What to Do When Your Kid is the “Bossy” Kid

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First rule of “bossy” kids: Stop calling them bossy. Or, as an alternative, stop framing “bossy” as an inherently negative thing.

I happen to spend a lot of time encouraging my kids to use their voices more, so I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum, but I know some wonderful kids who have big personalities … but are sometimes called “bossy” in a not-so-nice way.

Kids come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. Some kids seem like natural leaders while others prefer to hang back and watch. And many are somewhere in the middle – taking the lead when it feels right but also going with the flow a lot of the time. If we want our kids to learn and grow together, we have to stop attaching labels and acting as if one personality trait is better than another. 

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There are times when I genuinely wish that I could be bossy – take-charge women inspire me. But that’s not who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to take charge and I have plenty of self-confidence, but I will almost always take the lead in a quiet kind of way. That’s who I am.

Instead of seeing the kid on the playground who always takes the lead and tells others what to do as “bossy” (insert negative voice tone), it’s better to think about how to help that child harness those leadership skills to inspire others.

Let them be kids.

Part of childhood involves learning to navigate friendships, and sometimes that can be hard. It’s tempting to try to micromanage those friendships to look for the “right fit”, but the truth is that kids need to work through this independently. They are drawn to other kids for different reasons.

No one wants to witness the heartache of a friendship that ends, but kids learn a lot about themselves and others through the ups and downs of friendship. If your so-called bossy kid is losing friends on the playground because he never lets anyone else choose the game, he will have to learn to work with others if he wants to continue to play.

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Free play, the kind where adults don’t interfere, is the single best way for children to develop social and friendship skills. Make it happen.

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What to Do When Your Kid is the “Bossy” Kid

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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