Don’t be too quick to ban ‘bossy’


Yesterday, Grace had been talking all morning about building sand castles, so we loaded up her various shovels, pails and tools and headed to the playground. When we got there, we left her equipment in a pile in the sand before we detoured to the swings. We got back about five minutes later, and some older girls — maybe 5 or 6, had commandeered most of Grace’s equipment.

At nearly 3, Grace is pretty good at sharing, but her face was crestfallen when she saw the other kids with her stuff. She didn’t want to play with them. So I quietly prompted her to go ask for her toys back. My heart broke and swelled at the same time, if that’s even possible. 

The girls gave back some of the stuff — not all of it, we had to ask for it piece by piece — and then kept coming over and asking if she was still going to play with it. “What’s she even going to use that for?” the most “assertive” one said, eyeing a small purple Barbie pitcher. Then they came over every five minutes to ask if Grace was done playing with her own toys.

Sorry, but these girls were bossy. Does Grace standing up for herself count as bossy too?

I have an issue with the wholesale banning of a word, especially this current “Ban Bossy” campaign. There are a lot of ugly words in our language with ugly meanings, but to ban them is to lose nuance and, in the right context, a powerful way to discuss issues that probably need it most. I get that labeling people, especially kids, is counter-productive and sometimes even harmful. But if someone’s a b-word, that’s what she is. 

Where is the line between being bossy and being rude?  I think the answer is more along the lines of teaching your girls and boys to be assertive, teach them to speak their mind and ask for what they want in a respectful way. Model this for them. And make sure they respect the requests of others and err on the side of generosity. 

Let’s make sure our daughters know how to negotiate their worth and ask for raises down the road. And if they want to lean the hell out, they can do that too.

Vanessa McGradyDon’t be too quick to ban ‘bossy’

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