Recently someone referred to my daughter, for the first time that I can remember in her four short years, as bossy, and I found myself taken aback, on several levels.
Part of me was surprised because I don’t see it. I mean, I see it – I see her playing with and navigating the trying waters of sibling life with her brothers on a daily basis, and I know she is not a kid who is just going to do what everyone else is doing or what someone else tells her to do.
Plus, let’s face it – she’s four. And if you’ve ever spent a day with a four-year-old you know they come with a whole bundle of emotions, mood swings, and an sometimes unbending, relentless, terribly stubborn will (think I am exaggerating? You must not have a 4-year-old living in your house).
All that being said, I still don’t buy the bossy bit. She’s a loud little person at home but pretty quiet and reserved in public, and while she’s perhaps become more vocal since starting preschool this year, I’ve never seen her flat-out micromanaging or demanding that those around her do as she says.
If anything, my oldest kiddo – one of my three boys – is the child I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to hear called bossy. That kid definitely knows how he wants things done and is not afraid to let anyone around him know it. But have I ever once heard him called “bossy” in a critical manner? Again, not that I can ever remember.
And you know why I believe this is the case? Because he is a, well, a he.
In my son, although sometimes (sometimes?!) frustrating, his determined and strong-willed nature has never been called out as if it were something we should be ashamed of or trying to curb. Now, it isn’t totally fair to say that the use of “bossy” was done in a shaming way in regards to my daughter, but the implication that it was a problem was there, and the connotation of bossy, at least in my head, is not a good one, which brings me back to the question of why is it a bad thing for a girl to be called bossy in the first place?
If my sweet girl knows her own mind and how she wants to play or interact with others, how can that be a bad thing?
If she is not easily swayed or steered in any old direction by another person, where is the error?
If she senses a way to conduct herself or solve a problem and voices that, what harm does she do?
Of course if she were being mean or vindictive, this would be a different story. But since she’s not, I see no reason why her determined and strong-willed nature is of any more consequence or in need of redirection than her brother’s. Actually, I am just stubborn enough in my own right to look at this situation and believe that I should cultivate, not quash, this tendency in my daughter. Granted, I recognize that if she continues to set boundaries and give direction to others, it is likely she is going to be called far nastier b-words than just bossy in her lifetime, but I refuse to believe that a woman who knows and speaks her own mind is expressing some kind of character flaw.
So how do I hope my dear daughter continues to carry and conduct herself on a daily basis?
Well, like a boss, thank you very much.