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How do I stop dd behaving like a dictator

(20 Posts)
Prufrock Mon 04-Apr-05 14:37:18

Nearly 3 years ago, I gave birth to the re-incarnation of Mao Tse-Tung and Stalin rolled into one, with more than a little of me in the mix.
So far, my parenting style has followed the advice of somebody on here (I think I'll blame you Aloha) who said to choose the battles you are willing to fight with a toddler. But I think this has led to dd believing that it is right and just that she should get her own way on everything. Now don't get me wrong - she is a lovely child, and usually very well behaved, she's just so incredibly bossy. Here are just a few examples:

Dh gets 2 yogurts out of the fridge for ds. "I want those ones" said dd, alhough she hadn't quite finished her last mouthful. So she was given them and dh got out 2 more. "No, Daddy, I will have that red one and ds can have this one" said dd - so we swapped.

I get a dishwasher tablet out of the box. Before I open it dd rushes over "No mummy, I want to get it out" - So I put mine back, and she gets one out "here Mummy - you can put it in and I will close the little door"

DD is building mega-blocks. Ds (11 months) is happily chewing away on one. Despite there being hundreds of other blocks on the floor, some of which are exactly the same as the one ds has, dd decides she wants his. So she gets another block, gives it to ds and takes the one he had away. He cries, and when I tell her to give him his block back she says "no Mummy - we are sharing them, he can have that one". As ds has now stopped crying I say OK.

DD's friend S is playing. They are pretending to have a tea party. S has the red cup. DD wants it. I say "No, S has it, why don't you have the green one" "But I want the red one" says dd. She then proceeds to pout in a way even Jasmine from MMAS would think OTT, and put her face mournfully into S's until S (sweet, pliable girl) gives her the red cup.

These may seem like small incidents, but we have them all day. And I'm worried that if I carry on giving in for an easy life I am just storing up trouble. OTOH, I don't want to cause conflict where it's not necessary.
If she ever does go "too far" - which atm I see as forcefully taking others toys (as opposed to manipulating them away), or the very rare occasions she is overly physical with ds, I do put her on the bottom step - and she will come back all sweetness and light and say sorry. And lately if she is told No to anything she stomps away in a huge sulk, sometimes even shutting the door of her room, saing "I am sad now". We tend to ignore this, and she will reappear sooner or later in a happy mood.

Goodness this is long. Thank you for gettiung this far - now do you have any suggestions on easy ways for me to nip the bossiness in the bud before she grows up to be me?

Kaz33 Mon 04-Apr-05 22:23:56

My nearly 4 year old DS1 is very similar, he is utterly in control of this household, very bossy BUT a great communicator. Your DD sounds similar.

As he loves language and obviously being in control I have introduced the idea of a compromise where we meet somewhere in the middle. He tells me whats going to happen ie: I'm going to watch TV and I say lets compromise - we do this and then watch TV. Often it works, you don't have to give away too much and mostly he forgets what he has just negotiated. He enjoys it too and even has started suggesting compromises of his own.

But anyway you are not alone, comfort yourself that you have a confident and communicative toddler.

Lethal Mon 04-Apr-05 23:49:45

Hi Prufrock, I saw your post on my other thread Yes it does sound like we have a lot in common, most of the examples you gave of your dd sounded exactly like my ds. The subtle manipulation that goes on all day, and the type of compromising & negotiating that Kaz33 mentioned.

Just wanted to say Kaz, that your comment "very bossy BUT a great communicator" struck a chord with me because ds also uses language in quite an astounding way sometimes. I took him to see an ENT specialist a few weeks ago who deals with a lot of children, and his assistant commented that she was amazed by his communication skills at such a young age. She asked me whether I'd had him assessed (?) - TBH I hadn't really thought about it much before that. It's all very well having a good grasp on language, but I'm not sure where the dictator-like behaviour comes in

JoolsToo Mon 04-Apr-05 23:53:51

"My nearly 4 year old DS1 is very similar, he is utterly in control of this household"

now that is very scarey!

ladymuck Mon 04-Apr-05 23:59:08

No big answers to this I'm afraid. However the thing that would worry me a bit from what you have described is the number of times that she is "winning" over her brother. I would be tempted to occasionally stand up a bit more for his rights - after all he will soon be doing so himself, and he will be going through all the snatching/unwillingness to share phases. He will already be watching and learning. And you will face the struggle that he is old enough to observe, but not yet old enough to understand. I have a similar age gap, though a year or so on from you.

FWIW I have tended to be more lenient outside of my home (where fankly it is more difficult to discipline) but have tried to be more consisent with boundaries at home. Ds1 will be offered choices, but not allowed endless options. Sometimes he will have first choice of youghurts, sometimes ds2 will.

I'm not sure that there is an easy way to curb bossiness. How is she interacting at playgroup? Ds1 has had to gradually learn to compromise in order to keep his playmates happy.

bobbybob Tue 05-Apr-05 00:31:51

I would have handled a lot of things just like you, but I'm afraid once I'd got the dishwasher tablet out it would have stayed out, made a promise she could do it next time (and tried really hard to keep it!)

I spend a lot of time rephrasing ds's demands into requests because he has brilliant language and therefore should use it. Any "I want" or "I need" is met with "Would you like a biscuit?". If he then says "Bob like biscuit please" he gets one. Sometimes he doesn't actually want the biscuit just wants to see my reaction and gives up.

If I don't want him to have a biscuit I just explain to the original "I want" demand that we are having lunch soon or whatever.

Saying "Bob like" instead of "Bob want" or "Bob need" does make him seem less bossy. Saying please and thank you helps, so if he steals a toy off a kid and says "thank you", I praise the other child for letting Bob have a turn and then quickly make him give it back to the original child for "his turn now".

ScummyMummy Tue 05-Apr-05 00:33:15

Ah, she sounds wonderful, Prufrock. Growing up to be you wouldn't be so bad, I'd have thought. I'd carry on doing what you're doing but occasionally say no if things are annoying you. Eg "No. I will put the tablet in the washing machine today." Just to keep her on her toes, get her to realise in a safe, loving environment that- sob!- she can't always win, not to mention giving her the chance to further develop her already great negotiating skills! I think I might also be looking to get her to rephrase a bit for things like the yogurts. e.g. request that she ask you rather than tell you! I'd also praise to the skies any times you notice her let up on trying to control the situation. "I love the way you are letting ds play with his toys even though you want them." "Wow! You and S are sharing your teacups so nicely!" "I noticed you just ate the biscuit I gave you without making a fuss or trying to swipe ds's biscuit- I think he really liked that and I certainly did!" type stuff might work. Does she go to playgroup/nursery yet? IME, being one of a group is good for learning this kind of thing. But basically I think this is minor, very normal, stuff and she's sounds like a sweetie who'll be just fine and go far.

motherinferior Tue 05-Apr-05 06:33:41

Over a year further down the line, I'm still in much the same dilemma. But with a more articulate child, who if thwarted will below tearfully YOU'VE MADE ME VERY UPSET!!! or - get this - "mummy, that hurts and breaks my feelings, it breaks them and ^crumples them up^ and ^puts them in the bin^ for the garbage truck"....

And after spending my 20s protesting about one small blonde dictator I have one installed in the Inferiority Complex. The irony is not lost on me

tigermoth Tue 05-Apr-05 07:29:44

What a heart-melting line from your inferiorette, motherinferior!

Prufrock, your dd sounds to me like she is learning things very quickly - lots of cause and effect, getting more and more subtle as she grasps concepts about life and relationships. And you are a fab role model for her to copy! It I don't know if it's a bad thing to be a little bossy anyway - the world needs people like that

You asked for easy ways to nip the bossiness in the bud - so here's a suggestion. Turn into vague, dotty mummy sometimes. This means, when your dd tries to take over, distract her. Start talking about how dishwasher tablets are made, 'isn't it fascinating darling, I wonder when we will get car washing tablets'...... or the colour red - 'it was my favourinte colour too as a child as I loved strawberries, aren't they delicious? which reminds me, we must buy some for the weekend'.... get your dd showing off her communication skills while the dishwasher tablet or cup stays with its intended person.

I used to do this with my sons, but I have to admit they were not particularly bossy toddlers. However, when they were being difficult, this tactic sometimes worked.

bobbybob Tue 05-Apr-05 07:33:57

Oh yes, I like this one too. When ds was going through his hosepipe obsession he would demand to water the garden and I would say "What sort of hosepipe would we need to put water in Thomas?" (his other obsession) he would witter on about a large blue hosepipe and forget his original request. Brilliant stuff.

WideWebWitch Tue 05-Apr-05 07:40:37

Prufrock, I posted on Lethal's thread so sorry to repeat but I don't think children want or need to be in control/in charge all the time and imho they need to learn that they can't. BUT I totally agree that you should pick your battles wisely and I also like scummy's positive reinforcement ideas when she is sharing the control idea. I think on the cup thing and some others though I wouldn't let her get what she wants. I don't know, maybe I'm an old bag but I just can't do protracted negotiations with very small children about very trivial things and so on the whole I haven't and don't. But I guess IF you're going to go down that road you need to work out which things you're happy for her to decide and which you're not so you can tell her in advance about the new rules and be consistent about applying them. So maybe the dishwasher you let her do but on cups and yoghurts (as long as it's one you know she likes) you have a 'you get what you're given rule.' I have been with children when there are several of them all arguing over who has the damn pink cup and I just can't be doing with it tbh, I think they're sometimes relieved when an adult says 'THIS is how it's going to be, no arguments!' Here, you've got yellow, you've got blue, you've got pink blah blah and that is how it is going to be! Good on her for getting ds a new block before taking his but I think I'd nip that one in the bud too since in life you can't just take what you want and this might be worth pointing out. But feel free to ignore all of this if it's not helpful.

WideWebWitch Tue 05-Apr-05 07:41:38

And bless at your dd MI!

Prufrock Tue 05-Apr-05 11:40:18

OMG MI - It gets worse! I think one of the big problems is composing yourself to be strict andserious when you just want to laugh at them.

Thanks for the advice so far - I think dotty mummy may be coming to stay fo a while, and I will think very carefully about where the battle lines are going to be drawn.

She does go to nursery - used to be full time, now 2 days, and I haven't had any reports of her ever being "bad" - but maybe it is at such a low level that it escapes notice - I will make a point of asking tonight.

Scummy - I already do the positive bit quite a lot, particularly for sharing, and thinking about it, it is noticeable that she does share toys very well - as long as it is on her terms (ie she gets first go) so maybe I just need to add lots of positive re-inforcement on the rare occasions she lets somebody else go first. She does always want to win as well, so I am starting to play a few simple board games with her, and sometimes she wins, and sometimes she loses - and hides under the table saying "I am sad". Is it better to avoid competition totally, or embrace it, and the fact that sometimes she will not win?

philippat Tue 05-Apr-05 11:45:24

I have one of these too . Her recent report from nursery came back with: 'x loves to play musical chairs and often does well, although she does not like to lose' (they don't get paid enough, is all I can say...)

I'm very impressed you've even considered that nipping it in the bud IS an option... I'm fairly convinced that bossiness is nature not nurture...

Just keep remembering that being confident and assertive has served you well, that once you make it past the horrible horrible teenage years she be very successful and able to keep you in the manner to which you've become accustomed, and that she'll get her comeuppance when she has kids of her own...

Tinker Tue 05-Apr-05 13:09:05

I've got one of these as well. We used to call her Benita. At nearly 8, she's not quite so bossy now. Don't know what I did or didn't do really but there is hope

Easy Tue 05-Apr-05 13:30:37

DS is 5 1/2 and suffers this syndrome too, made worse as he's an only child.

He told me a couple of weeks ago that he was the most important person because he was the youngest.

We had a quiet discussion about how everyone in this house is important, we all have our likes and dislikes, we all have to live together and co-operate with everyone else. I taught him the word 'consideration', and I have concentrated on telling him whenever I am 'considering your feelings'.

I am also gently introducing 'his jobs', such as putting his pyjamas away, taking empty crockery back into the kitchen, that type of thing.

Your dd might be a bit young for this, but I'll try to keep you informed on progress.

Enid Sun 24-Apr-05 11:55:18


I have one too (a 2.5 year old dictator). Prufrock I identify completely with your triumph over not letting her make your coffee

why do they insist on doing these things??

Chandra Sun 24-Apr-05 12:27:09

How do I stop dd behaving like a dictator? w

hat about initiating a democracy where everybody has the right to decide rather than just her? if that doesn't work, a state coup is the next step. If that doesn't work, sent her to exile

bumptobabies Sun 24-Apr-05 13:52:10

my daughter was and is exactly the same she is now nearly 11yo. sometimes i struggle as i too am bossy then i remember i would rather have a bossy asertive child than a passive one.i really wouldnt worry, as she goes through school her peers will let her know if she goes too far. i love hearing the latest project ie setting up buddy systems at school for picked on children and how she aserts herself in what she believes in.yes it can be challenging but it is worth it we need female leaders in this world.sounds to me your letting her experiance her greatness in a contained and fun way. good luck

bumptobabies Sun 24-Apr-05 14:00:53

easy,i did the job thing and still do with dd she keeps her room tidy and empties the dishwasher she gets paid £3 a week and gets a magazine i believe it has taught her work ehics as when she wants somthing she asks if she can do extra jobs for a price. after all when do you get money for free,at the moment its a pair of named trainers we normally go halves with her when she wants something. anyway what im saying is this helps with reposability etc and i have found it helps with her concideration of others. sorry i babble

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