Bossy siblings! If you have more than one child, you are likely to find yourself dealing with a bossy sibling. Being bossy doesn’t have anything to do with being the oldest, though that often is the case; being bossy is driven by a desire to be right, be in charge, or control things around you. Anyone can be driven by those desires – whether you are first born, baby of the family or somewhere in between!
The biggest harm that happens when we let a bossy sibling continue is that it damages the sibling relationship. To me, this has been one of my strongest goals – I want my kids to love each other, live in harmony and build a strong relationship with each other. Bossiness kills relationship. This has been my motivator in addressing this issue.
Not only does being bossy affect the sibling relationship both short and long term, allowing this attitude to continue in a child creates a habit of always having to be right or in control, not receiving instruction themselves, and thinking that they are above everyone else – wiser than their years. So not only are we turning a blind eye to the disharmony in our home, we are not teaching that particular child to rule their own heart, to consider others first, and to respond to life with love and grace.
We can tell our kids to stop being bossy and leave it at that – but that isn’t training our kids. I found it helpful to look at why they were being bossy. Being bossy is just an expression of something in their heart – what is it?
1– Too much authority – In our house this was one of the biggest issues and it has nothing to do with the child, and everything to do with me, the parent. When we give our children too much authority, they get bossy. We give them the authority because it makes our life easier – but we are the parent. We are the parent – our life isn’t supposed to be ‘easy’ – we are supposed to be teaching, guiding and helping our kids. We need to give direction, we need to see when things aren’t right, we need to give the correction and guidance. When we give that authority to our younger kids, in order to handle it they become bossy – it is the only way they know to handle that authority. So if you have a bossy child, ask yourself if you have given them authority over their siblings? If so, take it back! They are not the boss – you are. (Side note: yes, sometimes we do give our children authority in certain situations, and if they can handle it without being bossy, great, and if all siblings can handle it without reacting in such a way that it dames the relationship, great – but be alert, because the balance can change very quickly).
2– Pride – Pride is the underlying heart issue that makes anyone bossy – whether it is pride that they’ve been given authority, pride that they know more than the other person, pride that they have what it takes to control a situation. Pride is when we are focused on, and motivated by our self. It is pride that drives a child to think that they can be the boss, and with this attitude they take authority. (You see we have two different scenarios here – one, we mistakenly give authority, and two, they mistakenly take authority). When our children are driven by pride we need to take them aside and help them see what is going on. Humility is one of the hardest things to teach our children, especially in this day and age when it is all about building confidence in our children. But confidence and pride are not the same – humility and lack of confidence are not the same thing. Humility is when we are focused on, and motivated by the success of others. It doesn’t detract from our own abilities, knowledge or role, but it recognises the abilities, knowledge, and role of others. Humility is being other’s focused.
So other than teaching our children to respond to all of life situations with a love and respect of the other person – we need to teach them to handle authority with humility and to encourage their siblings not boss them!
One day when Jess was around 8-9 years old, she asked me how to encourage her siblings to do the right thing without being bossy. I told her she was to go to them, remind them what the right thing to do was and then leave it at that. Walk away. She came back to me and said, “but the Bible says, to go to your brother three times”. Gotta love it when your kids start quoting scriptures at you!! So I pondered on that, because she was right. My answer back to her was that if she could go back, three times and keep her attitude right, then she could do that, but she lost the freedom to do that as soon as she got bossy because at that point she had heart attitudes to deal with herself.
Our kids need to know how to encourage without being bossy. This does come with maturity but here are a few tips to think about as we walk with our kids as they learn this important lesson:
- Ask yourself, why is this important? Is it important because you know better than them, or is it important because they are in danger – physically or spiritually? (Your pride versus your love for them)
- Ask yourself, has Mum or Dad seen this happening? Can you trust Mum and Dad’s decisions; they may be letting your sibling go on a journey so they can learn from consequences. It may not be your problem. (Your pride kicks in thinking you know better than Mum and Dad)
- Is your way the only way to do the right thing? (Pride)
- Have you been a godly example? Even as you react to them, you are responsible for your reactions not their actions. (This is the issue of pointing the finger and 4 back at you, or taking the log out of your own eye, before you take the speck out of someone else’s eye).
- Is there a way you can help them rather than tell them? (Show you love them)
- Can you be kind towards them, even if they are doing ‘wrong’? Find your loving voice – not bossy, not condescending, or impatient – but truly love them even though they aren’t doing the right thing?
When we have the right heart attitude ourselves, about ourselves and about our sibling, we will be able to encourage in truth and grace. Truth – we get truth – this is the ‘thing’ that drives us to be bossy! But grace – that is where it sticks. Can we be gracious, offering our sibling kindness, patience, assistance, and forgiveness? Even if they are doing the wrong thing?
This is indeed a hard lesson to learn.
It is a hard lesson for parents to learn as well – I think we can take a pause and ask ourselves – are we bossy or are we teaching and training. A bossy parent is as inharmonious as a bossy child. A bossy parent is functioning out of pride not love. A bossy parent is standing on truth, but without grace. A bossy parent is not setting a good example!
One way to address the issue of bossiness, if it has crept into your family, is to focus on showing love to one another – redirect your family heart towards speaking words of life and encouragement for a season and I am sure you will see your sibling relationships strengthened.
When Family Relationships get Tense, Look for the Niggles: When family relationships get a little tense we can look for the niggles and deal with those attitudes before relationships get damaged and break.
When Your Children are Home Alone, Who is the Boss? When you are ready to leave your children home alone you need to make sure they have the skills to do it well.
Parents, Don’t Settle for Normal: Just because everyone says your kids go through this stage, don’t let that define what you want your children to be like.
Bullying is about Power, and it can Happen in Your Family: Bullying is one person using their strength to take advantage of another and it can happen in your family between siblings.
Over to you:
How do you teach your kids to encourage one another to do good works?