Practical Guide to Bossy Kids: How to Handle It at Any Age

Published July 16, 2021
cute girl gesturing seriously toward you

Raising bossy kids can be a tall order, for even the most patient parents. Knowing how to manage kids with strong personalities and even stronger ideas and demands will help keep their bossiness at bay and keep your fraying nerves intact.

Why Do Kids Get Bossy?

Kids develop aspects of their being, both good and bad, for all sorts of reasons. The trait of bossiness emerging in children can often be narrowed down to a few common culprits.

  • Insecurity - People often think of bossy children as overly confident, but they are actually masking their insecurities with bossy behaviors.
  • A need for control over self and environment
  • A need for structure and rule-following

How to Effectively Handle Bossy Kids

Managing bossy behaviors isn't likely to be a quick fix. Like any behavior modification, changing these ways might take some time. Dig your heels in, work with your child on their bossiness, and do your best to help them retain their fiery fierceness while extinguishing their need to put everyone in their place 24-7.

Ask, Don't Demand

Get into the habit of asking, not demanding, and your kids may follow suit. Rephrase demands and help your kids rephrase theirs.

  • Instead of saying, "Go clean your room." Say, "Can you please tidy up your room?"
  • Instead of saying, "Put your shoes on." Say, "Would you please put your shoes on?"

Offer the Power of Control Through Choice

One of the primary reasons kids develop bossy tendencies is a desire to control the people in their lives and surroundings. You can give kids some level of control in their lives by offering choices to them. Offer kids two options for dinner or two activities to do during creative playtime. Going outside? Ask your children to choose either a bike ride or a scooter ride. They will feel a sense of power in which item they select, and you are not really giving up what you want as the parent, since the choices you give are ones you can easily live with.

Don't Give the Behavior Power

When your kid holds court and turns on the tiny dictator switch, pay his 'tude no attention. Kids are more likely to increase a behavior when given attention, both positive and negative. Furthermore, don't give in to your kid's constant bossy demands to keep some semblance of peace in the home. Only choose to respond when their demands are formatted appropriately.

Limit Competitiveness

If you have a bossy kid who has to control every aspect of a game and loses his mind when things don't turn out as they planned; it's a good idea to limit competitive games and sports.

Get Everyone in Your Kid's Life Involved on Bossiness Lookout

If you think your kid's bossy tendencies are occurring in realms outside of the home, ask for input from teachers, other parents, and coaches. Are they seeing what you are seeing? Express your concerns with them, and if everyone notices your child displaying bossy behaviors, get everyone on the same page regarding intervention strategies and communication.

Help Develop Empathy

When your kids are bossy to their friends, take them aside and talk to them. Help them understand empathy, how their actions make their friends feel, and what they could do differently. See if you can help bossy kids step into the shoes of those they are trying to control and try to turn the tables. Would they like it if friends were speaking to them in an unkind and rude tone, making constant demands of them?

Teach and Model Politeness

Bossy kids come across as rude, and no parent wants this for their child. Teach your kids politeness and make sure that you model the mentality yourself. If you are polite, you will foster the same behavior in your kids. Look at how you speak to others. Do you bark orders or do you politely ask things of others? Is your tone aggressive and assertive, or do you speak in a manner where people want to do what you ask of them?

Praise Correct Behaviors

When you notice your kid asking instead of telling, or using someone else's suggestion rather than imposing their own will onto others, praise them. Let them know that you noticed their efforts and be specific with your verbal praise. Kids need to know the exact behavior that they performed for which they are receiving praise.

Bossy Versus Leadership Qualities

Sometimes, it seems like there is a very fine line between bossy kids and kids who are bound to be natural-born leaders. Determining if your child is a bossy babe in need of an attitude adjustment or a budding boss with a bright future in leadership skills can be tricky, but look for these differences.

  • Bossy kids lack empathy. Natural-born leaders recognize when others are upset, and they adjust their behavior accordingly.
  • Leaders respect limits. Bossy kids keep on pushing no matter what.
  • Leaders are fair and honest. Overly bossy kids might lie to win or get their way.
  • As natural-born leaders grow up and mature, they develop critical listening skills.
  • Leaders don't take advantage of others; and they never prey on those who are mentally or emotionally weaker.
  • Older children who are leaders recognize that they are not the only ones with brilliant ideas.

Bossiness is a Behavior, and Behaviors Can Be Changed

Parents of bossy kids are notorious for uttering the words, "Well, that is just how he is. Bossiness is part of his personality." The tendency for bossiness in children is a behavior, and behaviors can be altered. If you have a bossy child, don't write off their bossiness as something that is ingrained in their DNA. Utilize the advice given above to effectively change their bossy behavior and help your child grow into the best version of themselves.

Practical Guide to Bossy Kids: How to Handle It at Any Age