How to help a bossy child

All of us parents want to see our children grow up to be Safe, Healthy, Successful, and Happy. When we see bumps in the road to any of those things happening, we want to fix it, we want to get our child past that hurdle and on to them being their best selves. That was the case for this mom that came to me for help with her four-year-old daughter.

She was worried that she would not have friends or that other children would stop playing with her because when they played her daughter was in her words “bossy”. The mom saw this play out as they went on playdates and her daughter insisted on doing what she wanted to do. She assigned roles to the other children – who would do what, even how they should play the parts. She described how at times she saw her tell others what they should say while they played and tried to control every aspect of the play date. Even at home, she would throw a fit if things did not go the way she wanted.

Unfortunately, when mom talked to her daughter, trying to change the behavior, she told her she was acting “bossy” and described to her daughter how she would lose all her friends if she did not change the way she played with others. By the time she came to me, she felt like she had tried everything without success, and all she really wanted was for her daughter to be accepted, have friends and be happy.

This was not the first parent that had come to me with this concern about their child. Here is what I have learned about every child. They come to us with their own personalities, strengths, weaknesses, temperament, and ways of being. Any parent with more than one child knows that they are all different from the very beginning. Some children are naturally wired to be assertive and persistent. Some like to have control or get very frustrated when others do not see things their way. Every child goes through a developmental process of maturing and if we expect them to leapfrog to great awareness of how others feel, we are not being fair to the child.

With this child, it was obvious that the Mom and Dad were wanting to do what was best for the child. I handed her a list of words, Virtues – The Gifts of Character, and asked her if she were to choose a different word to describe the behavior she was seeing in her daughter, which of these words would it be?

Very quickly she looked at the list and without much hesitation, she chose the first word on the list, Assertiveness. She said, “I guess that I would say that she was assertive.”

The question I asked then put everything into perspective, “Do you want her to be assertive later in life, say when she is a teenager or 21, or 25 and beyond?”

Immediately and emphatically the mom said “Yes! I think that is one of the most important character traits any woman needs as she goes through high school, college and into the work world. Even if or when she gets married, I want her to be able to speak up for herself and express her needs and wants effectively.”

Of course, every parent wants their children to advocate for themselves in all situations. So, it was not the assertiveness that was the issue. For this child and others like her, this assertiveness virtue was simply overdeveloped and not balanced with other virtues.

The problem for the child who keeps getting the message “You are too bossy” is that later in life those words will ring in their ear when situations arise where they are being taken advantage of by others. This can happen socially, personally, or in the workplace. Imagine now for this young lady when she is 17 and a young man is working at taking advantage of her. Do you want her to have the story in her head that she is too bossy, that she needs to be nice, or not rock the boat so loud that she has lost the courage to be assertive and speak up for herself? Or do you want her to be assertive and feel that she has the right to say NO or whatever she needs to say to stand up for herself?

We do not want her to lose her assertiveness. I asked the mom at this point to look at the list of virtues and tell me which virtue she would like to see her daughter use to balance her assertiveness. This took a little longer, but now the mom said I would like to see her balance it with Tact.

I said to her, Great! So now let’s see how we can help your daughter use tact while still being assertive.

One note here is that it did not matter which other virtue was chosen by the mom to help her daughter. This was just about balancing her assertiveness and not shaming it out of her. She may have chosen kindness, patience, tolerance, caring, courtesy or any number of other virtues.

We continued the conversation, looking at specific situations and discussing how to use the language of the virtues to guide her daughter to tactful assertiveness. Now, this parent is working with her daughter, acknowledging her for her Gifts of Character and not shaming her for being the unique person she is meant to be. This is discipline (teaching) at its best.

As I coached this mom through her concern, she learned to use all five strategies of the Virtues Project:

  1. Speak the language of the Virtues
  2. Recognize teachable moments
  3. Set clear boundaries
  4. Honor the spirit
  5. The art of companioning

These five strategies are helpful in every part of our life, whether it is with our children, partner, workmates and even or especially with ourselves. In fact, practicing these five strategies will resolve many problems and issues before they come up. They will create a united family working together as a team that values each other, bringing out the best in our children and ourselves.

3 Steps to get past the fear of not being enough

Fear is one of the biggest obstacles that get in the way of us reaching the goals we hope or would like to achieve in our life. However it is not fear that is bad, but what we fear and how we keep listening to the fear mongers in our head – or are they on our shoulder? – that hold us back from accomplishing goals in our life. However, even those voices in our head that we hear and dissuade us from taking action are not all bad. They started off as warning signals, as a way of keeping us safe, even helping us to survive.

After listening to these thoughts for long enough though, they become encoded in our brain so much that our thinking gets hijacked so that we stop thinking about whether they are true or not, we just feel, think and act on their messages. All of us have them – I think I may have a whole busload of them telling me that I am not enough in so many ways. Have you had that happen to you?

If we are going to live a fulfilled, balanced life we need to be able to stop the gremlins, fear mongering, saboteurs that are telling us that we are not good enough, smart enough, safe enough or a whole lot of other things that they like to use to hold us back from living a life full of enthusiasm, joy, and love – a life that we design for ourselves.

The way we do that is a three-step process:

Step One: Know it

What does your gremlin like to say? Do you have the Inner Critic, the you have to be perfect, the what if they don’t like me, the guilt tripper or the danger-danger! voice in your head, shoulder, behind you or wherever it is. When does it show up?

Step Two: Name it

What does it look like? What would you like to name it?  

Step Three: Own it

What gifts and challenges does “it” bring? What would you like to say to this gremlin and when will you say it? What are you willing to commit to that will help you to tame this monster?

If your goal is to live a fulfilled and balanced life, we no longer need these gremlins around, hijacking our dreams. You can do with them whatever you would like to do, befriend them or get rid of them.

Would you like the help of a coach? I can help you identify what is holding you back from living the full balanced life you want to live. While I have worked with parents and children for over 20 years I am now taking a course for accreditation with the International Coaches Federation (ICF) at Anne Arundel Community College and part of the process is to account for 100 hours of coaching, both paid and unpaid. I’m still on the unpaid part.

I would love to coach you. Learn more here.

Dig for this treasure – find a fulfilling life!


We have often talked about the desire that parents have for their children to grow up to be safe, healthy, successful and happy. In our process of doing everything we can to make that possible for our children, there are times that we forget or put on the side our own desire to feel fulfillment and balance in our life as parents. We are people too! And as individuals sometimes we make choices that are not in line with who we are and what we value, just to get things done.

Every choice we make has an impact on our lives and that of our children. It takes courage and commitment to make choices so that we feel fulfilled and balanced. So many things come up that create barriers, pressuring us to make quick decisions without having the time to think about how it might connect, contribute to or upset the balance of life.

If there is one thing I have learned about a balanced, fulfilling life, one that is full of meaning, purpose, and satisfaction, it is that it is not about things or even accomplishments. We cannot fill the gap in satisfaction with a better job, a bigger or smaller car, a special vacation. Living a balanced fulfilling life is available every day of our lives, just not by filling our life with things. Nor is it just about feeling great all the time. Some of our most fulfilling moments are when challenges have been faced and we have struggled and worked through them, coming out stronger. You may have been there and felt a sense of inner peace for living what you valued.

Fulfillment in life is about being whole, complete. It comes when our actions and purpose, mission, vision are aligned. Connecting our vision for ourselves and family with actions that use our talents and gifts – all aligned with our values, living our highest virtues, making choices and raising our family so that our children learn to make choices also based on being their best selves.

  • What would it take to be fulfilled?
  • What is your vision
  • Who are you becoming?
  • What are your top three values that guide your choices?

Begin the process of creating a balanced and fulfilled life.

  • Take your time and make a list of what you value.
  • Rank them and choose your top three.
  • Then ask yourself, “Which values show up in my choices? Which values do I sometimes neglect?”

Would you like the help of a coach? I can help you find the treasure of clarifying the values that will guide you to a fulfilling life. While I have worked with parents and children for over 20 years I am now taking a course for accreditation with the International Coaches Federation (ICF) at Anne Arundel Community College and part of the process is to account for 100 hours of coaching, both paid and unpaid. I’m still on the unpaid part.

I would love to coach you. Learn more here.

Set up an appointment here:

Angst the Movie: a review and some thoughts

Last evening I had the opportunity to see the documentary “Angst, Anxiety is treatable – It is okay to say” at Broadneck High School. First congratulations to Broadneck and the feeder schools for their effort to bring this documentary to both the students, parents, and community. This film “explores anxiety, its causes, effects, and what we can do about it.” The film was very well done and the panel that followed was excellent also in answering questions from the audience.

If you were not able to make it to the showing, I am hopeful that other schools or faith groups will follow the lead of Broadneck. The issue of anxiety is pervasive not just among students, but also among adults including parents and teachers. The fears that plague many individuals range from the fear of inadequacy, not being good enough, rejection, abandonment, and of being judged.

Anxiety may become apparent in many ways starting with a general anxiousness that shows up with worrying excessively about many things and having physical reactions to that worry. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, social phobia, panic attacks or posttraumatic stress disorder are all different levels and types of anxiety disorders.

While it can be hard to understand where anxiety comes from, especially when we see it in very young persons the list is long and there is no one reason. It may include trauma, stress, personality, other mental health conditions, or having blood relatives who have an anxiety disorder. The specific causes are not really known, though some 1 out of 8 individuals are affected and it is commonly thought that the cause may be some combination of factors.

In the end, there were a number of proposed ways of treating the disorder, most of them by professionals, but what struck me the strongest were two things. First was what Michael Phelps said after his visit with a young man who was dealing with anxiety, was a swimmer and looked up to Michael Phelps. His quote was:

“We already have the tools inside of us to get through things.”

This really struck me because when you are working through the anxiety you certainly do not feel that, unless you have the continued support of those around you. So what can we do as non-professionals, as parents and caretakers, who just want to support our loved ones, young or older? Here is what I took from the film and the panel.

  • Learn to Listen
  • Do not judge or rush to judgment
  • Ask questions

The person with the disorder already feels like nothing is right or going right for them. We need to focus on what is good about the person, Listen with empathy and compassion. We are not there to save them or rescue them we are simply there to support them – “we already have the tools inside of us to get through things”.

Ask questions that are open-ended, accept each other for who we are and see the what is right about each other.

As I think about that, it sounds like good advice for all of us – with an anxiety disorder or not.

I highly recommend this documentary for everyone to see.

Want to learn more about how to listen and ask questions that support your child and loved ones, bringing out the best in them and yourself? I help parents and teachers speak a language that acknowledges the virtues of each student. –

Gift of Character: Strength – The Definition

Each month we will discuss one virtue. This month’s virtue is Strength.

Strength means:  “I have the power to endure my tests.”

Balanced Life Skills is about working with parents and teachers to empower them to bring out the best in our children and ourselves. We believe that each of us have all the virtues within us and the job of parents and teachers is to see their child as the unique individual they are, perfect in potential to be their best selves.  Their virtues only need to be developed and grown so they can use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers, and students to reach that goal.

Download a complete List of Virtues and the Five Strategies of the Virtues Project FREE.

How does empathy effect integrity to values?

Being true to ourselves, authentic and living to our highest values can be challenging, especially when the events of the day or the choices made by others hurt us. When there is an event that takes place that doesn’t fit into our plans or idea of how it was going to go how do we remain faithful to the virtues and values we hold at the highest level?

We may want to ask ourselves what virtue do we need at this time to help us remain in integrity to ourselves?  What could I consider to help me be understanding? What would help me be more likely to show integrity?

One virtue that comes to my mind that is helpful in many situations to show integrity to our highest values is empathy. When we can think first of the other person and put ourselves in their shoes, walk on their path, see circumstances through their eyes, the choice we make in our response is more likely to be guided by our highest self.

For students in school, if you were to see someone cheating in school or a competition, how would you react? If we use empathy the question would be, “If I do not speak up what might happen?” If you witnessed a person being picked on, bullied or an aggressor going after someone unable to defend themselves, empathy would have us ask ourselves if I do not act with integrity and speak up for what is important to me, what will the results be.

At the same time if we saw a person left out of an activity or group empathy for the person would move us not to ignore the situation, but rather step in and do what is right.  We act with integrity when we speak up, help others and give of ourselves motivated by our empathy.

Of course, this works for adults also. When we take a moment to consider the other person’s point of view, how they may feel or their circumstances, it is more likely that we will respond to the event or situation with integrity to our values. Taking that stance can be a challenge, mainly if an incident affects our family or us that we would prefer not happen. Maintaining our peacefulness and that of those around us occurs when we live by the virtues kindness, consideration, and understanding.

Empathy is a stepping stone to staying true to ourselves and practicing integrity to who we are and want to be.