My 2 year old pretty much does whatever her older sister (4) tells her – no matter what they’re playing, the big one tells the little one what to do and she willingly goes along with it. How do I ensure she develops her own way of playing and doesn’t always just follow her sister around?”
Toddlers look up to their older siblings for guidance, information and are quite happy to be lead by them for a little while but as they mature and develop and gain more confidence and develop their own ways of doing things the balance will often re dress itself naturally.
Build your little ones confidence and encourage her to take the lead sometimes in your family by laying the table, helping you or doing things on her own, and help her assert herself in natural settings as this will build up her confidence and self esteem.
Do keep an eye on it though over time and be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable for your older child to do or say.
An older child should be allowed to tell a younger child “No”, if the child is doing something dangerous. Teaching your children to be concerned for each other is important and beneficial for the whole family as it builds the bonds of the “we” mentality of a family. But your older child must understand that you, not they are in charge overall.
Being involved in your children’s activities will decrease the bossiness. Often my son wanted to boss his sister when I was preoccupied with something else. He knew that I was distracted, so he took the opportunity to “parent” his sister. You will greatly reduce the bossiness of your children if you are engaged and participating in what they are doing.
When your older child is bossing your younger child, explain to your younger child that his big brother or sister cares about him. Though you and your younger child should not tolerate the endless bossing by your older child, your younger child should know that you all want what is best for him.
Taking the lead and bossing is a normal part of every family where there is more than one child. Though it is not particularly harmful, it must be kept in check in order to preserve your younger child’s confidence.
Have a chat with your older child and explain what you think is and isn’t acceptable behaviour so they can understand and learn from you. Be positive and not too critical. Just be clear on your rules.