what child is going to want to spend time with a friend who keeps telling them what they can and can’t do? – and develop into bullying. So what steps can you take to stay on top of things?
Tips to tone down bossiness
• Pay less attention. Young children love playing to an audience, so don’t encourage her by laughing at her. Even negative attention is still attention, so don’t tell her off either.
• Don’t follow orders, If your child is making demands, don’t do what she says just for a quiet life – tell her to make her requests in an appropriate manner.
• Supervise playdates to make sure your child isn’t laying down the law to her friends. If she is being bossy, take her aside to tell her (don’t embarrass her by telling her off in front of her friends). Alternatively, work out a signal you can use, such as tapping her on the shoulder.
• Get her to ease off helping her younger siblings, especially if you notice them becoming more passive because they’re getting so used to her taking over. Tell her that they need to do things for themselves in order to learn.
• Limit competition. If your child’s bossiness is a real issue, try to avoid letting her play competitive games and sports.
• Teach her how to ask nicely for what she wants. Demanding things can be a hard habit to break, so practise phrases your child can use to ask for things politely.
• Defuse power struggles by offering your child as many choices as you can – that way when she opts for one of them she’ll feel she had a say in the matter instead of feeling that you’re bossing her about.
• Think about the way you ask for things – you’re your child’s first teacher and it’s possible that her bossiness could reflect the way that you relate to her. Even though you’re in charge it pays to be polite to your child so she’ll use her manners when she deals with her friends – and with you.
A bossy child is usually an assertive one, and assertiveness can be an asset as your child grows. Help her polish her communication skills and see all points of view, and that bossiness could turn into solid leadership skills…