The labels we use for our daughters hold them back in life. ‘Bossy’ is the term used for young women who are strong enough to take the lead. The word turns a positive trait into a negative attribution – and for this reason, parents should avoid using the term. Here, we have tips to ban bossy from your vocabulary.
1. Encourage girls and boys equally to lead. Reflect on the different messages you may be giving a daughter or son about ambition, future success and leadership. Parents can legitimize a girl’s most ambitious dreams with acknowledgment and encouragement.
2. Be conscious of the way you talk. Notice how you communicate in front of your daughter or granddaughter. Do you avoid sharing your opinion or often soften your opinions with disclaimers or apologies? Girls are vulnerable to perfectionism, so it can be helpful to acknowledge your own hedging words along with hers.
3. Make your home an equal household. Do your girls do “typical girl” chores like cleaning or laundry while boys take out the trash and mow the lawn? Switch up the assignments. If certain chores receive more allowance, distribute those chores equally.
4. Teach her to respect her feelings. Show your daughter to respect herself by letting her know it’s OK to feel whatever it is she feels and to talk about it. When she’s ready to share with others, be realistic with her about the challenges of speaking up in a world that still expects girls to be nice above all.
5. Moms and grandmoms: model assertive behavior. Try turning down a request to volunteer when you’re overloaded – and explain why to your daughter. Let your daughter watch you move constructively through a conflict with a friend or family member and emerge successfully on the other side.
6. Dads and granddads: know your influence. Show respect for the girls and women in your life and help her develop high expectations of other men. Speak out against cultural messages that tell her to value her physical appearance above all else. Let her know you value her for who she is inside.
7. Seize the power of organized sports and activities. Get her on a team! Embrace the sports field as a classroom where your daughter will learn an invaluable set of social and psychological skills. If she is not interested in sports, help her seek out another group activity instead.
8. Get media literate – together. Take the time to ask your daughter what she’s watching and reading and why she likes it. Pick a movie or television show and ask: What kinds of messages about girls and women does it send?
9. Let her solve problems on her own. When your daughter has a problem, pause and ask, “What do you want to do about it?” Your confidence in her ability to solve problems on her own will build hers!
10. Encourage her to step outside her comfort zone. Encourage your daughter to try new things, whether it’s going to an event where she doesn’t know a lot of people or asking her to check out with a cashier at the grocery store. Being brave is rarely about dramatic moments. It’s a skill acquired, little by little, over time. Let her know she doesn’t have to be perfect the first time she does something. She just has to try.
Have you tried these tips for banning the word bossy from your vocabulary?