Does your child rule the TV? Insist on the red cup? Or decide who gets to read their bedtime story?

These could be signs that your child is in charge at home. But, is that a problem?

It could be, yes! If your child is generally obliging and compliant, and there are just one or two things they like, then you don’t need to change anything. However, if your child is becoming bossy and demanding, you can help them learn to cope when they can’t have what they want.

As the parent, it’s your job to be the leader at home. Being overly bossy can create issues for your child’s friendships, teachers and affect how other people view your child. It also makes it hard for your child to develop resilience and bounce back from problems or challenges.

To tackle over-demanding or unreasonable behaviour:

1. Empathise with your child when they feel strongly about an issue. It’s important for your child. ‘I get you want the red cup. For you, that’s the best cup. I bet you wish you could always have the red cup! And sometimes the red cup is in the dishwasher, or someone else has it.’
‘I know you like having the TV on all evening. Sometimes parents have to decide the rules that children don’t like, and that’s hard.’
‘It sounds like you want to decide who reads your bedtime story. You find it difficult when you want Mummy to read your story, and its Daddy’s turn.’

2. Explain your new rules: Decide what rules you want and tell your child.
‘The red cup is causing too many arguments. It’s going to be out of use until there are no more fusses. The cup is in ‘time out’ from now on, for at least a week. What do you think needs to happen for the red cup to come out of time out? If there are more fusses then what will happen to the cup again?’
‘From now on, you can watch TV for an hour a day. After that, the TV goes off.’
‘From now on, Daddy and Mummy have to share and take turns. One night, Daddy will read your story, and the next night mummy will read it. You get to tell us whose turn it is. So, when we’re both home, you’ll need to remember.’

3. Ask your child why you’re introducing the new rule.
Ask: ‘Can you think of why we’re doing this? Why do you think we’re having this new rule?’
Why is it important you learn to use other cups?
Why is it good for the TV to just be on for an hour?
Why is it important for mummy and daddy to take turns?’ (if your child has no idea, give them the answer: ‘To help you learn to bounce back when things don’t go your way!’ then ask again: ‘So, why do we have this new rule?’)

4. Give your child choices. Both of which you’re happy with. You have one hour. Do you want to watch Peppa Pig, or ‘In the night garden?’ ‘Do you want the blue or the yellow cup? Can you remember, is it Daddy’s turn or Mummy’s turn?’

5. Stick to your guns. Be consistent about the new rule. All. The. Time. Help your child understand that you will only be relaxing the rules when their behaviour becomes less extreme.

Gradually, you will begin to get back in charge and help your child to understand boundaries, and learn self-control and self-discipline. Skills vital for your child growing up.

Anger management for 5 year olds

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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