Reinforce helpful behavior.

How to Turn a Bossy Child Into a Leader

by Glenda Taylor

Hands on hips, feet firmly planted and demanding in no uncertain tone that things go her way; there she is, your tiny tyrant in training. As a parent, you want your child to develop cooperative relationship skills, but some preschoolers are bossy by nature. Because a controlling attitude can chase away her friends, help your domineering darling turn her drill sergeant demeanor into leadership skills.

Demonstrate the behavior you want to see in your child. Telling others what to do is a natural response to being told what to do. You can’t quit setting guidelines, but you can explain the logic behind your request. Instead of “Pick up your toys because I said so,” try “Let’s pick up the toys so the room doesn’t look so messy.” When your child understands that there is a method to your madness, she’s less likely to make unreasonable demands of others.

Take turns with your child to encourage your child to take turns with her playmates. After she completes an activity of your choosing, like picking up her toys, ask her what she would like to do now. If she comes up with far-out requests, like “I want to buy a new puppy,” word your question so she must choose between two practical activities. “Would you like to invite Shannon over to play, or would you rather walk to the park and get ice cream?”

Help your child to express her feelings after things don’t go her way and talk about possible solutions. “How did you feel when Timothy tore up your drawing?” After she tells you how she felt, discuss the reasons that might have prompted Timothy to take that action. “Why do you think he tore up the drawing? Do you think you could have done something differently that would have kept that from happening?” Understanding that others have feelings will help her analyze future situations and take cooperative steps before things get out of hand.

Reinforce your child’s helpful behavior. Turning a bossy child into a leader won’t happen overnight. It takes patience and consistent reinforcement. When your preschooler asks her playmates if they would like to color and then she helps a younger toddler with his crayon, praise her for her helpfulness and guidance.


  • Avoid scolding and punishment for bossy behavior, which teaches your child that it's appropriate to scold others who don't behave as she sees fit. Reasoning and positive reinforcement are more likely to have positive results.


About the Author

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

Photo Credits

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