Two Questions that Lower Anxiety and End Bossy Behavior

Do you have a child who is constantly worrying? How about a child who is always telling those around them what they should be doing? Both of these behaviors – typically very much unappreciated by peers – are signs of anxiety. Here are two questions that I have taught my kids to ask themselves when they start to feel worried – questions that lower anxiety and end bossy behavior!

Teach your kids to ask themselves these two magical questions that lower anxiety and end bossy behavior

Two Questions that Lower Anxiety and Stop Bossy Behavior

Children who struggle with anxiety worry about everything. This is exhausting for them AND the people around them. These two questions can help children re-frame their anxieties into a more rational world-view – calming their own nervous systems and making them a lot more fun to be around!

Here are the two questions I have taught my children to ask themselves:

  1. Is it unsafe?
  2. Does it hurt anyone or anything?

I have taught my children that, if the answer to both of these questions is no, they need to leave the person alone. Different people make different choices, and sometimes this means they see people doing things that they do not think are a good idea.

If the answer to one of these questions is yes, I have taught my children to first explain calmly to the person why they think they should stop. They can only do this one time. The person may or may not stop, because everyone makes their own choices. I teach my children that, if the person continues to do something unsafe or something that is harmful to themselves or others, they need to find a responsible adult and ask them to help.

My children understand that it is very important to stop someone from doing something that harms an innocent third party, but sometimes you cannot stop someone from doing something that might harm only them. For example, my kids are concerned about the college students in our area who bike without helmets. They cannot make the students stop this behavior. College students are adults who have the right to take personal risks. My children can choose not to play near someone who is sitting outside smoking, and they can ask someone to stop smoking in their face. They cannot stop our someone from smoking.

Two questions kids need to ask themselves when they feel worried about something someone else is doing. Wonderful for lowering anxiety and ending bossy behavior.

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The Best Parenting Lessons Apply to Adults, Too

The thing I love best about this approach is that these questions also apply to me as an adult. When people around me do something that seems questionable, I still ask myself:

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Does it hurt anyone or anything?

If the answers to both of these questions is no, I know that people make their own choices. People have reasons for the choices they make, and that making these choices is their right. When behavior harms an innocent third party, I have a moral and ethical obligation to do what I can to end the behavior. If I see someone doing something that seems to harm them, I should only say something if it seems they are unaware of the risk. Taking personal risks is part of being an adult.

Looking for more tools to help anxious children? Read these posts:

I also recommend the books When My Worries Get Too Big and What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety for children who struggle with anxiety.

How do you lower anxiety and end bossy behavior in your children?

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MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

7 thoughts on “Two Questions that Lower Anxiety and End Bossy Behavior”

  1. Elisa | blissful E

    I hadn’t thought of bossy behaviour as a sign of anxiety. I think homeschooling does a lot to provide a low-anxiety atmosphere for my kids. They are also quite aware that we do things differently than most people. :) I do have to help certain ones overcome bossiness at different times. I find it helpful to ask them if they would like others (or, specifically, the person they were bossing), to talk that way to them. But the issue is different than I think you are discussing, since it’s not a dangerous, or potentially dangerous, situation.

    1. I know several people who homeschool specifically because their children struggle with anxiety.

      I came up with these questions to eliminate bossy behavior around any topic. I find that children who act in a “bossy” way are frequently children who try to do everything exactly right, all the time. Other children are not quite so concerned with following protocols this closely, and the more exacting child gets upset that they are not being as careful/aware. That is where these questions come in. Stopping to ask if the behavior is safe or harming others BEFORE intervening removes a lot of unnecessary bossing. My kids know that they can come and talk to me about ANY behavior that bothers them, but they do not have a right to intervene unless it is unsafe or potentially harmful behavior. Even then, they can say something ONCE. If that one comment works, great. Otherwise, it is a situation that really needs an adult’s attention, and I want them to come to me rather than trying to be the adult figure when they aren’t old enough to play that role.

      If they want to stop a behavior that isn’t harmful or unsafe, they can try negotiating with the other person – and it sounds like that is the approach you are trying to teach your children by telling them to think about how they would want the person they are bossing to talk to them.

      Does that make sense?

  2. I’m still trying to get this concept through my kids heads, in particular my daughter. It’s a tough road to hoe, but I ask variations on those questions too.

    Like Elisa, I hadn’t thought of bossiness as particularly related to anxiety.

  3. These are brilliant questions to ask! I also had not thought of bossy behavior as anxiety. My Emma can get quite bossy telling others what they should or should not do or delegating responsibilities that she thinks need to be done. I’ve always thought of it as an undeveloped leadership quality that needs maturing. I’ll have to think on that one.

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