How To Tame Your Demanding Child
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How To Tame Your Demanding Child

Updated: May 15, 2019


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You know that feeling when your child has the upper-hand?  You cease having control, being listened to, respected.  They rebel, revoke, disobey, direct, boss, take charge, push, shove and exhibit all sorts of feisty, controlling behaviour.

Your voice escalates, and already a battleground emerges.  Immediately you are feeling a failure for not being able to get through to your child, for not handling this better.  And then the guilt sets in, for yelling, screaming and more. 

Well this is happening in homes, mine and yours, and all over the world right now.   This was the topic of our most recent Gaia Gang, and has already brought about miraculous shifts for gang families.  

I would love to give you too the ways to get on top of your demanding child.   First up here are the three reasons behind this behaviour which you will need to know.  

1. In any relationship one person assumes the lead, and the other follows.  One person cares and the other depends.  For the child that takes charge and takes centre stage, he has assumed this provider, leader role.  

As parents it is really hard to strike the balance between being firm and being caring.  When we lose this balance, and this happened to me, our child no longer trusts that they can rely on us and instead takes on that leadership role.

2. Beneath the aggressive armoury and independent façade, your prescriptive, commanding child is actually hurting.  

The tough protective shield we see serves to numb her feelings of anxiety, separation, alarm or simply feeling unlovable.  

She feels she can’t depend on us, and so assumes independence way too prematurely.  

Perhaps she feels your attention is divided, some injustice, a change is imminent, a sibling enters the family or some other hurt too hard to admit. 


3. The willfull, spirited child is infact a product of modern life and modern parenting.  Yet, once we notice this we can support her and maintain calm control and cooperation.

'Children should be seen and not heard.’

This was the refrain of my grandparents while I was young.  In one generation this chorus has been abandoned and children nowadays are completely seen and heard.

In previous days the end result of growth was compliance and conformity, the prerequisites for factory work.  So as a backlash from former days, society now favours the spirited child. 

Today we promote individual growth, we uphold character, chatter, play, expression and more.  Your children are fortunate to mature in times when they are respected as small, unique human beings.  

In a moment we will look at how we as parents encourage our children’s voices plus trump their commands and demands.


There is a mammoth proliferation in this behaviour right now.   My bet is that you see this in your child, another child, and adults too.

The leading child psychologist Gordon Neufeld names this stance as alpha behaviour.  

It is vital that we parents, teachers and guardians meet alpha behaviour in a particular way so as to soften our children and allow their natural flourishing.  

When children are prescriptive, assertive, bossy, controlling, demanding.  Whey they take charge and take over, and get angry and aggressive, here are six ways to handle this alpha behaviour:

1. Think Mary Poppins

Assume a warm, patient, firm yet caring approach.  They can rely on you.  You recognize, understand and see through any off-track behaviour, and present yourself as ‘having your child’s back.’  You delight in your child and they both cooperate and shine under your attention. 

2. Know your triggers

My immediate reaction to alpha behaviour was to fight back with a forceful, harsh attitude and like a ‘mama bear’ envelope the other sibling who got hurt.  This only made the distance between my alpha child and I wider, and instilled in her even more commanding behaviour.

When you become familiar with your triggers, and you come to realize there is some discomfort beneath your child’s robust exterior, then you can begin to choose a more loving reaction.   

3. Take charge

Take charge of all matters regarding your child.   When we present endless options to our children, we lose our place of responsibility over their care.  

Only give small decisions and choices between say two age appropriate options to your child.  

4. Never too much

Whatever behaviour erupts, convey you can handle it.  For a child (or adult) to feel they are too much is very hard to bear.

5. Pre-empt needs

Take the lead in meeting the needs of your child. You see he is hungry, offer a snack before he demands one.  The idea is to trump his pursuit of any needs.

6. Use empathy

When you meet with aggression and alpha traits, and you have an inclining for what is beneath this cloak, use warm empathy and validation.  Your comments serve as reassurances for your child that you are on their side, that you know they are much more than their impulsive kicky legs or pushing handsthat you love them no matter what.


Whatever our child’s age, it is not too late, (or too early in the case of babies) we can begin to get on top of alpha behaviour now. 

We can resume confident care-taking, we can return to a harmonious dynamic in our household and we can raise both willful and considerate children.  


With so much love Anna



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