Our pastor told a story in his sermon yesterday entitled “You’re not the Boss of Me” and it immediately brought back memories from my childhood. I’m sure it does for you as well – unless you are an only child. As a middle child, I was bossed by my older brother and lorded over my younger brother. I made Gregg play with me and told him exactly what to do. I was like Lucy from the comic strip Peanuts and treated my little brother like Lucy treated Linus. Poor Gregg! I cut his hair, dressed him up, and made him do homework at 4 years old because he was my student when I began my teaching career at 5 years old. (we are 13 months apart in age and I always knew I wanted to be a teacher) When I graduated from high school, Mrs. Frost, my 1st grade Sunday School teacher, sent me a note recounting the Sunday I brought a flannel graph story left over from my mother’s Vacation Bible School class. I announced that I would teach the Sunday School lesson that week. Mrs. Frost said I was well prepared and confident in my ability to teach. We bossy types are like that.
Siblings have a pecking order and it is often set at birth. That does not mean the pecking order is established by birth order – it is more often determined by personality. Our 3rd child often was the boss because she knew what she wanted! Her siblings were generally more easygoing and didn’t care most of the time. Yet, when they did care, we heard those words – “You’re not the boss of me!”
These sibling relationships are a normal part of family life and part of the way children learn to problem solve. It is a chance for siblings to practice those essential life long skills like give and take, taking turns, negotiating for what one wants, and respect of the needs and wants of others.
If one child is extremely bossy, it does need to be addressed by parents. A child who is in charge at home will develop patterns of behavior that will be problematic when they begin school and there is a TEACHER! It also can be detrimental to those children who are being bossed. They may not be able to assert themselves and may start to believe their opinions or choices don’t matter. This can be very hurtful to healthy personality development.
The most important aspect of this issue is that there should be a boss (or bosses) at home – the parents. Someone will be in charge by default, and if the parents do not take authority – one of the children will. Children are more secure when parents take the proper authority and protect the children from each other and themselves. Learning to respect the parents as their boss will prepare children to respect those in authority throughout their lives. The students I see who have the most difficult time in school are those who do not respect authority. Those students are also the most unhappy.
Children who learn that their parents exert their authority with love and care for their children’s best interests will also learn to trust God as a loving authority. Parents must often say “no” to their children for their own good. God will say “no” to us for a greater good – one we may not realize at the time, just as our children don’t understand a parent’s “no”. God wanted us to understand authority and did that by giving Jesus ALL authority. The following verses illustrate that truth. (I added “boss”)
Colossians 1:16-20 (NIV)