My son was born with what my midwives called a “nuchal hand.” What that means is that his hand was in a tight little fist plastered next to his head as I pushed him out of the birth canal. My amazing midwives had me pause for a second while pushing (no easy feat, I tell you). Then they unfurled that fist, and then the rest of him came flying out.
But as soon as he was able to, he tightened his hand right back into that fist and kept it squarely by his head for the first few weeks of his life. Sometimes as he slept, he’d shake that fist in angry righteousness.
It was no mistake — he had an agenda as soon as he was born. Even as a baby and young toddler, he was serious, strong-willed, and knew exactly what he wanted. He had no trouble telling us so, insisting at a very young age that it was his way or the highway.
As you can imagine, this made for a pretty harrowing experience raising him those first few years. My husband and I adored him, of course, but he was like a whirlwind — full of thoughts, opinions, sensitivities, and sass. He was as bossy as they get.
Now that he’s older and has mastered a little trait called restraint, things are a little easier. But he can still be bossy as hell. That’s just part of who he is and will always be.
It’s certainly not been easy, but it’s not all bad either. Like anything else, raising a bossy kid has its pros and cons.
The Cons of Having a Bossy Kid
1. Bossy kids can make you feel like you’ve done something terribly wrong as a parent.
As the mom of more than one kid (both of whom I raised similarly), I can tell you that I didn’t do anything different to make my bossy, strong-willed one that way. But I will also tell you that it is very easy to doubt everything about your parenting when your 3-year-old is lying on the floor for 45 minutes screaming about how you cut his toast.
2. Bossy kids can embarrass you.
Bossy kids like to give instructions to everyone around them and don’t have trouble offering endless opinions — some of which can be very, um, controlling. Sometimes you just want to walk away and pull the “Oh, sorry, that kid isn’t mine” card.
3. Bossy kids stretch your patience to its absolute limits.
I consider myself a pretty patient person, but I lose my shit on my bossy kid at least once a day. He will not shut up, and he will not relent! Yes, we use discipline, positive reinforcement, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the kid has a motormouth full of endless opinions, critiques, and rules that must be followed to a T. All of it drives me to the last frayed end of my rope.
4. It’s easy to forget that bossy kids are just kids.
When bossy kids talk, they tend to sound like adults — yes, squeaky little adults with mac and cheese stuck to their collars, but adults nonetheless. You need to constantly remind yourself not to fall for their shit, but you also need to remember to handle their souls gently because they are truly only children.
If you have a really young bossy kid and are swarming in the wreckage of raising such a kid, you might not see the pros here at all. But let me reassure you that bossy kids actually end up having some pretty rockin’ character traits. If you can muster up enough patience to get through their early years, these fabulous pros will shine through.
The Pros of Having a Bossy Kid
1. Bossy kids have amazing leadership capabilities.
Your bossy kid will end up being president — at least of the student council. Seriously, bossy kids thrive in leadership roles or any role where their strongly held beliefs and need for control can be channeled.
2. Bossy kids think outside the box.
Bossy kids don’t fall for the status quo, and this is actually a really good thing. They think for themselves and have no problem voicing their opinions. It wasn’t fun when they were tantruming 2-year-olds, but it comes in mighty handy for when they are asked to write an opinion essay in ninth-grade English, or when they use their mind in super-innovative, creative ways and become the next Bill Gates.
3. Bossy kids aim for success.
My bossy son has a huge perfectionist streak, and as he’s advanced in school, it’s been really helpful. He doesn’t need outside pressure to stay on task and do well in school. Yes, sometimes he can drive himself mad with the need to do everything exactly right, but if given the right kind of emotional support, he gets through it and ends up being really proud of his accomplishments.
4. Bossy kids love with all their hearts.
This the best kept secret about bossy kids. When they love something or someone, they do so with the most passion and vigor of anyone you’ve ever met. As the mom of one such bossy, big-hearted kid who still likes to cover me in hugs and kisses every night before bed, I can say this is a very good thing.
If your bossy kid is making your life a living hell right now, I get it. I really do. Create appropriate boundaries. Discipline your kid. Make it clear that being the boss is not always going to happen in every situation, and that kindness and humility are just as important as being right.
But also don’t squash the spirit of your bossy kid so much that all that passion dies as well. That passion will someday do a world of good. I promise. Just hold tight and wait.