Many of us are dealing with a “bossy” child. They’re the ones who want to be in charge. They tell their friends and siblings when, what and how to play. They can be disrespectful to their teachers and their parents.

The good:

Being bossy isn’t all bad. Our goal as parents is to teach our children enough life skills so that they can manage one day on their own and be productive members of society. The “bossy” child already has a strong dose of the independence they need to make it on their own. Part of our parenting job is already done!

Instead of the word “bossy” try using more positive terms. They are assertive; they show leadership qualities, or they are a “take charge” kind of person.

Changing a negative label to a positive one is powerful. It helps us alter the way we handle our child and redefines our goals. Instead of expending all our energy in preventing our child from being bossy we can focus on helping our kids use these qualities in productive ways. We can teach them how to be a leader who is kind to others, how to take charge while treating others with respect how to be assertive and stand their ground politely.

To help our “bossy” children reach their full potential, we need to help them balance their real need for control and leadership with their ability to respect their parents. Not only because it teaches them to respect others, but also all children, even the “bossy” ones, feel safer and more secure when they know their parents and the other adults in their life are really the ones who are in control.

Teaching kids to respect authority:

We can teach our kids to respect our authority and how to use their “bossiness” in appropriate and kind ways.

Give children choices:

This is the perfect way to help children who need to be in charge. The parent offers the choice, they are acting with authority and the child needs to comply but they can decide how they will comply.

When we say: “Would you like to clean your dolls or the Lego?” we are actually saying: “You need to clean up, but you can be in charge of how you do it.”

This technique is essential for all kids but imperative with “bossy” children.

Here are some other examples:

  • Which choice of vegetable would you like carrots or green beans?
  • Do you want to use a booster seat or sit right on the chair?
  • Would you like to pick up 5 or 10 toys?

Run a PR campaign:

When things are quiet, around the dinner table, in a roundabout and indirect way, try saying the following:

“In our family we really like our children to practice making their own decisions. So some of the time we let our kids make decisions but many times we need to make the decisions for everyone!

“Don't worry, we will let you know when it’s your turn to make the decision and when it is our turn to make the decision.

“It is so good that children have parents to be in charge of them, it makes children feel safe.

“Mommy’s and Daddy’s jobs are to be the boss of children. That helps children learn to be their own bosses when they are adults.”

You can also teach them a spiritual lesson as well, what it means to be a benevolent “boss”:

“God is the boss over all of us. He is the best boss, He loves us and takes such good care of us.”

Praise them for accepting authority:

It is extra difficult for these children to obey the adults in their lives. Praising them for this can help motivate them to continue to do this. Try:

“You like being in charge, but when I said that I had to make the decision, we had to go to the supermarket before the park, you were sad but you did it (even if he/she were poorly behaved!).

Give them lots of opportunities to be in control:

These children can be the best helpers, if they are in charge. Put the laundry, cooking, or the organizing into their capable hands. Find out where their talents lie and let them take over. We don't want to pass on the opportunity to teach them to be a contributing member of our household. Again, we want them to use their character traits in positive ways. We can say:

“I need some help with the laundry. Are you available? Would you be able to do some of it yourself, while I peel carrots?

“It's a good thing you are home. Is there anyway you can help me with the cooking for Shabbos? What would you like to be in charge of?”

Put the ball in their court:

The best way to teach children to be respectful and kinder to others is to problem solve with them how they can be more respectful and kinder to others. Remember, they like to be in charge, even over what and how they say things. When they are being disrespectful or unkind, try:

“What would be a kinder way to say that?”

“Is there a more respectful way that you can ask for that?”

Having a “bossy” kid can be challenging. Teaching them to respect authority and kinder ways to interact with others can go a long way in helping them become the leaders they are meant to be.