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Little girls (and little boys) need to be told when they're being bossy

Danielle Herzog



Danielle Herzog is a freelance writer who has the pleasure of writing for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Parenting, The Huffington Post,, What to, BlogHer, Nickelodeon and various other national and local magazi...

It's going to hurt my daughter worse if I don't tell her she's bossy

“Don’t be bossy,” I scolded my 6-year-old daughter after she once again told her brother everything he was doing wrong when playing Barbies.

“Oh,” a mom friend of mine interrupted. “You don’t want to tell her that. It’ll make her feel like she can’t have a voice.”

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I stopped for a second and watched my beautiful ball of energy and love. And I watched her tell not only my son but also all the other kids sitting around her exactly what outfit Barbie was allowed to wear and what Ken should be saying in his attempts to woo Barbie.

She was being bossy.

Not a leader. Not a person inspiring others to try harder and be their best.

She was being completely and utterly bossy.

And five minutes later, I’d be saying the same thing to her brother when he started dictating the rules of his Transformers to his fellow playmates.

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By telling her, as well as her brother, not to be bossy, I’m preparing them for leadership in the real world. Bossy should have a negative connotation. It’s a negative word. Bossy doesn’t teach the difference between dictatorship and leadership.

Do you know what prepares them for leadership in the real world? The qualities of a leader. Understanding, patience, strength, determination. NOT bossiness, telling people what to do without utilizing proper channels, or better yet, manners.

A movement has been started, complete with a website and petitions, to stop the use of the word “bossy” when describing girls. But I had to find out why mothers felt so strongly against the word. I took to my Facebook page to find out.

Sara Baker, mother of a young daughter, was one of the supporters of the movement. “I plan on avoiding this word. It's used almost exclusively for girls and women, and its intention is to knock you down a peg. You would never call a grown man "bossy," but a woman who is assertive or powerful? Plenty would.”

But I disagree. I don’t think the problem is the word bossy. I think the problem is people using it incorrectly. Telling someone what to do without considering their opinions and ideas, by being cruel and lacking respect: That is being “bossy.”

I don’t want my daughter to run a company someday as a bossy person. If she runs a company, or even this country, I want her to do it with strength that comes from integrity.

I'm not alone in this mindset. On Facebook, Laurie Walker, a mother to a 17-year-old daughter, agrees. “Bossy is just telling others what to do. Leading is helping and showing and teaching. Leading is inspiring. Bossing is exactly what it sounds like. I don't want to teach my daughter to be "bossy." I want her to lead. It isn't about whether or not we use the word. It is about what the word means. And I have a daycare at home where I teach the boys the same thing, as well. Lead, don’t boss.”

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I’m not going to stop calling my daughter or son bossy when they act like it. I have never or will never use it when they are showing strength, leadership and respect. That’s what’s lacking when they act bossy. And that’s why the word needs to be said. Perhaps if we teach what not being bossy is to our children, soon adults will catch on as well.

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