Bossy children are easy to spot. You can find them on the playground acting like a future CEO – ordering others around, organizing games and activities and butting heads with other Fortune 500 hopefuls. Some kids are just wired that way and, much to their parents’ chagrin, they won’t likely change much. But let’s look on the bright side: behaviors that are considered bossy in a 7 year old are qualities of a great leader in adulthood. Nevertheless, some training is still in order to help your “leadership-oriented” child develop and maintain healthy relationships with others.
Christian parents will want to raise Christ-like kids. Jesus was simultaneously a servant and a leader. He could command the attention of a large crowd for hours but would also not hesitate to wash the feet of his followers. Bossy, leadership-oriented children need this balance and it comes through training and practice. You need to provide your child with lots of opportunities to serve others, empathize, and be other-focused. Here are some suggestions:
1) Create a family “service jar.” Write down ways to serve others in your family, church or school on slips of paper and place them in a jar. Each family member picks one a day to be completed by dinner time. At that point you can all review how it went. Some ideas for the slips include – hold the door for someone, ask someone if they would like a drink, let someone go first, ask someone how his day was and listen to the answer, etc. Have your children participate in coming up with some service ideas of their own.
2) Increase empathy when reading stories or watching TV together. When you read stories or watch TV together, pause and ask your child, “How do you think he feels?” “How would you feel if that were you?” This is aimed to help her think “outside of herself.”
3) Use I-statements when you interact with her. You can say, “When you said ____, I felt _____.” The purpose of this is to increase her awareness of how her actions impact others.
4) Find a way to serve others together. Does someone in the church need a meal? Can he help put it together, make a card and help deliver it?
5) Start a prayer list. Helping your child start a prayer list for one or two children in her life is a great way to help her develop a “servant’s heart.” She will need to listen for needs of those around her (ex: someone’s Grandma is in the hospital) and then follow up with questions so she can update the list.
6) Study the Master. Start a Bible study on Jesus – His great power and might (healed the blind, calmed the storm, raised the dead) and also how He did not always use it (the cross as the prime example). Sometimes strength is best shown in weakness. The meek shall inherit the earth . . . etc.
7) Practice makes perfect. Consider scheduling a tactical play date with a few of his friends. Come up with a craft project or game that needs to be completed as a team. Sit down with your child before hand, anticipate the problem areas (ex: when something/someone doesn’t go his way) and talk about what he can do when that particular issue comes up. You can even develop a secret code or key word or phrase that you can use to remind him of his plan during the activity. This way, you can see the issue arise and then intervene “in vivo.” Always best to have the issues arise when you are right there to make them right.
A child who acts bossy is often a child with untrained leadership skills. Honing and molding those skills will help them to better connect with others, rather than pushing them away.