Written By: Amanda Albers
A few months ago a campaign from leanin.org went viral, using some celebrities and girl scout troops as ammunition, to encourage young girls to be leaders and to call the ‘bossy’ attitude ‘being a boss’ instead of, well, being bossy. I agree with the efforts of the organization to build the confidence and leadership qualities in young girls, this is a must for any child no matter what gender. I do not however agree with banning the word ‘bossy’.
Let me start with this. I am a mother of three little girls, two of which are at probably the most impressionable age of their lives. Emotions run high and low. Friends are made and lost. Bullying is a concern at the forefront of my mind, and my husband’s. But there is one thing that I will not allow my daughters to be, and that’s bossy. And I will call them out on it every time.
There is a difference between being a boss and being bossy; being a leader and a dictator; being assertive to fulfill a need and domineering just because; between advocating for yourself and telling someone else to do it your way while shaking your head and waving your finger. There is just a difference. Being bossy means that you have a certain attitude about yourself and that you ‘lead’ with an authoritarian approach and a “do as I say or else” tone. As a society we may not like the word bossy, but much like any other word, over decades and decades it has come into its own meaning, and it doesn’t have a nice one. The Merriam Webster dictionary gives the definition of bossy as being “inclined to domineer”. I don’t want that for my girls. I don’t want them to domineer their friends or their future co-workers.
I realize that this will ruffle some people’s feathers. And probably because their daughter is bossy. But I also realize that at the ripe at of 5, my daughter was able to describe to a T what being bossy was and what it felt like to be bossed around by a peer. Not fun. There is a difference in building our daughters up with confidence, being assertive at appropriate times, being a leader and teaching them great communication skills than eliminating the word bossy yet encouraging them to do so. I’m not saying that this meaning behind movement is wrong. Please. I want nothing more than my girls to grow into strong women who can stand up for themselves and make great change in the world. BUT what I do feel is that telling girls to not use the word bossy is like telling boys not to call each other jerks and to call them a leader instead. Or telling a boy that he his behavior doesn’t make him a douche bag, but an assertive entrepreneur. Or telling a boy he is not a straight up a**hole but a future president. Doesn’t sit so well with you does it?
I will not let my kids be bossy and I will tell them when they are being bossy and when it’s inappropriate behavior. I will, however, teach them and guide them to stick up for themselves, and to lead through positive behavior. I will build up their confidence and teach them how to be assertive when necessary. I will not allow them to have a bossiness about them and let them think treating people in a bossy manner is okay, ever.