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My Daughter Is Not Bossy – She Has Executive Leadership Skills

My Daughter Is Not Bossy – She Has Executive Leadership Skills

Bossy. I’ve used that word. I’ve used that word recently. I’ve used that word recently about my daughter. I called her bossy and I didn’t think twice about it. She was, well, being bossy. I didn’t praise her for taking a stand or leading. I was annoyed she was telling me what she wanted in a demanding voice. In my frustration, I said “stop being bossy.” And I didn’t even think about what message I was sending her.

Until Sheryl Sandberg , COO of Facebook and organizer of Lean In, asked this question at the BlogHer 13 conference I recently attended. First, she identified the few men in the audience and asked them if they have ever been called bossy. No hands. Next she turned the question to the remaining crowd of over 4,000 women. A sea of hands flew in the air.

If you’ve been on Twitter recently, you’ll know what she said next. “Next time you’re about to call your daughter bossy, take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.'” Her underlying message was that we – men and women – have to work on breaking the stereotype that strong-willed females are negatively called “bossy” while similar behavior in males is encouraged and even praised.

Now I wonder if I’m too late to reverse this negative association with my daughter. Sadly – this was not the first time I called her bossy. If it were just once I think I could turn it around. This “bossy” behavior has irked me for a long time, but I never thought that I could be breaking down a positive trait – this naturally strong will she has always owned and worked to her advantage.

Growing up, I was frequently intimidated by the “bossy” mean girls in school. You know – the ones that make all the rules and completely ignore everyone else, especially the shy kids. I don’t want my daughter to be one of them. She’s not, but what if she grew up to become one? What if bossy turned into bully?

I never even considered the flip side. What if she were bullied and she just took it? What if she didn’t get a promotion because she could no longer stand up for herself? What if she were too afraid to pursue her dreams?

I don’t know if it’s too late for her. All I know is that the next time she’s exerting her opinion onto me, I’m going to refrain from calling her “bossy”, take a deep breath, and praise her “executive leadership skills.” Though I still won’t let her get her way every time – that would be disastrous.

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8 comments

  1. Kris-Ann, Progressive Mom

    ProgressiveMom August 8, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with this sentiment. Ultimately calling our kids bossy (which I’ve done and I have boys) is probably not the right thing to do, but turning those moments into positive ones just doesn’t seem right to me either. I don’t necessarily equate being bossy with standing up for themselves. For example, when I’ve reprimanded my son about being bossy, it’s been when he’s ordering someone else to get him milk, to help him, or to play with the trains the “right” way. I don’t think being demanding is a good trait in anyone, a child, an adult or an executive leader. All of the great bosses/managers I’ve had asked for what they need from me in an appropriate way. They demonstrate leadership in a constructive way. The point of not calling my son bossy is a good one, but I also hope I’m helping him understand why how he’s asking for something or telling me to do something can be done in a nicer or more kind way.

  2. Amy

    Amy August 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

    I totally agree with you Progressive Mom about turning the situation into an opportunity to discuss the appropriate way to treat others. I guess in my situation I feel as if I do call out my daughter on this behavior more often than I should. When I reflect, I know there are times when it’s appropriate for me to put a quick end to it but other times, more recently, she is exerting her independence and opinions. And those are the times I wish I could praise her for her opinion but also discuss a better way of presenting them that are more appropriate. And that’s what I’m working on. I’m always a parent work in progress – some days better than others. As for calling your sons “bossy” – well, maybe the generation of calling only girls bossy has passed. Let’s hope.

  3. Suzanne Shaffer August 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    I was at that breakfast as well and it just so happened that my daughter was in Chicago with me. I had, just a few hours before, called her bossy. She was being a daughter of a mom with heart problems and at the time, she had every right to be that way. Instead of calling her bossy, I should have thanked her for caring about me.

    I do understand, however, that the word has a negative connotation and it’s possible to take those behaviors that you see in your daughters and help them focus them in a more positive way.

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