Child Caring

Stop that bossiness!

I have a 5 year old son who talks like he is the parent towards his younger sister as well as me and my husband. He is very mean when he talks to us. We do not speak to our children with loud, angry tones.

I'll give you a few examples: We were playing outside and my daughter went around back, I asked him, "Can you please ask her to come up front?" He said, "Yes mom!" Went to the side of the house yelled, "Come up front NOW!!!" I then told him, "You didn't have to yell at her, would you like if I yelled at you and told you the same thing you told her?" He said, "No." I said, "Next time, talk to her like you want to be talked to."
Another example: I was trying to get them inside for lunch, I was telling them, "OK, it's time for lunch, we need to go inside to get washed up." My daughter said NO, I want to stay outside. (She's 2, typical behavior from her.) He then said, "Do you want candy, do you want ice cream?" She says, yes, he says, "Then you have to come in." I was in shock! I then told him, "You do not offer things to your sister to get her to come inside." Another: At dinner their dad was eating and he says, "Dad close your mouth when you're eating, I don't want to see your food." But the anger in his tone was unbelievable. On top of it, he wasn't chewing with his mouth open. I then said, "You do not talk to your dad that way, you do not tell us what to do, you are not an adult. It was mean, and uncalled for now you need to tell your dad your sorry."

These are all from today, there have been so many other times where he is acting like he is the parent. I don't know what else to do to make him understand he is not the parent, he does not tell his sister what to do or us. And to talk to others how you would like to be talked to.

From: Yvonne, Livingston, NJ

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Dear Yvonne,

What you're describing -- not just what he's saying but the tone of voice he's using -- is a learned behavior. He is imitating someone in his life -- babysitter? playmate's parent? neighbor? grandparent? Once you figure out who it is, let them know this is not the behavior you want them to model for your kids. In fact, depending on who it is......I'll let you finish the thought.

When he gets bossy with his words, try this response instead of the (too complicated) one you're giving him: "You are not the boss of your sister/father/mother" etc. When he speaks in a tone of voice that is nasty and inappropriate to you or dad, tell him, "Are you talking to me? Because I can't listen/ answer you when you speak in that mean way." Turn your back on him. Literally. Be prepared: It will infuriate him. Tell him to try again, and respond if he's able to speak in a tone that's more appropriate. It will take a bunch of times before he can change, because he's likely internalized the behavior. If he wants help with this -- you talk to him quietly ( "Do you want me to help you learn how to speak so you're not sounding so bossy?" ) and he says yes -- establish a code of some kind, a word or motion that signals to him to try again.

Trust me on this one, this letter strikes really close to home. Much to my surprise, the culprit was..... my mom!