Episode 18 – Kai, Age 9: Friends call him bossy

Building great leadership skills

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Episode 18 – Kai, Age 9: Friends call him bossy


Think About It Questions

  • Do you know a kid who seems bossy? Have you ever been called bossy?
  • What do you think the difference is between being bossy and being a leader?
  • Why do you think it’s a good idea to respond to being called bossy by asking a question, such as “What would you like to do?” How might that question make the other person feel?
  • Why do kids sometimes have trouble compromising?
  • Have you ever given in and done what a friend wanted, even though you thought your idea was better? Why might that sometimes be a good thing to do? Why is it not a good idea to do that all the time?


Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Here’s today’s question:

Hi, my name is Kai, and I am 9 years old and my question is what do you do if your friends say you’re bossy 

Hi, Kai! Thanks for your question! My guess is that you have a lot of qualities of a great leader! I bet you have good ideas, a lot of energy, and you’re probably good at communicating what you want–what your vision is. Those are very important abilities for a leader to have!

Where you’re getting stuck is with the reaction from your friends. We need to figure that part out because even though you have good ideas and you’re putting them out there, your friends aren’t responding positively.

Now maybe your friends were feeling tired and grumpy that day. If that’s the case, you can just step over that rough spot. I’m sure it bothered you to be called bossy, but if it was just one bad moment, let it go.

On the other hand, if you’ve heard the word “bossy” tossed at you by more than one friend or on more than one day, it might be useful to think about how you’re communicating your good ideas, so you can make it easier for your friends to hear them.

One tricky thing is that most kids have their parents and their grandparents and their teachers and their coaches and their babysitters all telling them what to do. With all those grown-ups bossing them around, kids really don’t like it when they feel like another kid is telling them what to do.

A good leader doesn’t just give out orders. A good leader also knows how to listen, ask questions, and get input from others. A good leader notices the positive and makes sure that everyone in the group feels like they matter. A good leader thinks about “we” not just “I.”

So, if you have an idea, you could ask rather than tell, maybe say something like, “How about if we…?” or “What do you think about…?” instead of “You have to…!” or “You’re wrong!”

And if someone calls you bossy, maybe that could be your signal to ask, “What would you like to do?” Listen carefully to the response. You could even try summarizing what the other person says, just so they know you understand. You could say, “So, you want to do it this way because…”

Once you really understand what other people want, you’re in a better place to explain what you want or come up with a compromise. A compromise means doing partly what you want and partly what someone else wants, so neither of you gets exactly what you want, but you both get something.

And sometimes, not always, but sometimes, you might even choose to give in and do what the other person wants–even though your idea is better–just because you care about them.

We all want to do things our way, but including other people’s ideas can sometimes make things even better or at least more fun.

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.

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