How to change bossy behavior in children

Changing bossy behavior

Is your child strong willed?

Do you have a strong willed student in your classroom?



In charge



We can either embrace their strengths or spend our days in power struggles.  We can appreciate the value and leadership they can bring to any group or we can challenge their determination.  We can give in to their demands or we can listen and give choices when possible within the boundaries of established rules and routines.

These are children who want to be in charge of themselves and their world.  When they are determined, they may have a hard time seeing alternatives or envisioning the consequences of their choices.  They have big emotions and live active all-or-nothing lives.

Here are 5 tips for surviving and thriving with the strong willed child in your life:

  1.  Avoid power struggles by establishing rules and routines–Plan ahead and be prepared to state the  routine calmly:  Bedtime is at 8:00. You can either brush your teeth or put on your pajamas first.  Which do you prefer?
  2. Give choices whenever possibleBefore you go to bed we can read one book.  You may pick out the one you want to hear.
  3. Look for win/win solutionsI know you don’t want to miss that t v show so I can record it for you.  You can watch it after you finish your homework tomorrow.
  4. Listen and acknowledge their point of viewI understand that you don’t feel tired right now but your body works best when we follow a regular bedtime.
  5. Provide opportunities for challenges and active learningI love your ideas for how to build a Lego fort.  Let’s see how quickly you can get ready for bed and if there is time we can work on it together until bedtime.

Each personality style has an area of concern or a strength that  can get out of control.  A leader can lead with compassion and understanding for others or they can be bossy and demanding.  How do you help a child develop a positive leadership style?  Here are some tips:

  • Eliminate the emotion surrounding the behavior. By changing your perception, you can deal with it objectively as you would any other behavior.  Bossy or demanding children can learn new behaviors just as quiet children can learn to be more assertive or anxious children can learn to be calm.  It is a matter of teaching a process and taking the time to nudge the child in small steps toward behaving differently.  It is not a reflection on their character.
  • Understand the personality style behind the demanding behavior.  Most demanding children are D personality types who are direct, dominant and determined.  They are task focused and want to see results.  They have little sensitivity to the emotions of others.  Use the focus on getting results to help them see that there is a better way to make that happen.  Help them develop emotional literacy and a sensitivity to the emotions of others.
  • Begin with a conversation about situations where the child demonstrated bossy behavior.  Ask the child:
    • What was frustrating about that situation?
    • What if there was a better way to talk to someone that would cause them to want to follow your directions?
    •  How do you think the other child felt?  When someone feels that way do you think they want to cooperate with you?
  • Teach a better way to ask or give directions.  Instead of telling Sally to give you the toy right now, try saying, Sally could I play with that toy when you finish?” Use role play and practice to learn new language and behavior. Model the behavior you expect to see.
  • Practice and review caring but assertive behavior regularly so that it becomes a natural pattern. Have the child practice or role play the situation.  Give them a free do over to see if they can communicate in a better more caring way. Anticipate events or situations that may be challenging. Use books, movies and other examples that illustrate bossy behavior and problem solve better ways to interact with others.  Encourage the child to notice others who are bossy and discuss a better way to interact.  Model caring and assertive behavior yourself. Use everything as a teachable moment.

Celebrate the unique qualities of the strong willed child.  The same characteristics that make them a challenge to parents and educators, can also be traits that put them in charge of their own corporation or make them the next president of the country. Find ways to channel that talent into productive pursuits. What can they be in charge of at home?  In the community?  At school?  If you can pique their interest, develop in them a passion for excellence in a productive arena, and challenge them to be sensitive to the feelings of others you will be developing the next generation of leaders.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation


Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Feeling left out? Need help getting along with friends? Wyatt the Wonder Dog books weave important life skills into engaging story telling. Join Wyatt as he learns how to be the superhero in his group of friends by using cooperation and compromise.

~MaryFrances Gonzalez MACCC-SLP

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

Leadership Lessons for Elementary Students

Leave a Comment