Girls shouldn’t be called bossy — they just show ‘executive leadership skills’

Me, Myself... as Mommy.


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L. Ron Hubbard is back in the form of a 4-year-old girl — and she’s living at my house.

This child of mine creates fascinating worlds within worlds to entertain herself. Every so often, she invites other kids to play along.

What I’ve noticed most about Scarlett’s infinite imagination is the fact that boys are more eager to take part, while her fellow females seem to stand back, aghast.

I’m worried we wrap boundaries around our daughters. I’m worried we teach them that “princesses” and “house” are proper games for them to play, instead of encouraging them to dip into science fiction. I think we should encourage our girls to explore their imaginations — and push them to try the weird.

When I’ve wrung my hands in worry watching other little girls avoid Scarlett’s world, Brian tells me that it may not be the fact that she’s channeling L. Ron, but that she’s also a bit of a Mussolini. I’ve often thrown around the label “bossy.”

“Scarlett, stop bossing your brother around,” is such a common phrase around these parts that I’m sure it now goes mostly unnoticed by her brain. It wasn’t until I heard an interview on NPR that I decided to try to rid her world of those words.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, recently made headlines when she discussed the boundaries we place upon our daughters — particularly when we call them “bossy.”

This Harvard-educated woman recently released her book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” which is a bit of a feminist call to arms, questioning why women are not leading more companies and occupying more seats in Congress, and why men are in the forefront of leadership.

“We call our little girls ‘bossy.’ Little girls get called ‘bossy’ all the time, a word that’s almost never used for boys,” Sandberg said in an interview.

When I heard those words, I realized how right she is. She went on to explain that boys are socialized to be assertive and aggressive with the expectation of leadership, while a girl gets the negative label of “bossy.”

“We don’t call little boys ‘bossy.’ We expect that little boys will lead.” She actually advises to refrain from calling our daughters bossy, instead using the description “executive leadership skills.”

If that’s not a T-shirt slogan, I’m not sure what is.

Here’s the thing about being bossy as a child: Kids don’t really care.

I see Scarlett thrusting out orders to her brother, and I see him employ his innate ability to just ignore her demands. One can teach children to ignore the demands of those who seek to control, which is another trait all children should learn — standing up for his/herself.

Scarlett is very clear on her likes and dislikes; she’s willing to throw out ideas and to express her opinions. When they’re rebuffed, she doesn’t drop to the floor (unless it’s me — oh the glories of being Mom), but continues on doing the very thing she wanted.

That, to me, shows leadership.

I think the main point Sandberg is making is that any type of assertiveness displayed by girls is quickly labeled at bossy.

I’ve written about the constraints we place on our children: which colors, toys and emotions are appropriate for their gender.

I hope that with Scarlett’s generation, with parents who have worked so hard for equality, that when she grows up, she really can be what or whoever she wants — even if it’s L. Ron Hubbard.

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