Determining if my kids are bossy or assertive

Lexie last month had a sleepover and it gave us a chance to watch her behavior. My husband could hear her ordering her friend around and wondered if she was being too bossy.

No one wants a bossy child. But it is a fine line between being bossy and being assertive. You don’t want them to be domineering, but you also don’t want them to be a total pushover either. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion and being strong-willed.

So, is your child bossy or assertive?

And no, these are not the same things even though people often use the two interchangeably. The difference is small but significant. It is all in how you say something.

If Lexie’s brother is touching her things, there is nothing wrong with telling him not to do it. She should not have to put up with him touching or taking her things without asking. She may have a legitimate reason for being upset, but it is in how she chooses to handle the situation that matters. Too often her reaction is to screech ‘Stop taking my stuff!’

Yelling between those two is a common occurrence even though we always admonish this behavior. When they play video games and one of them doesn’t respond the way the other wants, their response is to yell.

But screaming at people rarely is the way to go. In both situations, both kids need to stop and think about how they would want to be addressed if the situation was reversed. Would Lexie like it if Jase yelled at her for touching his stuff? (And of course, he has.) Would Jase respond better with a different approach?

It will take time and a lot of repetition to get either child to see and understand the difference between being bossy/demanding and being polite. (Right now, I will take polite over assertive.) They just need to take other people’s feelings into consideration while stating their own perspective.

And one of the keys to changing Lexie’s (and Jase’s) behavior will be consistency. My husband and I need to address their bossiness every time. Too often it is easier to let it go or to let them try to work out their own problems but to truly get the results we want we must be consistent with calling them out on the behavior.

Lexie and Jase still need reminding that they can’t always get his or her way. They need to learn that others can say no to them whether it is a sibling who doesn’t want to play a game or a friend who would rather have go swimming than play a video game. There is no harm in asking others to do something, but that person can say no – or heaven forbid, do something their own way.

As with all things this is going to take time and patience to achieve the desired result. I want them to stick up for themselves and to be confident. But I also want them to learn to compromise, to do try what others want to do and be a good friend.

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