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Is My Child a Leader Or Just Bossy?

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Your child has been described by teachers as “strong-willed” and “spirited,” but does that mean that they’re acting bossy at school? Do you have a bossy child or a child who’s ready to turn into a leader?

Are you wondering: “Is my child a leader or just bossy?”

There’s a difference between bossiness and good leadership skills. We’re here to talk about it. Read on to learn all about how to identify the differences between bossy behavior and leadership behavior (and how to turn one into the other).

Is “Bossy” a Bad Word?

First, let’s talk about the connotation of “bossy.”

“Bossy” is inherently negative. Some traits associated with bossiness will automatically characterize a child as “bossy,” but this isn’t always true. Sometimes children who are bold, strong, and opinionated are labeled as “bossy” instead (especially girls).

You mustn’t label your child as bossy unless you see harmful behavior. It is possible for small children to be bossy (and toddlers often are), but the term bossy may discourage leadership skills and confidence if you use it with your child.

Remember that the things that you say to your child will influence their self-esteem long term. If you notice bossy behaviors, correct them, but don’t try to remove your child’s agency and strong spirit.

Signs of a Bossy Child

So with that in mind, how do you know if your child is bossy and not just strong-willed?

To call a child bossy, their behavior should be detrimental to the people around them (either family members or other children). A strong-willed child may have bossy qualities, but they shouldn’t harm others.

Bossy children tend to have low confidence. They may not feel secure in their surroundings so they feel the need to control as much as they can. The child isn’t acting bossy because they think that they should be the boss; they’re doing it because they’re grasping to have control over something.

Bossy children often crave structure, even if the opposite seems true.

Bossy children may refuse to share their things and lash out at others who want to use those things. This will extend to things that the child doesn’t own, like shared toys at preschool.

Bossy kids may bully others. They have a hard time respecting limits and boundaries. They may also try to take advantage of smaller, younger, or meeker children.

These children are more likely to lie if it means that they’ll get their way.

Discouraging Bossy Behavior

If you notice that your child has bossy traits, there are a few things that you can do to discourage them. You want to make sure that your child isn’t so bossy that it causes problems for them and their peers at preschool.

We’ll talk more about translating “bossy” behaviors into leadership skills later on, but here are a few ways to discourage those behaviors in the first place.

Set Firm Boundaries

Boundaries are essential for healthy childhood development. You should start setting boundaries (and teaching your child about boundaries in general) as early as possible, ideally before they start preschool.

Remember that boundaries aren’t there to control your child; they’re there to encourage them to improve.

Make sure that you don’t focus on boundary-breaking behavior. It’s best to not give that behavior any power. Give more power to good behavior to encourage your child to keep up the good work.

Maintain a Schedule

Again, a bossy child may lack structure. If your child is displaying bad behaviors, add more structure to their life.

Create a schedule for your child to follow at home. It’s helpful to block out times even for casual activities. This will give your child a sense of security and it will make them feel more comfortable following a schedule at school.

Try Not to Make Demands

Your child is learning from you. If they perceive you as bossy, they’ll mimic those behaviors. Try to avoid your own “bossy” behavior when possible.

There will be times that you have to demand things from your child, but do your best to “ask” instead of “tell.” Ask your child to clean their room (with a “please” and “thank you”) to show them how to properly behave.

Signs of a Potential Leader

So how do you know if your “bossy” child is displaying good leadership skills? “Bossy” childhood personality traits could be indicative of a strong future leader.

If a child tells other children what to do, but does so in an encouraging way, they’re a future leader. They won’t make demands of other children, but they’ll get them involved.

The child may have a strong voice. They always want to be the first to answer questions or help their caregivers, but not because they want to be “special” or “better.” They’re doing it because they’re excited about learning and helping others.

Children who are good future leaders often display empathy and critical thinking skills early on.

Fostering Childhood Leadership Skills

So you’ve noticed that your child might be a potential leader. Noticing positive childhood personality traits is important, but how can you foster them?

Here are a few ways to improve your child’s leadership skills without encouraging them to be bossy.

Offer Choices

Children need autonomy to feel empowered. If you want your child to feel like a confident leader, give them options sometimes.

As a parent, you always have the final say. The options that you give your child should be relatively inconsequential. Your child will still feel better when they get to make those choices.

For example, you can ask your child if they want spaghetti noodles or shell noodles for dinner. It doesn’t change anything substantial about their meal or how you prepare it, but the child gets to make a choice that affects them.

Get Them Involved in Activities

Get your child involved in activities that allow them to foster those important leadership skills.

Consider childhood sports, for example. Even toddlers can get involved in community sports teams, and those teams can empower your child.

Extracurriculars are great for early childhood development.

Offer Praise

When your child is displaying good leadership skills, don’t forget to praise them. Children thrive with praise, and they rely on you for motivation.

When your child makes their own decisions or helps a peer, reward them. The reward can even be something small, like a sticker. This will encourage your child to continue that good behavior.

Is My Child a Leader or Just Bossy?

Strong-willed children aren’t always bossy children. If you’re wondering “Is my child a leader or just bossy,” use this guide to help.

Even a bossy child may be displaying traits that lend themselves well to leadership as long as you cultivate them the right way!

Are you looking for a great preschool where your child can learn and grow? The Learning Experience is here for you! Find a TLE childcare center near you to apply today. If you are in the Orlando area, visit us online to schedule a tour.

The Learning Experience – Orlando – Lake Nona
11800 Narcoossee Rd
Orlando, FL 32832
(407) 313-0791

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