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Christian Parenting: How to Handle a Bossy Child

Do you have a bossy child? If so, these 7 tips will help you turn your little CEO-in-the-making into someone with more of a servant’s heart.

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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.


This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.


    • Hi Christina – If that three year old is bossy with others, then I would try to uncover why. There is often an underlying reason for such behavior (for example: a new sibling, a sense of insignificance, modeling bossy behavior in others, etc). Giving more choices when appropriate can often help dial down a need to control others. Focus on what you want to see more of – which is submission – and encourage that every chance you get. However, if the three year old is bossy with parents/adults – there needs to be a hierarchy re-adjustment. Try mapping your family to see how it is currently structured. Keep in mind that bright, precotious little children can quiety creep up the heirarchy. Maintaining a clear line between “the ranks” can help erase any grey areas for the child.

      I hope that helps!

      God bless,

  • Laura:
    Great article. But my daughter’s best friend is that “bossy child”. Her demands are causing great distress with my child who wants to get along, but is having trouble standing up to this child. What advice do you have for me as a parent?

    • Dear Concerned Parent,

      I can understand your predicament – we want children who are kind and gracious towards others, but we need to train them to help them manage these situations. I don’t know the age of your daughter, but you could try talking with her to find out the most common scenarios for this bossy behavior by her friend. Then use this information to role play. First, have her play the role of her friend and you play her. You can model an appropriate response (either actions, like walking away; or words, like saying, “I really like playing with you, but I would like to decide what we do sometimes. Let’s take turns.”) Next, reverse roles and let her play herself. You may want to pray about it before they spend time together and then follow-up with what worked and what didn’t. Let her know that you are confident that God will help you figure this situation out.

      Thanks for stopping by . . .

      Blessings to you and yours,

  • LOVE this, Laura! This advice is perfect for my 6-year-old “future leader.”

    And this quote is so encouraging: “A child who acts bossy is often a child with untrained leadership skills.”

    Thank you!

    • You are welcome Kate! It seems that “normal” for kids has become a very small box. We need to open the box up, stop trying to discipline innate character traits out of them and focus on TRAINING. After all, they are who they are for a reason!

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