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HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

Help! My Child Is Bossy

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist

Question:

My daughter is very bossy. Her teacher told me that she tells the other kids in her class what to do and how to complete their work. When the teacher calls her on this behavior, she gets upset. but does not change her behavior. At home, I have seen her be bossy with friends. How can I help her be less overbearing?

Answer:

There are several things you can do to help your daughter be less bossy. First, I'd recommend talking with her about how to be a good friend. During this conversation you should point out ways she is and is not a good friend (i.e., when she bosses her friends around). Once you've established that bossing her friends around is not nice, you can discuss some alternate ways she can interact with her friends (e.g., making suggestions instead of demands, cooperating and listening to the ideas of others)

Chances are this conversation alone will not change your daughter's behavior. Afterward, it will be important to remind her about how to be a good friend and praise her whenever you notice her doing so. When you catch her being bossy, immediately remind her about being a good friend by either whispering in her ear or pulling her aside in a way that does not embarrass her in front of her friends. If she is bossy toward you, point out her behavior and ask her to repeat her request in an appropriate manner.

In school, I'd recommend a similar approach. You and her teacher can talk to her about how to be a good friend in school. Her teacher can praise her when she demonstrates "good friend" behavior and let her know, without embarrassing her, when she does not. It may also be helpful for her to experience some consequences for her bossy behavior (e.g., time out) to learn that it is not acceptable.


Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

02/27/2009:
"The teacher wrote that my daughter was bossy last week and my question is I should punish my daughter do not goin to school activities because she is being bossy.I spoke to her about it but I need some techniques to help her to not being bossy"
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