It’s a bit embarrassing when someone describes your kids in ways that are less than complimentary, isn’t it?
“She really tells the other kids what to do, doesn’t she? A right little bossy boots!”
You instantly feel the need to justify your child’s behavior, but later you wonder…
You wonder if your child really IS bossy.
You wonder about your parenting techniques and if you’re on the right track.
You wonder if you ought to be doing something when you see your child being assertive the next time.
My own daughter is strong willed and opinionated, and I wonder.
I watched her this morning, telling her younger sister what to do. She bossed her about mercilessly, all morning. The younger one took it very well, and largely did her sister’s bidding. But eventually she got sick of it, and grew mutinous. It’s then that the Boss’ behavior deteriorated, and she became rude and disrespectful.
That’s when my blood started to boil.
I don’t want domineering children, but I don’t want to squash their spirits, either. I want them to know it’s ok to have an opinion and be strong-willed.
But, in spite of myself, I almost labeled my daughter as bossy. I stopped myself in the nick of time — “bossy” is a lousy label to carry around.
As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says, words like bossy send a message: it’s not ‘right’ to ask for what you want. It’s selfish. When we label behavior in this way, our children believe that behavior is ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’. Their self-esteem wears away, and their confidence slowly dies.
That’s not what we want.
As quoted in the Yahoo article “Since when did obedience become the epitome of good parenting?“, Alfie Kohn, the author of Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason says that when he asks parents what their long-term goals are for their children, “No-one ever says mindlessly compliant.”
So how do we strike that balance as parents?
How do we teach our kids to express themselves without being bossy?
The answer is to help them to state their feelings in a way that is polite and courteous. Here are some things that I find helpful with my strong-willed daughter –