Your 4 1/2-year-old: Beating bossiness

Your 4 1/2-year-old: Beating bossiness

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Your 4-year-old now

Your child absorbs and parrots back all kinds of grown-up behavior. Occasional bossiness is one of these. (Not that you necessarily deliver your commands as rudely as your child may play them back.) At four, kids start to experiment with power and how words can manipulate people. Combine this with a fondness for rules and order, and you might find a little dictator on your hands, lording over both her friends and your family.

Dealing with this behavior requires patience and consistency. Point out bossy behavior; don't reward it. If your child demands lunch or help with something, insist that she ask you again politely. "I'll be more likely to do it if you ask me nicely." Prompt for words like "please." If your child is being unkind to friends, turn the tables and ask how she'd feel if a friend treated her that way.

Sometimes bossy behavior stems from always feeling like the underdog, so relinquish power where you can. Let your 4-year-old hold a younger sibling's hand when you take a walk. Offering choices helps her feel she's in control: "You can take your bath first and then we can read. Or we can read first. You choose."

Your life now

When buying birthday gifts for your child's buddies, try not to overthink. Giving the biggest, best present won't make friends like your child any better. A duplicate of something your child enjoys is always a good idea (and, as a bonus, it will be less likely to make your child jealous). Also ideal: consumable items (like a big bucket of sidewalk chalk, art supplies, bubbles, or movie tickets) that won't pile up in the toy box.

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