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By Kathy Slattengren.

Bossing children around tends to produce resistance instead of cooperation. How does the thought of being managed by someone else make you feel? Irritated? Angry? Rebellious? If you’re like most, you react negatively to someone trying to boss or control you.

Your children are no different. They also do not like when you try to control their behavior. You can test this out by watching their reaction to commands like “Hurry up!”, “Stop fighting!” or “Quit your whining.”

The role of a parent is similar to being a boss, manager or leader. If you shy away from being the boss in your family and try instead to be your children’s friend, that leaves your family without the strong leadership it really needs.

Considering the Characteristics of Your Favorite Boss

I was recently at a conference where the audience was asked to think about their favorite boss or manager. The presenter then asked what qualities made this person such a good boss.

These are some of the important characteristics mentioned:


  • FamilysunriseEmpathetic
  • Honest
  • Generous
  • Passionate
  • Consistent
  • Fun
  • Dynamic
  • Positive attitude
  • Inspirational
  • Compassionate
  • Trustworthy
  • Sense of humor
  • Fully present

The qualities of an excellent boss apply equally to parents. By developing these traits, you can become the admired leader in your family!

Becoming an Admired Leader Instead of a Despised Boss

If you’re a parent with children at home, then you are the leader. It’s up to you to be in charge of providing for the family, making the major decisions in the family and setting firm limits for your children. Families become dysfunctional when parents abandon their leadership role.

David recently told me in exasperation about how his 13-year-old son does “whatever he damn well pleases”. He sadly explained that he knew his son need stronger boundaries but was at a loss as to how effectively to influence his son’s behavior.

For example, his son recently came home two hours later than expected. Although he yelled at his son, the next day his son was late again. While yelling in anger is a natural response, it doesn’t match the characteristics of an excellent leader. What else could David have done?

He could have approached his son with honesty and empathy while also working towards a consistent solution. David might have explained, “I was really worried when you didn’t come home on time. I understand you were having fun and lost track of the time. How do you think we can change things so this doesn’t happen again?” Involving his son in figuring out the solution will increase the likelihood of his son sticking to their agreement.

Establishing Yourself as the Leader

It is certainly easier to influence a teen’s behavior if you’ve established yourself as the loving authority figure when the child was much younger. For example, if you tell a 3-year-old you will be leaving a friend’s house in 5 minutes and then when the time is up he puts up a fit, you can simply pick him up and take him home. If you tell a 13-year-old he needs to be home from a friend’s house in 5 minutes and he doesn’t want to leave, carrying him out isn’t an option!

Being able to consistently set limits is a fundamental skill you need to have as a parent. Your children will help you develop this skill by continually testing for where the limits are located!

Being Trustworthy

Another quality of exceptional leaders is being trustworthy. As a parent you gain your children’s trust when they know you will do what you say you will do. When you keep your promises, your children can count on you.

For example, if you’re at a pool and promise to catch your child if she goes down the slide, then be sure to catch her! One 50-year-old woman still gets angry telling about how her dad told her he would catch her and then didn’t.

Likewise, if you tell your child that you will be leaving the park if he throws rocks and he decides to throw rocks, you need to leave. By following through with consequences, your kids learn to trust your words.

Developing Your Leadership Qualities

Developing leadership qualities is a lifelong process. Think about the characteristics of your favorite leaders and decide which one you would most like to work on. The more you develop your leadership skills, the stronger your family will become.

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Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., has helped thousands of parents from across the United States to Australia through her online classes, presentations, coaching and books. Parents excitedly report their success in replacing yelling and threatening with calm, confident responses. When your children’s behavior is really pushing your buttons, discover ways to set effective limits, invite cooperation and have a lot more fun together!

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