How to Deal With a Bossy Child

I have a bossy child.

My daughter has always been the dominant one over her brother, because well, he’s her younger brother. But we witnessed first-hand the way she speaks to her friends.

Recently we celebrated her 10th birthday with a beach party, and some of her classmates came. And while they played fine, my husband overheard our daughter talking to her friends in a way we don’t quite approve of.

While they were playing on the beach, our daughter had organized a game. And when her friend wasn’t doing things the way our daughter wanted, our daughter would correct in a demanding way.

I’m a little embarrassed to even write this. This isn’t how she was taught to treat people. And it’s something that needs to be addressed. But I also wanted to share this with you guys. Cause I know I’m not the only one who deals with a bossy child.

Is It Really Bossiness?

I want to clarify something.

There is a difference between being bossy and being strong-willed and assertive.

They’re similar but the distinction is very significant.

Being bossy means being dominant, giving people orders.

Being assertive is more about being confident and have a confident and forceful personality.

Basically it comes down to being confident, maybe a bit pompous versus being a dominating butthead. One is a good trait while the other is a negative label.

And while I don’t want to change my daughter or crush her spirit, being rude butthead is not okay.

How to Handle a Bossy Child

So your child is a bit bossy. Mine can be too. Here’s what to do about it.

Figure out the reason for the bossiness. 

My daughter is a perfectionist. She likes things a certain way. So games and playtime also need to be that way too. At least in her mind.

Kids who tend to be organized are the same way. They have a clear idea of what the game should be and about who should do what, so that direction may come out as assertiveness or bossiness.

Unfortunately she hasn’t quite learned to rein in her emotions or her tone when something isn’t the way she wants it. And I think part if it is because she’s silently falling apart because things aren’t going the way she thinks it should.

Other reasons for bossiness might include:

  • The need for complex rules. Highly sensitive children are often very intelligent beyond their years. Most games made for children are less complex, and while still fun for a highly sensitive child, he or she may want to create more rules to please their need for complexity. The bossiness comes in when they try to get other children to play along with them in the same manner.
  • The need for control. Just as some child throw tantrums because they want some semblance of control (How many times have you witnesses a tantrum simply because your kid wanted a certain pair of socks or something similar? It’s about control), being bossy during playtime comes from the same root.

Reason with them.

Highly sensitive children are very logical. When bossiness starts, try explaining how the other children on the receiving end might feel. Have them put themselves in the shoes of the other children. Many times this can stop the behavior, or at least change it for a little while.

Correct and have them think of alternative ways to ask for what they want.

Talk with your child about other ways to handle the situations. Have her think of ways to ask nicely. Again, go back to the reason for the bossiness so you can come up with a solution that fits.

Set a good example. 

They’re always watching. It can be hard to tell your child not to speak in a bossy tone when you do it yourself. Speak nicely to your partner and your kids. Take an honest look at how you ask them to do things. Say please and ask nicely rather than barking orders. Setting a good example goes a long way.

Praise when they do act appropriately.

Point out when they are asking politely or playing nicely. You don’t like to always be corrected. Neither do kids. A little praise goes a long way.

What Not to Do to Correct the Bossiness

Don’t tell your kid that people aren’t going to want to play with him or her if they are bossy.

While it seems like an innocent remark, a highly sensitive child will take it much deeper than a surface level comment. She may take it as she’s not a good enough person the way she is now, because as you’ve pointed out, she’s been bossy.

Don’t ignore your own child’s needs. 

You do want to get to the bottom of why the bossiness is happening, but it shouldn’t be solely about changing the behavior. Especially not for the sake of someone else. Yes, we don’t want our children acting like little shits, but we also don’t want to send the message that we care more about their friends feelings than their own. It’s a tough balance to find. But do validate their need for control and order, let them know it’s okay to be them, but find alternatives where speaking kindly is used and friends’ feelings are considered.

Bossiness is something most children deal with. Luckily, it’s something that can be corrected. Remember to step lightly when correcting a highly sensitive child; you never want them to feel like their behavior or actions means they are “wrong.” Understand, validate and gently correct.


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