Parenting With Psychology

Helping you build a set of parenting tools so you feel like an amazing parent ready to overcome your daily challenges.

Subscribe to my Newsletter

How to Parent a Bossy Child | The 5 C’s Parenting Framework

5 c’s ages 11 years - 18 years ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years communication discipline Apr 22, 2024


In the journey of parenting, navigating the waters with an assertive child can often feel like steering a ship through a storm.  These little leaders, with their strong wills and determined minds, challenge us to find the balance between guiding their spirits and allowing their leadership qualities to flourish.  Today, we’ll explore strategies to not only survive but thrive in parenting an assertive child, transforming potential conflicts into opportunities for growth and leadership development.  We’re going to break this down into 5 categories today in line with my 5 C’s parenting framework (click here to learn more about The 5 C’s).


  1. Communication

The art of communication with an assertive child lies in the delicate balance of firmness and calmness.  It's essential to use clear, direct requests coupled with a tone of voice that is both calm and assertive.  Positive reinforcement also plays a crucial role here.  Celebrate and praise your child when they demonstrate behaviors that reflect strong leadership skills, such as taking turns, listening actively, or making inclusive decisions.  This not only encourages the behavior to continue but also helps the child associate leadership with positive outcomes.


Introducing a family mantra that emphasizes respect, such as "In our family, we show respect by listening and speaking kindly," can serve as a guiding principle for behavior.  A family mantra is a phrase that encompasses your family values and is repeatedly rehearsed by each family member to help instill those values.  It serves as a reminder when stated before entering any potentially tricky situation and as a way to regroup whenever any unwanted behavior needs to be addressed.  I have several full posts dedicated to the utility of family mantras; they are an incredibly useful tool in parenting.  Click here to find more posts about family mantras.


  1. Consistency

Consistency forms the bedrock of a strong parent-child relationship, especially with an assertive child.  Maintaining a consistently warm and responsive demeanor, even in the face of bossy behavior, reinforces your unconditional support and love.  This strong attachment is vital for fostering improved behavior over time.  


Implementing standardized routines for parts of the day, like a set bedtime routine or a family screen time schedule, minimizes room for debate and potential standoffs.  Consistency in these areas provides a sense of security and predictability for the child, making it easier for them to accept and adhere to boundaries.


  1. Choices & Checkpoints

Empowering your child to take charge and make choices throughout the day nurtures their leadership skills and sense of autonomy.  Whenever possible, offer open-ended opportunities that encourage creative thinking and problem-solving.  In situations where boundaries are necessary, limit the choices to two options that are parent-approved, such as choosing between a bath or a shower.  This strategy ensures that the child feels in control while still operating within acceptable parameters set by the parents.


In the intricate dance of parenting, it's crucial to recognize that what we often label as "bossy" behavior in children is not only developmentally appropriate but a natural phase of their growth.  This assertiveness is a child's way of expressing their burgeoning sense of independence, testing boundaries, and understanding their influence on the world around them.  By normalizing this phase, we can shift our perspective to see it as an opportunity rather than a challenge.  It's a chance to guide our children in learning how to use their voice for leadership and empathy rather than control.  Embracing this phase with patience and guidance can pave the way for raising confident, self-assured individuals who know how to express their needs and respect those of others.


  1. Consequences

In the realm of parenting an assertive child, adopting psychology-based social skills training strategies can be incredibly effective.  This approach involves pausing the conversation when the child is being bossy to address the tone and content of their communication.  First, clearly state the unwanted behavior to make the child aware of their actions (e.g., “Let’s pause the conversation for a moment to talk about your tone of voice.  I believe you are aiming to be assertive, but it’s coming across as bossy.”).  Then, discuss alternative, more positive ways the child could phrase their requests or opinions (e.g., “How could you rephrase that to sound more polite?”).  Have the child practice this more desirable communication style before resuming the conversation (e.g., “What if you were to say [insert polite rephrasing].  Try that, and let’s see how it sounds.”).  This form of corrective feedback is instrumental in encouraging prosocial communication in the future.  Remember to praise the child when they use less bossy language, reinforcing the positive change.


There may be times when your child’s assertiveness moves from a bossy tone to downright defiant behavior.  When faced with defiance, my "3, 2, Thank You!" approach offers a structured method to teach children to respect their parents as loving authority figures.  This countdown technique begins by presenting the child with a choice to follow up on defiant behavior (e.g., If they refuse to walk to the car when told that it is time to leave, you would say, “It is time to walk to the car now.  You can walk, or I can carry you. Which would you prefer?").  If they do not begin walking immediately, the countdown starts (“3, 2, 1”).  Should the count reach 1, you then follow through with the stated consequence (i.e., carry the child to the car).  Following through on the consequence is critical to the effectiveness of this technique.  However, if the child complies at "3" or "2" in the countdown, the parent responds with an enthusiastic "Thank You!"  This technique, when used consistently, helps children learn to respect their parents' words and make better choices.  Click here to find more posts about 3, 2, Thank You! Including examples of how to use this technique with older children who you may not simply be able to carry to the car, as in this example.  Link to “3, 2, Thank You!” category search results.


  1. Check Yourself

Being mindful and intentional about how we parent assertive children is crucial.  It's important to balance daily interactions between those that are flexible, encouraging assertiveness, and those that are more structured, potentially leading to defiance.  Aiming for a rough goal of encouraging flexibility in your parenting 80% of the day can significantly reduce the feeling of constantly butting heads with your assertive child.  Examples of when to loosen the reins might include allowing children to choose their preferred clothes, whether they want their hair brushed or not, or deciding whether to wear a jacket outside or not.  This approach not only fosters a sense of independence and leadership in the child but also promotes a harmonious parent-child relationship.


Self-care is not just a buzzword; it's a necessity, especially in the world of parenting.  It's the Saturday morning yoga class that recharges your batteries, the evening walk that clears your mind, or the book that transports you to another world after bedtime has finally been conquered.  Self-care looks different for everyone, but the essence remains the same: taking time to do things that make you feel good, replenish your energy, and set you up for success in managing the day-to-day adventures of parenting an assertive child.


Parenting an assertive, or as some may lovingly say, a "bossy" child, is a journey filled with its unique set of challenges and joys.  It's like being on a roller coaster that you never quite remember signing up for but find yourself enjoying the ride, nonetheless.  Amidst navigating this adventurous path, it's crucial for parents to remember the importance of taking care of themselves.  After all, a well-rested, calm parent is the best equipped to handle the spirited nature of their assertive child.


In addition to preventative techniques like getting enough sleep at night and prioritizing self-care in your weekly routine to set you up for success when dealing with an assertive child, you can use in-the-moment techniques like pausing and taking a deep breath prior to responding when you encounter a standoff with your little leader.  Or you may want to pause the entire interaction and excuse yourself to the other room for a moment to stay calm so that you can return and intentionally respond to your child rather than reacting to the heated moment.  


Take-Home Message

Parenting an assertive child is a journey filled with challenges and rewards. By employing strategies that focus on effective communication, consistency, and empowering choice, parents can guide their assertive children toward becoming strong, empathetic leaders. Remember, the goal is not to curb their spirit but to channel their assertiveness into positive leadership qualities. With patience, understanding, and a little bit of strategy, you can foster an environment where your assertive child not only thrives but leads with kindness, respect, and empathy.  Which of these strategies can you start implementing in your parenting practice today?


Today’s tips cover all 5 categories in my 5 C’s parenting framework.  To view more posts about the 5 C’s, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Thanks for joining me to fill your parenting toolbox with psychology-based tools to feel more confident and capable in your parenting.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!

P.S. Another popular post covering all 5 C’s is How to Survive Dining Out With Your Kids.  Check it out today and download my freebie with actionable tips you can use the next time you take a break from the kitchen to make the evening markedly more enjoyable.


Listen on Spotify Podcast

Watch on YouTube


Amazing parenting is not about always saying
and doing the right thing and raising perfect children.  It’s about becoming intentional in your parenting and proactive in learning skills to help you parent more effectively in a way that fits best for your unique parent-child dynamics.

Weekly tips delivered straight to your inbox can help you become an amazing parent today!

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.