The 8 Common Mistakes for Parenting a Bossy Child


Raising a child is an art and a science! When it comes to a child’s bossiness and feels of over- empowerment, there are 8 common mistakes that can make matters even worse.

Equipped with the proper child psychology tools, caregivers can turn unwanted behaviors around, a topic that we will explore in greater depth in the following article.

Pediatrician Dr. Lewis, Vermont Children’s Hospital

Here is a common scenario:

“Why is my sweet little 3 year old Suzy so demanding? She screams at me to get her juice when she is watching her favorite TV show and when I don’t comply, she bursts out in anger, hitting and biting me in frustration. Where did we go wrong? It seems like only yesterday, my sweet little angel was resting peacefully in my arms. I tried everything, including talking to her about her bad behavior and giving her a 3 minute time out, but nothing seems to work!”

This mother is desperately trying to reason with her toddler, yet the demanding behavior continues. If this scenario sounds too familiar – you are not alone!

We are living in a day and age which frowns upon disciplining children. Our school systems let many things slide for the sake of a “gentle discipline” approach and the end result?

The creation of an over-empowered child that wants to call ALL of the shots! 

In the following article we will demystify the underlying bossy child psychology and show you how to course-correct it using positive discipline strategies. 

Avoid the 8 most common parenting mistakes that result in bossy children and discover what habits you can instill in your child today to set them up on the road to success.

Let’s get to it!

What EffectS a Child’s Temperament?

A child’s temperament is their innate biological disposition, the building block for their personality. 

It has a strong genetic component. Studies report that over 700 genes, our inherited DNA material, are responsible for a child’s temperament

The rest is attributed to environmental factors, including parenting style, life events, family, peer group, school, neighborhood and culture.

The parent-child relationships are at the core of a child personality development, and remain a constant force throughout a child’s life. 

The inseparable bond between a parent and a child is formed early on during infancy, shaping a child’s environment, moral values and overall learning trajectory.  

kid between marshmallows

The Psychology of the Bossy Child

“I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy, to be told instead she has leadership skills!”

~ Sheryl Sandberg

What do you do when an over-empowered child is running the household and is barking orders like a drill sergeant? 

It is no secret that bossy children are also strong-willed.

They have their own opinions. They know what they want and they want it now. They demand to be heard. They have a strong compass of right versus wrong, so they try helping out their friends by issuing commands.

If you let them “off the hook” a few times, they learn to manipulate you and other grownups to get their way, knowing deep down inside that they can get away with it. 

They might feel like little adults, especially if too much power has been given to them. 

It is time to take the reins and guide your child towards a more appropriate behavior! 

Remember: small children, small problems.

Don’t wait until middle school when it is too difficult to change a child’s behavior.

Focus on the positive discipline techniques highlighted below and establish good habits during the early childhood years.

You will be glad you did, especially during those treacherous teenage years!

woman showing paper with prohibition sign

8 Mistakes OF PARENTING A Bossy Child

Child psychology expert, Dr. Sylvia Rimm, discusses the ways to “dethroning” an overpowered child in her book: How to Parent so Children Will Learn. 

Removing power from a child, who has been placed on a pedestal, is necessary to secure their future as a successful adult.

  1. Overpowering a Child – The goal is to empower rather than overpower. All human beings need to feel a sense of power in their lives. During early development, children are gaining decision-making skills. Parents who overpower their children end up with kids who feel powerless. An overpowered child is fighting for that sense of control over their environment in an effort to reduce feelings of anxiety.
  1. Parental Sabotage – Avoid parental discourse in front of a child. Instead, parent as a united team. Mom and dad must support one another in child rearing decisions. You may not always agree and that can be discussed later, when the child is not around. But in the moment, if dad says no TV tonight, mom must reinforce it. Otherwise the child will learn to manipulate the “nice” parent and resent the other. This leads to challenges down the road, especially during the teenage years.
  1. Wavering Parenting – You are your child’s best role model. Parent with warmth, decisiveness and consistency to instill discipline and good habits during the early ages. 
  1. Catering to Child – Responding to a child’s every inquiry and demand is exhausting and absolutely unnecessary. Ignore bad behaviors and rewards positive ones.
  1. Lengthy Discussions – During the early years, a child’s under-developed cortex lacks the ability to reason like an adult. That is why it is recommended to keep talking to a minimum when emotions run high. Using simple, direct language offers a key strategic advantage. Discover the inner workings of your child’s emotional brain and how to win in tough childhood moments.
  1. Unfair Punishments – Unjust punishments for wrong doing will escalate any situation. Instead, follow through with natural consequences. For instance, a child  screaming at a friend will result in being alone on the playground. Always debrief afterwards, allowing the child to understand wrong behaviors and self-correct.
  1. Calling the Shots – Grownups deciding everything, all of the time, on a child’s behalf can be quite frustrating, This psychologically crippling state trains the young mind to feel helpless. Give your child a sense of control by providing plenty of choices. The bossiness and power struggles will melt away when given decision-making opportunities. Whether it is deciding what to eat for breakfast or what clothes to wear, your child will become more independent, regaining essential life skills.
  1. Lack of Schedule – While being spontaneous and letting the day unfold as it may sound tempting, it is a really bad idea for a developing child. Studies have shown that children thrive on established routines. For children, this predictability provides a sense of security and control over their lives. Strong-willed kids might feel manipulated and uncertain without a daily schedule and will tend to act out. For older children, having a wrist watch does wonders. Anticipating the next activity,  based on the time of day, provides a sense of comfort, mentally preparing them for what is yet to come. Take a deeper dive into how the young child’s mind thrives on established routines.
plush bear on blue surface


Understanding the psychology of the over-empowered young child’s brain is the first step to reversing the bossiness behavior. 

Avoid the 8 parenting mistakes as the second step to eliminating bossiness and watch as your child’s behavior miraculously transform in front of your very own eyes. 

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  1. How to Parent so Children Will Learn
  2. Associations between Parenting and Child Big Five Personality Traits
  3. Behavioral Genetics and Child Temperament
  4. The complex genetics and biology of human temperament