I am a proud mother of an eight year named Bella. Since the day that she was born it was obvious that Bella was smart and independent. We were proud that she talked, walked and even read earlier than expected. She also had a unique ability to lead other children in imaginational play.
But, as many parents we grew to worry that her leaderships skills would be labeled as bossy. We all know that girls tend to get this label quicker than boys. If a boy say’s what he wants or asks for something he is strong willed or knows what he wants. However, a girls are labeled as bossy.
When my daughter was around Four years old I sat and watched her at the playground. I watched her try to talk with the other kids her age. She would struggle as some of the kids her age would not speak. She would walk up to them and introduce herself as if she was 7 or 8 years old. I soon noticed that Bella would start playing with older kids that were 6-7 years of age. I watched as they would all talk about what they wanted to play. And if no one had any idea, Bella would quickly suggest animals at the zoo and assign the roles.
At first I confess, I feared something was wrong with Bella. Why couldn’t she play with kids her own age? Is she turning into one of those bossy girls?
I took my concerns to her preschool teacher. I wanted to know her thoughts on Bella’s behavior in school and what I should do to fix it. Bella’s teacher told me that I should not label Bella as Bossy. She said that Bella was always the first student in class to listen. She could ask Bella to help another student in class and she would excel in it. She was a natural born leader who was able to clearly communicates her wants and needs.
I have to admit that I began to cry. How, could I be one of the people in Bella’s life to label her?
Our goal was and still is to help Bella grow her natural leadership skills. As she has gotten older, we have had our challenges with this. I find it hard for the outside world to understand what we are teaching her. We have always taught Bella that no matter what her age is, she has a voice and deserves to be heard. Unfortunaly, many people do not look at children with respect. They laugh things off as if it’s not important and that is really hard for Bella to understand.
For example when Bella was younger she was asked for a hug from a family member who she did not see very often. When she polity said “No Thank you”. We were told that she was rude. I tried my best to explain that it is important to us that our daughter has the right to say No to anyone who asks to touch her in anyway and that she is her own person.
In a lighter situation, an acquaintance kept calling her Isabella which is her legal name. Bella asked if they would please call her Bella and they brushed her off as if what she just asked was obituary request.
And though, at times others have called her Bossy and we watch her eyes dim as she takes this name to heart. We reminder her it’s all about how your body language and your tone of voice that translates your need and wants. We continue to try and let her be her own person yet guide her to see things from all sides. To think with her heart and her head. And most importantly that we love her just the way she is.
If you have a child that you might have thought is Bossy, I urge you to reframe the way you look at them. They are just natural leaders who need to learn how to communicate differently. Something we all need to work on. Labels are for things not people.