Who's the boss?

Recently, parents have been anything but shy about asking me why their child appears to be so bossy. Let me take charge of their concerns and provide some information on this topic. Bossiness tends to be more common in children without siblings, but can certainly occur in kids with siblings as well. Often children will try to take charge or appear bossy because they feel they need to seek someones attention. But being bossy is only a method to get that attention in the wrong way. In fact, if this behavior becomes more evident to others, it can lead to loss of friends and even develop into bullying. What can you do to deal with this type of behavior? First and foremost, dont encourage this habit by laughing the first time your child tries to boss you around. It is important that you do not obey your child if he or she does this; stay calm and ask your child to rephrase their request in a polite manner. Your child needs to understand that he/she is nobodys boss and that starts with you. Encourage non-competitive game playing at home as well as participation in supervised team sports, so that this behavior can be monitored and quietly extinguished by other adults who are helping to coach your child. If the bossiness persists in a public arena, tell your child you will take him home and if he doesnt stop bossing others, then follow through and do it. If your child is being left out of games by other children, talk about it during the bedtime routine with your child (when your child has your undivided attention and you have theirs) to figure out what aspects of the behavior are doing this and ways to reduce this behavior. Compliment your child when he or she lets other children suggest the game or wants to share toys with them, rather than always criticizing the bossy behaviors. Hopefully, tips like this will allow you to be in charge but not be too bossy when it comes to helping your child not develop a bossy personality. Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Childrens Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch First with Kids weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.

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