Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My child is so bossy. What can I do?

I have never met an older child that did not in some ways boss around his or her younger siblings.  It is a natural and in some ways healthy activity for older children to do.  Your older child is trying his or her best to understand and relate to the world around as well has younger siblings.  Bossiness often is a result of that.  

However, when you have a child that is constantly barking orders at and demanding that brothers and sisters do what they are told, it is important to teach your child how to treat others.  The first place you look at is yourself.  

Children ALWAYS mimic and imitate what they see adults doing.  If your child has experienced a lot of “bossiness” from mom, dad or other caregivers, it is likely that he or she is going to pick up these habits.  Children are amazing mirrors to our own bad habits and issues.  If you examine yourself and find that you often times give too many orders to your children, begin to change the way you talk with them. 

This is much easier to say than to do.  Once you are aware of this you will begin to catch yourself giving commands and orders.  Do your best in those moments to stop and rephrase what you have just said.  “Pick up your shoes!” becomes “Allie, could you please pick up your shoes?”  After a while of consistently stopping yourself after you blurt out the command, you will begin to hear yourself mid sentence.  Then you will begin to stop yourself just as you are giving the order. Eventually you will naturally ask in a kind way. 

There are going to be times as a parent that asking a question is not appropriate, because asking a questions means that your child’s answer can be NO.  When this is the case use one of the two following phrases.  “Let’s pick up your shoes together.”  This is obviously when there is an activity you will be doing together.  You can also use the phrase “I need you to pick up your shoes.”  Use of the word “I” shows that you understand that picking up the shoes is not something your child has a need to do but is something you, the parent or caregiver needs. 

If you have examined yourself and find that you already ask your child to do things and you do not “boss” her around, there are a few other things to look at.  She might be picking up on you talking to other people in that manner or even talking to pets that way.  Children see the world very different than us and it is important to look at it from their perspective. 

Older children are often given more responsibilities in and around the house.  This is often times a necessity, and it can be beneficial for both you and your child.  It allows you to have a little help and it gives your child new experiences and self-esteem.  However, in your child’s mind that elevated responsibility needs to come with more control.  So if you are giving your child extra responsibilities around the house, he or she also need to have more control over what happens in life.  If your child is not given more control, he or she will begin to take it.  One way that happens is through bossing younger siblings. 

1 comment:

Leanne Strong said...

You could be right about the fact that children tend to mirror their parents' and teachers' (and other adults and older kids in their lives) attitudes towards deviation from rules and codes of behavior. If parents correct or reprimand their child(ren) for even the smallest misbehavior, chances are the child will learn to correct or reprimand siblings and peers (and sometimes even teachers, parents, and other people in their presence) for even the smallest misbehavior. If the parents' attitude toward their children's misbehavior is more like, "well, as long as it's nothing dangerous or destructive, and it's not making anybody too uncomfortable, it's acceptable," that is likely to be how the children react to their siblings and other people misbehaving.

A lot of times with the oldest child(ren), even the slightest misbehavior is enough for parents/guardians to correct or reprimand the child. Because of this, a lot of oldest children might correct or reprimand people such as siblings, peers, teachers, and other people for even the smallest misbehavior. With every child after that the parents' attitude might become more like, "well, as long as it's not sacrificing anybody's safety or comfort, anything will fly." Because of this, a lot of kids who grew up with older siblings might have this kind of attitude towards other people's actions and behavior.

I have Asperger Syndrome (High-Functioning Autism), and a lot of people on the Autism Spectrum (me included) are very concrete thinkers, who don't easily understand when the rules and codes of behavior don't need to be followed. For us, something is either always right or always wrong. Either it's always this or it's always that, with nothing (or not much) in the middle. We also have difficulty understanding how other people feel. If we see an adult or older kid wearing a diaper, we might tell that person that only babies wear diapers. We might not do that because we are trying to be mean or make that person feel bad, but because that is the rule we have learned, and we don't understand that if someone has certain special needs, that situation might be a situation where the rule doesn't need to be followed.