The irritating Facebook woman Sheryl Sandberg said the other day that she preferred people thought of little girls not as bossy but as assertive. Which is a fine statement. Bossy is a word that is only used to describe women; it’s rarely if at all meant in a positive light and she wants to stop people making girls feel rubbish for knowing what they want.
Problem is, sometimes the only word that accurately describes E is bossy. She doesn’t ask, she demands; she doesn’t request, she tells. And sometimes she points her finger at you too. It’s bossy. It’s not assertive. Assertiveness is not that rude.
I believe this is a natural thing – three year old girls are a horror. I read an article that says a three-year old girl is worse behaved than either sex are at eight years old. I didn’t care if it was true or not, but it did make a useful thing to tell S when he was despairing at E’s behaviour the other day. It’s just a phase.
I make her sound terrible and she really isn’t. Most of the time she’s lovely and fun. And much of her telling us off is a direct reflection of things and styles we say to her. She tells Daddy to say thank you if she takes him something, she looks at me and says “I said no!” with a cross face. It’s basically looking in a mirror. The hardest thing is keeping a straight face. There are times when she’s genuinely assertive – these often involve copying people she knows. She’s very fond of ‘circle time’ at the moment & organises me, S & some soft toys together to sing songs. She instructs us “big loud voices everyone!” It’s currently one of my favourite things.
The question is, how to erase the rudeness & bossy bits without getting rid of her assertiveness? I have no idea. But hopefully we can walk that line…