Is Your Daughter ‘Bossy’ Or Just Opinionated?

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It’s a common assumption that a little girl who speaks up at the dinner table and makes it known that she will not be complying with your directions is “bratty.” Unlike their wall flower sisters, outspoken girls who have an opinion on what she will or will not be wearing, what precisely she’ll be eating for lunch, and what books she would like from the library have a tendency to be slapped with a “diva” label. Told that they’re being too “bossy” when they assert their own beliefs, much of what makes these young girls strong-willed often deems them a problem — despite that little boys exhibit the same behavior with little to no scorn.

Well-intentioned parents often don’t know notice the unconscious gender bias that happens around the house when children of both sexes are present. Harboring notions that “good” little girls are complaisant little girls, many parents find the same headstrong, vocal qualities in their sons not so tolerable in their daughters.

It is, admittedly, a fine line between a child exhibiting an adamant belief and simply refusing a parent’s efforts — primarily because most children lack the articulation to really make their sentiments understood. But considering what girls will essentially be up against in their young and adult lives, everything from sexism to sexualization to blatant mysgogyny, it is in the best interest of parents to cultivate opinions and outspokenness in little girls — not discourage them with swipes at their headstrong behavior. Framing their candor and confidence as negative attributes with words like “bossy,” starts girls thinking quite early that their voices should not matter, that they shouldn’t be the smartest person in the room, and that perhaps they should just keep quiet for fear of upsetting someone.

Shy and introverted kids have also been reported to carry their own strengths when it comes to scholastic ambitions and performance, but as for our firecrackers — our not so shrinking violets — their desire to be heard and noticed should not be automatically suppressed just because they’re female. Given that the context is not completely outlandish, and as the parent, you know what that is, a young girl’s directness, frankness, and ability to speak up should be treasured.