5 sure-fire ways to put know-it-all kids in their place

RACHEL DOHERTY

Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

Know-it-all kids have a way of making life misery for parents. Yet, their most annoying qualities are likely to be their greatest assets.

Some kids are born with the need to be in control. To take charge and make everyone else dance to the beat of their drum. But that doesn’t make them all that easy to live with.

Kids who wrestle for control are hard work. They can be stubborn and dig their heels in on even the minor things. They can make decisions based on their own perspective, not the broader issues.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN

Some experts call these kids “strong-willed”.

But if you think about it, those qualities can be assets. They’re going to be tenacious as adults if they learn to channel that stubborn nature. They ‘ll be the person at work who will keep looking for a solution. They can be decisive, which is great in industries where taking your time to weigh up options can be costly.

There’s only one problem. While those qualities are great for them when they’re adults, they’re exhausting to live with in children.

Why kids like to tell you what to do

Most people act bossy because they feel powerless or like to be in control. Kids who seem to “know it all” get into a habit of exerting control. Those behaviours that drive parents mad are about exerting power and stamping their authority on things.

It’s a bit like those wildlife documentaries of David Attenborough, where the young male challenges the king of the herd. There’s a clash of horns and the baring of teeth to work out who’s in control.

Hopefully, things are far less violent in your house, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less ugly. The secret to winning this battle for control is working out what you’re fighting for.

“To know what you know and don’t know, that is true knowledge.” – Confucius

Bringing know-it-all kids to heel

Being controlling can have a big impact on how our kids get on in the world. It will affect how they connect with their friends, and get on with others at school and work. So like most skills kids need to develop, reigning in their controlling spirit is part of learning to be an adult. One who can function well in the grown-up world.

Here’s five sure-fire ways to put know-it-all kids in their place.

1. Pick your battles

If you don’t give up some control, you’ll be fighting over everything. So look for things you can live with, even if you don’t like them and walk away from debates on them.

The state of their bedroom or what clothes they wear can be a good starting point. How they spend their pocket money or what grades they get, might come next.

2. Recognise their strengths

Harness their desire to lead, by using negotiation. Let them be part of decision-making processes. All that determination and powerfulness can lead to harmony, when you channel it in the right direction.

Don’t put them down for their personality traits. Help them to shape their strengths so they work for them and don’t become an issue in how they get on with others.

3. Don’t give you your place as the parent

When kids push the boundaries of power, some parents find it easier to give in to restore the peace. But kids don’t need us to be a friend, they need us to be a parent.

If your know-it all is exerting too much power and pushing you around, put your foot down. Set consequences and follow through on them. Reward their good work and make connecting with them over positive things a priority.

Help them to learn that respect is a two-way street.

4. Focus on your relationship

When you’re dealing with a know-it-all, you can feel like life is all about the battle. One fight after another. Look for ways to dilute the fights with things you share in common.

Shared activities and interests can be a great way to build connection and help your kids develop respect. Spending time in an environment where you excel can also help them realise that other people think you’re great. Sometimes the greatest lectures come when they observe things rather than hear them.

5. Stay sharp

Sometimes kids don’t just grasp power, we hand it over to them. Whether by asking them to show us how to do something, or leaving it completely in their hands. Like using phone apps or negotiating new web experiences.

Show that you’re never too old to learn new tricks and give things a go, rather than letting your kids get one over you.

When the battles get you down, remember that those qualities that most frustrate you, will be their greatest assets as a grown up. Then take a deep breath, and stick to your guns.

Do you live with a know-it-all kid? What things work for you?

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