In traveling, speaking, and interacting with families, we often observe some undesirable characteristics especially in first-born daughters. We also receive e-mails from moms seeking suggestions about these girls. While it begins earlier than this, the concerns are generally raised when the girl is 7 or 8.
This daughter bosses and controls her siblings. She corrects her parents and regularly, but not always, disrespects them with words and attitudes. She responds selfishly and emotionally when she doesn’t get her way. She manipulates. When in a conflict with a sibling, she tells the story, making herself out as faultless and a victim of her sibling’s wrong behavior with no other option than to do what she did that was also wrong.
Parents know this behavior isn’t right whether it is from a first-born girl or third-born son, but they don’t know how to tackle it. It is exacerbated by the fact that the child is often right. Mom or Dad forgot something. Little brother did what he shouldn’t do. Sister didn’t feed the dog.
Sometimes these daughters develop their bossiness and controlling because they are given responsibility at young ages, especially with siblings. Because of their maturity, these girls are wonderful help.
A Team Plan
Here are some thoughts on what you might do to tackle this situation. Initially, agree as husband and wife that there is a problem to be addressed. If allowed to continue, the patterns become ingrained and difficult to root out. “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Proverbs 20:11). Controlling will greatly undermine her ability to be a godly helpmeet should she eventually marry.
Work as a team, discuss her issues, and pray together about them. Seek the One Who knows your child, you, and the future. Cry out to Him for wisdom, direction, tenacity, and the patient spirit you need.
Then develop a purposeful plan to turn her attitudes around based on what the Lord showed you and Scripture that applies. Include responses to the negative attitudes, actions, and words your child displays.
Lovingly and privately in a discipleship manner talk with your daughter about the problem. Ask if she wants to grow up to be bossy, controlling, and critical. Hopefully she says she doesn’t, and then share with her other options she can choose. Teach and instruct her from God’s Word concerning her behavior.
Help her learn to take her concerns to the Lord in prayer rather than correcting or controlling. After all, He can remind you, and if He doesn’t, you will soon discover what she wanted to correct you concerning. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter any way. Set aside a special time each week to meet with her for ongoing talks and accountability.
Be consistent. Each time your daughter corrects you, remind her that it isn’t appropriate. Point out when her words, attitudes, or actions are not sweet and respectful. Be short and matter-of-fact, not lecturing. Consider a secret sign that you can give her that she will notice and others won’t, in an attempt to correct her behavior without embarrassing her to others.
Limit the time this daughter has child-care assignments, and when she does have those jobs, supervise. Help her with loving, patient strategies.
Finally, make sure you are the best possible role model, starting with your interactions with your husband. Don’t be a critical, controlling, disrespectful wife. Don’t treat your children that way either.
God desires this in a woman: “a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4). Will your daughter exemplify this later in life if she isn’t as a child? Will you help her away from her bossy, controlling ways or continue facilitating them?