For three and four-year-olds, bossiness is not unusual; it’s not necessarily a sign that your child is on his way to becoming a bully. Children that young are always pushing the limits and are very egocentric.
Whether your child is going through a phase or seems to be developing a bossy attitude as he grows up, parenting experts suggest that the first step for you to take in helping your bossy child learn to get along with others is understanding why he is behaving this way.
Is he mimicking what he sees around him? Children imitate what they see adults doing. If your child is the recipient of bossiness from mom, dad or other caregivers, it’s no surprise that he is bossy too. Children reflect our bad habits. Are you in the habit of ordering your children around? If so, change the way you talk to them.
Is he insecure? Todd Sarner, licensed psychotherapist and Director of Transformative Parenting, believes that most bossiness in children comes from insecurity. “When you understand that bossiness comes from insecurity and not from confidence or rudeness or a strong-will, you can begin to see the solution lies in addressing this underlying insecurity, says Sarner. “The more important goal here is to see the bossiness as a symptom of insecurity and to first address this underlying problem.”
I’m no licensed psychotherapist, but I am a licensed mom, and I do not totally agree with Sarner. I think that insecurity could be one of the reasons for bossiness in kids, not the only reason. Nevertheless, it is worth asking yourself, Is my child’s bossiness a cover-up for insecurities or low self-esteem?
Is he being picked on? If your child is constantly being pushed around by others, she may just be trying to push back.
Is she being drowned out? Perhaps your child’s ideas, feelings, and needs are often ignored, and being bossy is her way of getting attention.
Is he being encouraged in his bossiness? It may be that someone is reinforcing the bossiness by telling your child he is such a confident child, or a good little leader. This is a tricky situation because you, as a parent don’t want to stifle natural-born leadership. However, good leaders are not bossy, so whether or not your child is a natural-born leader is not the issue; the issue is how he treats others, and bossiness is not a good relational habit to form early in life.
Is he pleading for power? Maybe his bossiness stems from feeling powerless as the youngest, as the low one on the totem pole.
Does she feel the need to take charge? Sometimes kids take leadership because no one else will step up to give direction.
Does he just need to grow up? Many young kids don’t know how to get their opinions across in a friendly manner. As little ones, they are still very me-centered. This self-absorption can only change as you teach, guide and model for them. However, be forewarned, self-absorption comes raging back at puberty!
Next month, in my LTPP post, I will address how you can help your bossy child become less bossy. Until then, if you are parenting a bossy child, take some time to ask yourself why.