Little Miss Bossy

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…

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3 Responses to Little Miss Bossy

  1. aviets says:

    I don’t really accept that “anti-bossy” movement. Being bossy is a negative attribute. Telling people what to do all the time is a negative attribute. Being assertive is a VERY different thing. Knowing what you want is a VERY different thing. We all know bossy people, and we know assertive people, and there is a very obvious difference between the two. I say if someone is bossy, we admit they’re bossy and help them learn how to be around others and how to assert themselves in a socially acceptable way. I kind of have the feeling that people who are so against the word bossy are probably the pain in the ass people who are extremely bossy and don’t know the difference between bossy and assertive.

    • aviets says:

      Oooh, that’s not to say your little girl is a pain in the ass. I think the behavior you describe here is totally age appropriate, and she’ll learn better ways to assert herself as she gets older! 🙂

    • basfordianthoughts says:

      Belated reply – yes you’re right. I must say I’ve not heard anything Sandberg has said yet that I fully agree with. I think the only problem is bossy just isn’t a word people use on boys. But having said that, I think boys behaviour probably gets judged a lot more negatively than girls in general so perhaps I should let them have that one.

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