Little Miss Bossy

Originally posted 10/13/09

This past June I experienced one of the less pleasant milestones of parenting: Having my perfect child evaluated. It was the end of the scholastic year at the daycare, and I was told that next year they would be keeping an eye out for how her leadership skills would develop.

Leadership? She’s two and a half! After a request for clarification, I learned that in groups, some children tend to decide on the activity and others follow along. Mine appears to be one of the group, not the boss. Fair enough. I can see how knowing this might help understand my child and give her the space to be herself.

Now I am long since over my initial discomfort. Still, I’ve thought a lot about this. There are so many factors making childhood different today than in the 60’s or 70’s. Among them is our society’s need for metrics. We want everything measurable. We want to know with certainty what is likely to happen. And when we don’t like how it’s looking, we adjust. The parents push for it, and the administrators respond, ‘adding value’ so that everyone feels safe.

The problem is that this constant measurement, evaluation and adjustment eventually creates young adults who are like spheres, with all of the rough edges smoothed away. And after so many years of pleasing parents and teachers, these adults often lose their ability to figure out what they want. Worse, by ignoring impulses towards things that are different from the norm, they stifle their creativity. It leaves so many feeling unhappy and not knowing why. How safe is that?

It’s a tough question. For me, I will give my little girl the space to be herself. If that means easy, considerate and diplomatic, so be it. Our society needs that too.

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