Is it really that bad to call a child bossy?

There’s this new trend where people are really against calling children bossy. I’ve read all sorts of posts lately arguing that is a derogatory term used for children with leadership skills and determination. To be honest with you, I find it quite odd actually, that using the term bossy has caused such a stir. Is it really that bad to call a child bossy?

Is it really that bad to label a child bossy?
Image courtesy of / noBorders – Brayden Howie’s


Last year I attended a family event, we were all sat around a table when Bear started telling me to get him another drink. I didn’t really appreciate being ordered around by my (at the time) two year old, so I told him to stop being so bossy and to ask me nicely. A family member tutted at me and said to Bear, “You’re not bossy, you’re determined and showing leadership”. I was really taken aback, not least because this person was clearly undermining my parenting (a big no, no in my book), but because in my opinion being bossy, being determined and showing leadership skills are three very different things.


In my book, being bossy is ordering people around, telling them what to do and if I’m being brutally honest acting obnoxious, inconsiderate and rude. A lot of people argue that being bossy shows ‘leadership skills’, I beg to differ. Leadership is about having people follow you because they respect you, not because you make them follow you. Making people follow you is throwing one’s weight around, be that physically or vocally. Leadership is about knowing a direction and encouraging people to take that direction with you without forcing them to. Being a leader is very different to being bossy.


Being bossy is not the same as being determined either. Being determined is working hard at something until you achieve what it is you set out to do. When my children persist at climbing up the climbing frame – even if they find it difficult – until they succeed, that is being determined. When my children order me to get them a drink with no manners or consideration for anyone else, that is being bossy and a behaviour I will pull them up on.

Is it really that bad to label a child bossy?


A lot of people seem not to like the word ‘bossy’ because they think it is a word used only to describe little girls and that is a whole different issue for another time. However for me growing up in my family, the term ‘bossy’ was used for both boys and girls. It was a term used when we were being obnoxious, inconsiderate and rude. It wasn’t a term used to attack us for our determination or leadership skills, those traits were fully supported and encouraged for both sexes in my family. Being bossy however, was not.


So apologies for the ‘controversy’ but I’m going to continue to label bossy for what it is and I will continue to label determination and leadership for what they are, because in my opinion the three things are very, very different.


What are your views on the term bossy? Let me know in the comments,  on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also follow me on Pinterest.

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10 thoughts on “Is it really that bad to call a child bossy?

  1. I definitely feel the same as you.There is definitely a difference between being determined and being bossy. Being determined can be a good thing but being bossy isn’t.

    1. Absolutely. I encourage my children to be headstrong and determined, but I don’t encourage bossiness. They are very different things and I find it so odd that they are sometimes categorised as the same thing.

  2. Oh wow, seriously people need to stop! There is a clear difference between bossy and determined. People are too quick to approve or excuse kids behaviour for fear of upsetting them these days! lol I feel a blog post coming on!

    1. I completely agree, I think there is a very stark difference between bossy and determined too. You’ll have to send the link over when the blog post is live so I can have a read!

  3. I am of the same opinion as you although bossy has become an affectionate term in our house – if the kids demand something they get called a “bossy boots” and they then know they have to ask nicely

  4. Yes I don’t want to be spoken to unkindly or ‘bossy’ either. However I would want my kids to be determined and to stick at doing something. I agree with you

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