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Parenting the Bossy Child

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There’s a meme that shows up in my Facebook feed from time to time. It’s a black and white photo of a little girl in tights and Mary Janes thrusting a pointed stick at a little boy. The caption reads, “I’m not bossy. I have skills…leadership skills. Understand?”

Now, I’ve chuckled at this meme — and there’s truth to it. The bossy child can be a natural leader.

With seven kids, we have many personality types in the house, including one who tends toward bossiness. It has both positive and negative manifestations and parenting means encouraging the positive while ensuring the negative doesn’t become a liability. Here are 3 things to teach when we’re parenting bossy kids.

1. Teach that true leadership is about serving others.

Good leaders don’t sit back and bark out orders. They get in the trenches with those under them. They seek to understand their needs. It’s often said that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Here are some questions to help our child become a servant leader:

  • Are you seeking to help the other person or get them in trouble?
  • Are you helping with a problem or just pointing it out?

2. Teach that true leadership is earned.

No one starts out as a leader. Positions of authority are earned and awarded only after the leader has learned to work well under authority and shown capability.

Here are some questions to help our child learn about authority:

  • Are you in a position of authority over the person you’re bossing?
  • Are you working well under your authorities?

3. Teach that true leaders seek to build up.

Good leaders seek to encourage others rather than discourage them. They care about the success of the team more than their personal success. Good leaders use their skills, not to squash but to strengthen.

  • Are your words building others up or tearing them down?
  • Are your words solving a problem or stirring up strife?
  • Could you get the same message across with more encouraging words?

Finally, it’s important to give our kids healthy opportunities to develop leadership. Young kids can learn to serve others in the home and to see a need at school or in the neighborhood. As they grow, kids can serve in clubs, in volunteer work, and in church – both under the authority and in positions of authority.

Bossiness in a toddler may be cute, but unchecked it can lead to a disrespectful and overbearing teen. Bossiness that’s directed well and tempered, however, can be channeled into a true leader who serves and builds others up.

It’s your turn: how do you help your children turn bossiness into true leadership?


Do you think someone who’s bossy makes a good leader?

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