My Son Won’t Do As He’s Told

Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments
Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

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Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hello. I have a four year old son who is in preschool and has a VERY dominant personality. The bottom lines is my son won’t do as he’s told.  He has troubles listening and following the rules.  He wants to do his own things his own way. He has this problem at home as well. He bosses his 2 year old brother around and tells him how to play and gets upset when he doesn’t listen. I don’t want to pull him out of class but even his teacher is saying that he needs to learn how to be more tolerant of rules and better in the listening department.

I have tried to talk to him, but it is hard to get him to stay still and actually understand what I am trying to tell him.  I don’t want to pull him out of preschool, because I want him to learn how to behave or the problems will be worse in kindergarten. Any advice you have would be great!


Hello Jillian,

my four year old won't do as he's askedWhen somebody tells me they have a child with a very dominant personality, I tend to read between the lines and dominant to me often translates as ‘ won’t do as he’s asked.’  Now because I am using supposition only and can’t be sure if that’s true, please excuse me if that’s not the case.  If it is the case, then I’d very much encourage you to check out my behaviour intervention services page as I think you’d find that very helpful in your situation.  

You see, all the things that he’s doing in school are symptoms of a problem but not the problem itself.  Dominant also generally means dominant across the board.  It’s highly unlikely you have a child who is dominant with other people unless there is some kind of power struggle going on with those closest to him ie. parents.  So the next question to ask might be ‘why?’  Why does a four year old child feel the need to be dominant?  That’s a good question and it’s worth pondering for a bit.

Ask yourself what are the real needs of a child?

Children need lots of love and I can tell he already has that in you.  However, the next most important thing is to have a reliable authority figure.  Now many people are great in the first department but lacking in the latter.  Note that I say ‘authority figure.’  What do I mean by that?  Well, children need to know who is the leader.  That cannot be something that is unclear to a child, as it makes them feel uncomfortable which they then express through their behaviour.  They feel uncomfortable because they feel there is a vacuum at the top and it seems to them as if parent is expecting them to fill it, which although they are gloriously ill equipped to do, they try anyway.  A parent can give a child this impression in a host of ways, some of which I describe below and most of the time are done without even knowing it.

Check out this list and see what you might be doing

1. By offering too much choice of the wrong kind and at the wrong time.
2. By being inconsistent and not following through on consequences.
3. By providing an unclear path forward such as too much of what do YOU want to do.

Children are designed to follow and mimic an adult through play.  If you constantly drop whatever activities you are involved in to ask what your child wants to do next, you send a message that you are expecting him to choose what YOU do next.  In other words, the child becomes the leader rather than the follower. No four year old is equipped for that and thus they feel uncomfortable, becoming increasingly demanding and difficult in the hopes that someone will take over and restore the normal parent to child flow.

This is often initially quite a difficult concept for people to understand.  Not because they aren’t prepared to see something from a different viewpoint, but because it so goes against the grain of what many books and parenting experts will tell you, which is to back off from a control battle.

I hope the above is helpful.  It is not so much a prescription of ‘tips’ but more of a philosophy that I think will be more helpful in the long run. For more help with your parenting, please visit my parenting services page.

All the best,


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