What might seem like cute behavior in a toddler or preschooler -- "Little Sara is so bossy; she loves to be in charge!" -- can become a serious problem as your little one ages. What was once adorable sassiness for a little kid can evolve into dangerous bullying behavior in an older child. Don't coddle dominating behavior in your child; nip it in the bud so a small issue doesn't become a huge problem later on in life.
Most young kids love to be in charge. After all, their lives are packed with decisions that are made for them, like what to eat, what to wear or where to go during the day. Because of that, dominating behavior can be a way of gaining control of other aspects of her life, like play time or spending time with family. The result is a child who constantly needs to be in the lead, pouts when things don't go her way and can even become a bully on the playground.
Okay, so a bossy toddler can be kind of adorable. It's tempting to laugh at the sassy behavior and allow your little one to call the shots. But what seems cute now could evolve into poor or even dangerous behavior later on. Allowing a child to dominate other kids and adults gives her unrealistic expectations of how others should respond to her .Whether it's an outburst in the grocery store or a scuffle with other kids at preschool, dominating behavior could become bullying behavior in the future.
Don't forget about the effect that you have your child's behavior. If you have a dominant personality -- you expect others to bend to your will, you tend to be in charge or you always get your own way -- it teaches your child that with the right words, tone of voice and actions, she too can get what she wants. This is especially true if you tend to dominate your child by making choices for her, being too strict or never accepting less than perfect behavior through extra discipline or even threats.
Here's the thing -- a dominating personality can be tapered to harness those powers for good. A child who is bossy could actually be an effective leader -- if you discipline her properly. Teach your little one that asking nicely and using manners is the only way to get her to act. Make sure that she gets to make some choices about her day -- does she want to wear the pink shirt or the purple? Check your own behavior to make sure that you aren't dominating toward other people and that you model politeness and proper conflict resolution.
If your child continues exhibiting dominating behavior, you may want to seek help through your pediatrician or pediatric therapist. Together, you can work to discover the cause of your child's dominance and how to make her natural personality less abrasive and more effective.