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5 Ways to Handle a Bossy Kid

5 Ways to Handle a Bossy Kid

Bossiness isn’t a pleasant quality in anyone, but as Circle of Moms member Amanda B. shares, it can be especially hard to take from a preschool-aged child. Her 4-year-old "is respectful and delightful for other adults" and seems to save up the unpleasant behavior for her, "whining constantly, having tantrums, and backtalking." Yes, you want your child to start asserting her independence, but not like this!

Many moms find that their kids get oppositional during the preschool years, but that doesn't make this behavior any easier to live with. So what can you do when your child suddenly becomes the resident know-it-all?  Here are five tips for getting your child back on track.

1. Understand Your Child's Perspective

Developmentally, preschoolers are at an age when the desire to do things for themselves is fierce, yet they don’t have the skills to be tactful about it. Being bossy and demanding, says a member named Stephanie D., are signs of a child's struggle to become independent.

Your child shouldn't tell you what to do, let alone bark commands at you, but it’s worthwhile to look at it from his point of view. To him, it may seem like this behavior is exactly what you do. As a Circle of Moms member Christy points out, "We get to tell our kids what to do," and expect them to comply.


2.  Give Your Child Some Control

Instead of letting your child think he can control you, let him have control over some situations. If he has some power in a few areas of his life, he'ss be more willing to accept that you have the power in other areas.

Elizabeth E. says this isn’t as hard as it may seem; that "there are all kinds of places to give them some control." For example, let your child choose which vegetable to have with dinner, or what to wear to school.

3. Expect Respect

When you’re constantly being interrupted and have a little tyrant yelling orders at you as Erin M.’s three-year-old does, it’s hard to have empathy for your child’s bid for independence. It’s important to let your child know that you understand that he wants to be in charge of some things, but that you’re not willing to listen to yelling or rude demands.

In fact, let him know you won't listen to anyone who talks to you rudely, even other grownups. Instead, try the tactic suggested by member Amanda G. She calmly explains that she won’t listen to her son or give him what he wants until he can ask nicely. 

4. Explain Your Expectations

Kids can’t live up to expectations they don’t understand. Mom Elizabeth H. points out that if you want your child to behave "nicely," you have to define what "nicely" means. Get specific; explain, for instance, that this means using "please" and "thank you" and not whining.

Melanie C. suggests trying role-playing to show your child how to ask for what he wants, showing your child both a "nice voice" and a "yelling voice" so he can learn to hear the difference.


5. Reward Good Behavior

Once you’ve set the standard, you need to let your child know you’re paying attention.  Sure, you can give time-outs and revoke privileges when he's bossing you around, but rewarding good behavior (for instance, by saying yes whenever you can when he's asking for something the right way) is an even more powerful tool.  

Michelle N.'s experience bears this out. It was important to her that her daughter learn how she is expected to behave, but not to expect a material reward for good behavior. Using verbal praise has worked well; she says her daughter now strives to make her mom proud.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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