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Do Try This At Home: Parenting the Bossy Child: “Nature Abhors a Vacuum”

If there is a power vacuum at home or in a classroom, a child will try to fill it. For most parents, we imagine a sassy toddler, with her hand on her hips, demanding juice instead of milk. That is cute. However, most parents who live with a bossy child understand that the shift in the balance of power is far reaching and can quickly become disrespectful.

Be I.D.E.A.L in your response.


Catch it low. When you catch your child being bossy, do not wait until later to address it. It is easier to put out a small spark early than to extinguish a raging fire later.


Proximity and Prosody. Do not address the bossy child from the kitchen if he is in the living room. Stop what you are doing, and say, “honey, I am the boss here.” Or “I have already decided on dinner, you can select dessert.” My favorite is, “why don’t we try that again.” “Are you asking or telling.” In the meantime, manage your tone, volume, facial expression, and distance when addressing the child about his behavior.


Dr. Purvis says, "Do not go after a fly with a cannon." If your child has been filling the power vacuum for a long time, it will take time, and intentional practice to relinquish power and control. Remember, a dysregulated parent cannot regulate a dysregulated child. It is important to note that for some children, seeking control is their response to their need for safety. If it is a little sassy, match your response with a little bump back on track and keep it moving!


Your words and scowl are not enough to change the behavior. Active, experiential learning helps rewire new pathways in the brain. This is the power of the Re-Do! Recruit the sensory, muscular, and relational systems to teach the lesson. Remember that Play is the Work of Children. My favorite response, "let me show you how I would say that."

Leveled at the Behavior and not the Child

Their behavior is not who they are. Level your response at the behavior. Do not assassinate his character. Fill the power and control vacuum by intentionally sharing power. Create opportunities for him to have control, give input, and share his opinion.

Do Try This At Home.

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