DR. RUTHERFORD: It's not uncommon to see only children or first-born children be bossy towards other children. Perhaps this is because the parents expect more from the child and often treat him as if he were older than he actually is.
MOLLY: This was submitted from a parent in Salt Lake City, Utah. She also mentioned that her son likes to "tell everyone what to do and how to do it!”
What happens is that he’s unsuccessful at getting people to do what he wants and then he gets frustrated and angry. She also said that he doesn’t have any good friends even though he is very social and fun-loving and she’s wondering if, since he’s an only child and they’ve allowed him to “rule the roost," if they’ve “accidentally turned him into a monster.”
DR. RUTHERFORD: I think the mother is on to something when she says that she lets him rule the roost at home. When that happens with kids, and it does seem to happen more frequently with only children or oldest children, the parents and the child have to sit down and have a very serious conversation. The parents have to own their own mistake that they’ve let him think that he is in control over their family life. They'll need to tell that child that they’ve done him a disservice in letting him think that he does rule the roost, and that things need to change at home.
There are two ideas to share with this child: how to be more aware of his own behavior and how to recognize where it comes from.
One approach is to ask him if he notices that other kids have not been playing with him and follow it up with asking him why he thinks this is so.
Here is where we want to engage a child's observing ego and his sense of self by asking him what he observes. He may respond with something like, “Well I tell the other kids what to do because they're not doing it right,” or something like that.
Then his parents have to help him to see that most, if not all, people do not like to be told what to do. And, if they are always told what to do, they’ll stay away from the person bossing them around.
He needs to understand that only other children's parents can tell them what to do, not him. His parents should realize that this is going to be a hard....
Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford publish ConversationsWithMyMother.com, an online resource for offering practical parenting tips and psychological insight into raising kids. Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist in practice for over 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University, and the University of Denver.
More from parenting