February 22, 2018

Ask Karen: My Daughter’s Bossy

Q:  I’m looking for some advice with some issues we’re having with our daughter. She’s 8 and in 2nd grade and can be very bossy with her friends and some of them are getting sick of it and therefore being mean back to her. So, she has come home several times lately very upset saying kids at school are being mean to her. With two of them, we have sat down and talked and found out they are… sick of her bossing them around. But she doesn’t see herself doing that. She acts shocked and says she doesn’t do what the other kids accuse her of doing. So, she doesn’t even want to apologize because she’s in denial that she’s done anything wrong. My husband and I have tried to point out when we see her acting bossy with a friend so she has a concrete example but it’s not working. I’ve also tried suggesting to her to put herself in others’ shoes and would she like it if the roles were reversed. Again, she doesn’t get it and says yes, it would be fine with her, because she doesn’t see an issue with her behavior. Any suggestions?


A:  This is a hard one, because of your daughter not recognizing the issues with her behavior.  However, at 8 she is old enough to be taught about the concept that “perception is everything.”  Even though she doesn’t see any problem with her words and actions, her friends do – which means that something has to change.  What she has to understand is that whether she thinks she’s done anything wrong isn’t the issue – the issue is that in her friends’ minds, she has done something wrong, and this has to change if she doesn’t want them to be angry and treat her in a mean way.

For some children (just like for some adults), the issue of personal responsibility is really hard.  It’s so much easier to blame others than to look to oneself for the part one may have played in a situation.  However, the leverage you have is that your daughter doesn’t like the other kids being mean to her.   One approach is to focus on her choices: she can make no changes and accept the fact that others will then continue to not want to play with her, she can try to find new friends, or she can try acting differently (even if she doesn’t think it’s necessary).  When she protests that she hasn’t done anything, remind her that this is one choice she is making – she is choosing not to change, so her friends probably won’t change either.  Keep the emphasis on the impact she’s having on others, rather than on her own perceived lack of wrongdoing.  One other option might be to videotape or record some of her conversations (with the other parents’ permission, of course), to play back and give her the chance to see her behavior from an outside perspective.

Finally, see if there are people in her life who are modeling inappropriately bossy behavior to her.  Usually kids come up with bossy behavior all by themselves, because it can be an easy way to get what they want, but if you notice other people who treat her in a similar way, this can be a good teaching opportunity.

Good luck!

Karen Harvey, CEC, is a life coach and mother of two who specializes in working with moms.  Visit her website at www.clarityandbalance.com

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