The first time your child parrots something you say to them back at you it’s kind of cute – at least you know they’re listening. The second or third time it gets less adorable, and after that it’s downright annoying. Somewhere in there it dawns on you; She thinks she’s the boss!
Just in case you’re wondering what I’m talking about (maybe your kids are not talking yet), here are just a few things Miss O has said to me recently:
“You’re the boss of you, and I’m the boss of me.”
“If you want to go to the park, you have to do _____ first.”
“I told you this before. Weren’t you listening?”
And of course, there’s the disapproving throat clearing…
Most of those, I have to admit, come straight from my own mouth, especially the throat clearing – it’s a teacher thing. Of course, I’m the adult. It’s okay for me to say those things. That fact that Miss O is saying them to me is a sign that she’s not quite understanding that we’re not equals.
Let me add at this point, this is completely developmentally normal for a 5-year-old. She’s still learning her place in the world and figuring out her role… and what she can get away with (and with whom). I’m not worried about this behavior. Frustrating though it may be, it’s part of my job to help her learn how to respect authority, starting with mine.
When she begins to get like this, the first thing I do is stop. This gives her a chance to realize that she’s overstepped her bounds. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. But I don’t want to have to tell her what to do for the rest of her life… so it’s worth a few seconds to let her figure things out.
Whether or not she realizes her mistake, we take a beat to talk about it. For example, her teacher tells her that Joe’s the boss of himself, and she’s the boss of herself, because she doesn’t want kindergarteners bossing each other around (as they’re prone to do). However, her 5-year-old brain needs some help understanding that Mommy and Daddy (and Mrs. D, and Nana…) are the boss of her.
After we have our chat, it’s time to move on. Unless we’re talking about a major incident, like your kid telling you to get your ass in the kitchen and make her a chicken pot pie, it’s best not to dwell on it. As I mentioned, this is a totally normal thing for kids to do.
Being bossed around by your kid isn’t fun, and it can bring up images of jerky kids you’ve met who were never put in their place (for lack of a better term). Do yourself, your community, and your kid a favor and teach them now. After all, what you don’t teach your child with love, the world will teach him without mercy.