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March 17, 2014

Banning Bossy While Embracing Ambition

Img-mainI’m bossy. I always have been. And today, I’m a boss. I’m the founder and CEO of a global and newly public company. And you know what? My bossiness helped get me here.

Except I’d call it leadership.

Growing up, I was very aware of my strengths organizing people, listing out projects, and assigning tasks. At age 5, I was handling the phones for my parents’ business. I was assertive, and my parents needed that and appreciated it.

My tendency toward problem-solving was seen as a good thing and it evolved so that I handled dinner reservations, vacation planning and mediating between my five other siblings.  It wasn’t until high school when I realized this leadership style wasn’t appreciated everywhere. And it wasn’t expected of me, simply because I was a girl.

So I appreciate the Ban Bossy campaign (#banbossy) spearheaded by Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts. If we can get the word "bossy" out of the mouths of parents, friends, teachers and peers, we can make a dent in eliminating the negative connotations of female leadership.

Just imagine: "Your daughter is such a leader." instead of "Your daughter is so bossy." A 2008 Girl Scouts survey shows that girls between the ages of 8 and 17 avoid leadership roles for fear that they will be labeled "bossy" or disliked by their peers. And one study Sandberg cites says sixth- and seventh-grade girls said they’d rather be perceived as "popular and well-liked" than "competent and independent." While their male peers said the opposite.

That’s scary.  And heartbreaking.

I believe the role I was able to play at home – how my family embraced and encouraged my natural strengths -- helped get me through any high school negativity.  I knew I was valuable. I knew I had ideas to offer. I felt this in my core.  And so I embraced being bossy….if that’s what they wanted to call it. Because I embraced who I was.

As the CEO of an online care-finding service, I know that the people who influence our children come in all forms: grandparents, day care employees, teachers, nannies, babysitters and parents. So it’s important that we take this village – and teach them – what we value in our children, and how we want to see our daughters thrive. Let’s teach our daughters the same things we teach our sons…to be strong and kind and confident and proud.  That their style, spunk, flair, creativity, leadership, unique interests  --  are huge assets. Everyone might not always like them (not a bad life lesson in and of itself) and that’s OK.  Just stay true to who they are because that’s pretty terrific all on its own.

So let’s ban bossy and embrace our ambition, girls. Parents, tell your daughters to cherish their leadership, wit, intelligence, and personal style for getting things done. Teach them to figure out how they blend their style with others’ -- but stay true to who they know they really are. These traits should not be stifled. These traits are what will make them the next great leader, entrepreneur, executive, CEO, mother, partner and friend.

I promise you that this is what matters.

Tell me, how will you ban bossy -- but strengthen leadership skills -- in your house?

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Comments

Stephanie Schuler

I always tell my children that being frank and honest is a quality, but not when it comes at the expense of other people are the. My daughter can be very bossy when it comes to sharing toys with others. I recently starting leading by example by showing how someone can "be in charge" (in her own mindset), but use it to the benefit of others.

Ross Pazzol

This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. If this is your biggest complaint in life, you need to take the red pill and introduce yourself to reality. This campaign makes its adherents look like a bunch of spoiled whiny babies, which they are.

Andrew

Greaaaat... Let's pick another word that we should "ban". That'll fix things right up.

Seriously, girls can be "bossy" just like boys, and lots of adults. Letting a little girl act without tact and diplomacy in the name of developing her leadership skills will create leaders people don't want to follow. Which, by the way, is the same with boys. This isn't 1950 anymore...skilled employees are mobile and valuable and will vote with their feet.

Want to ban "bossy"? Then teach ALL kids not to be that way.

Scot McKay

I'm all for replacing "bossy" with "leadership" as I teach my daughter how to succeed in life. But in my case it's not a simple matter of semantics.

"Bossiness" implies attempt at dominance for selfish reasons. "Leadership" implies acting in the best interest of the organization. That differentiation is vague, at best, in this piece.

FWIW, it's clearly a logical fallacy to pit "popular and well-liked" against "competent and independent".

Why not have a conversation about inspiring respect rather than demanding it? Or how about a discussion on influence rather than dominance?

Cheryl

Is this for real? Do we really have nothing better to do than debate a topic that most people don't even feel is relevant? What a joke.

Annon

Having a boy who is a bit bossy, I think you are barking up the wrong tree with this "ban" in all honesty. My son's teacher doesn't tolerate bossiness with boys or girls.

It is not a girl only word and to think it is such is kind of foolish.

Boys and girls can be bossy so let's find a great way to empower women without changing the definition of a word that is appropriate to use.

Rachel

I have boys and call them bossy. Is that still acceptable?

Holly

Another example of political correctness run rampant! The world is on fire and you people are wasting energy on the word "bossy"? Please!

H

Just a note - I agree that assertiveness expressed by women that would be totally accepted if it were by men often gets women labeled "bitches" etc. in the workforce. And, I agree something should be done about this.

However, I disagree about "bossy-ness." I really wish that people would choose a different tagline for your campaign. What you described above is NOT bossy.

Bossy is the kid (male OR female - usually an oldest child) that orders everyone about, expects to get their way always and without exception (gets upset/angry when others don't go along with them), and does not listen, consider, take turns, allow contribution, or compromise with other kids. Bossy is the kind of "BOSS" no one wants and everyone hates. It is one step away from bullying (and in the workplace it often becomes bullying).

"Bossy" is not a desirable trait in males or females, and simply because males are more likely to get away with it does not mean that our daughters should also. Rather, we should not allow our SONS to get away with it. Around here, "bossy" is applied to both boys and girls and not in a positive way, and all I can say is AMEN.

Patty G

I couldn't have read this at a more perfect time. My son is 6 yrs old and his teachers keep telling me that he's bossy. I see so many leadership qualities in my son, that being one of them, and when I said that to his teachers they LAUGHED. I was angry and heartbroken at the same time. My son has problem solving abilities that a 10 yr old doesn't have. I am not going to suppress his "bossiness". I am going to fine tune it instead. --Patty

C. J

This is so stupid. I'm sick of people trying to tell people what they can and can not say. Bossy is a word that has been around for years and people use it in different ways. If you would take the time to actually teach your children the values of life instead of trying to shield them from the "bossy" world they will grow up to be more appreciative instead of shielded brats. I'm not going to stop using bossy but I will continue to teach my child how to strive for success and be the best she can be. No one can make you feel inferior unless you let them

Michelle E Melius

This is a ridiculous campaign. One would not have the need to remove a legitimate word if parents parented properly in the first place.

Women and men are failing their children. Not a word.

Respectfully,

Michelle M

bonnie dudley

I think we should ban the bossy women who tell us what words to use.

Deb

I have worked for many years in a fortune 100 company and I have seen first hand how women in leadership positions are treated. I call it "Mommy Syndrome", for 18 years men (and women) have tried to break away from being under Mom's thumb and they DO NOT like the idea of a woman telling them what to do. I have seen the male executives drive so many women out of our department. Now when my daughter comes home and says a friend is "too bossy", I say "good she'll be a boss" but I wonder deep down how you teach someone not to care if you are liked. I know a good leader will be admired but it is still such tight rope for women to walk right now... I hope we will get there for my daughter's sake.

DL

I think people, including women, who are powerful achievers should not need to ban a simple word to be successful. Rather, deal with it and overcome. People are becoming pampered or have a sense of entitlement these days...it's just a word, move on. This is very lame I think. We've effectively banned the truly problematic words in English...this does not make the short list.

Rhapsody

Sheila,

I'm glad being called Bossy didn't hold you back or handicap you in any way. I was told "don't be bossy" as a child when I would try to tell my sister what to do. It didn't hold me back either, as I went on to become a manager and I'm now running my own business.

It's ridiculous to try to ban words. #1 You can't reasonably enforce it, #2 It's a slippery slope in the land of free speech.

To claim that this word negatively targets women is far-fetched, even if we make a good argument about it. I tell my 4yr old to stop being bossy every time he tells one of us what we should be doing. My male cousin was also warned not to act bossy when he stepped out of line. Bossy doesn't mean something sexually discriminatory. If feminists keep doing this, they're going to lose credibility and soon will look like a group of catty women instead of a force of equality.

Brandy

There is a difference in being bossy and being a leader. I have had many women as managers over the years. Some are true leaders, such as my current boss. Others are just plain bossy and have no business being in a leadership position. If we want our daughters to be leaders, then teach them that some people are just mean and it is the way of the world. Quit trying to ban everything. It is making our children weak and teaching them if they don't like something just to sue over it or attempt to get it banned. How about learning to accept things and becoming stronger because of it. I was picked on when I was growing up. I was called many things and yes at the time it bothered me. However, I am now a 32 year old mother of twin toddlers with a successful job. Those people who made fun of me are the same people who would now come to me for assistance. Quit showing your weakness and start teaching your children how to be strong individuals.

Margaret Merkel

This is a very relevant subject. We are so immersed in sexism we don't even recognize it. My 6 year old daughter is a natural born leader and I will vow to never call her bossy again. And yes being an effective leader takes empathy which she has been taught.

Natalie

Explain again to me why its wrong to let parents know via open speach that its ok to teach our daughters to be strong, kind, confident, unique, proud, creative? (words directly out of the article)

Its just a point of thought lighten up if you don't agree thats ok but I liked it. Don't be so lets ban the ban here...

Let’s teach our daughters the same things we teach our sons…to be strong and kind and confident and proud.

That their style, spunk, flair, creativity, leadership, unique interests -- are huge assets.

Shaune

Seriously?? This whole "campaign" is RIDICULOUS! As a Christian, there are A LOT of words that offend me, however I have also learned to "toughen up" and ignore it. Instead of "banning", teach your girls that most bossy kids grow up to be leaders, simple!!!!

Deb

Whoops, better ban catty!

bob

why i tell my wife she is bossy all the time
though the word is not gender specific
men can be bossy too

Dave

Sheila,

Banning words is a stupid idea no matter how you slice it. Please read the novel 1984 and realize that you can't alter reality or eliminate a concept by banning the word for it. Maybe you should be encouraging girls to embrace "bossy" instead of banning it. Many people are bossy and they benefit from being assertive later in life. Usually people who exhibit these traits are also notoriously stubborn and competitive. I seriously doubt that being called bossy would dissuade them from their pursuit of what they want. Stubbornness and competitiveness are also words collecting more and more negative connotation as we (as a society) seem to embrace mediocrity, apathy, nihilism and cynicism as desirable traits. Let's stop the concept of "banning" words (which is really banning ideas) and embrace the concept of encouraging others to accept "bossy". After all, it worked for you.

Jay

I have less respect for you and for Care.com with this blather. And I would rather my three daughters and son not have their minds polluted with belief that the use of the word bossy against or by them should have any innate power to control their lives and destiny or that of others. How you think about yourself and others, and how you act on behalf of yourself and on behalf of others is what matters. Bossy? Self centered, inconsiderate, self serving, crossing the line, lack of leadership. Leader? Assertive, responsible, servanthood, considerate, compassionate, organizer, lifting up others. If the person using the word bossy is correct, change behavior. If incorrect, pity the fool and move on. My hope and work for my daughters and son is that they all become strong, independent critical thinkers, who show consideration for others and embrace effective servant leadership. They already do many things "like a boss". #banbossy How about instead #banpeoplewhothinkbankbossyisaneffectiveuseoftimeandresources

Karen

I'm not familiar with the campaign, so I'm not sure exactly what the message is. I am all for empowering girls to be leaders, but I am also for teaching them how to be leaders. No one can be an effective leader if no one wants to follow them because they are turned off by extreme bossiness. It is much more effective if you can convince people that they want to do what you want them to do. To me the best leaders even manage to get their followers to believe that the ideas are their own, when in reality the leader was leading them to the action.

Angela

This is a needed and awesome campaign! I have been dissuaded from leadership positions because people don't want a woman telling them what to do. It is hard to empathize with this situation if you have never been in it yourself.

Don't listen to the haters, they just want to see women back in their "place".

Sheila, thanks so much for speaking out!

Jerry

What in the world? The woman has a valid point. What I see in some of these responses here is a phenomenon which television and our society in general has inspired in people: the propensity for being argumentative and tearing down others without going through a reasonable thought process first. Yes, being aggressive and assertive without regard to others is not desirable. Being narcissistic isn't, either. People can be competent without having those negative traits. Sometimes we miss the point by being so ready to tear into somebody. I find myself wanting to do it sometimes too, and I think "where in the world did THAT come from?

Mason Crowe

I grew up in a family of four siblings (three boys and one girl) and each of us were equally likely to hear the occasional "bossy"word directed our way. Ironically, it typically happened when we were in fact, being bossy. Bossiness can and often is a character flaw, as it can undermine the receiver of the bossiness whose opinion and wants also have merit and may be stifled by one person/child who is being overbearing. Stop differentiating groups (race, gender, age, orientation, etc.) and recognize the commonality and strengths that are inherent in people of character. We all receive messages as children that in some ways undermine us and you cannot simply pick out one word and determine that this is somehow more damaging then others. Children and adults will always find words that hurt (or undermine), no matter how many rediculous "banning campaigns" exist.

Josh

I didn't become a member of Care.com yet, but was considering it. This doesn't help. End the idea of banning words.

Comment123

Young people who are bossy are really being spoiled brats. You don't need to bark orders at people to be a leader. I was always taking the lead in projects beginning in kindergarten No one ever called me bossy. The people we called bossy were the selfish, over-indulged individuals whose parents thought could do no wrong. If we want to eliminate the word bossy, let's start by eliminating bratty behavior.

Jerry

I should have mentioned that there were indeed some thoughtful comments, and they contrasted sharply with the others. I was just bracing for a trend toward vitriol which is often seen in comment sections.

Teri

Contrary to what some believe, this IS an important topic in raising BOTH girls and boys. As a mother of both, I grew up labeled sometimes as "shy" yet other times as "bossy". As a strong minded, opinionated, and driven kid, this was not only confusing, it was down right hurtful and degrading - yet not a single adult (who supposedly was looking out for my best interest) actually DID look out for my best interest where this life lesson was concerned. Only later in life did I understand there's a fine line between "bossiness" and "leadership", each having their proper skills and place of use in life.

As Scott McKay eloquently reminds us in his post, it's not merely a matter of semantics. Rather each use different skills that, to be successful, must be learned.

Today I'm the parent of a strong-minded, opinionated, and driven little girl. If I'm doing my job right, my parenting will help both her and her brother learn the difference between these two strategies and teach them the skills they need to be successful leaders. ...And WHEN the "bossy" skills are appropriate, such as in emergency situations...

guest

yeah, that will work, ban the word -let's not actually work for any real "equity"- because equality will NEVER be achieved but lets try and ban the words and then try to legislate the way people think- that's the ticket, yeah, that's the way. I think this is such a stupid path and methodology that I can't believe there are so many people sucked into the stupid

Beth

Are you kidding me? People should toughen up and quit hiding TRYING to find fault in words. Without being "bossy" I would not be where I am today and have the respect I earned. Take control, people, and quit being frightened by a word. What's next....

Gwen Lion

Im bossy. I own a successful business in Las Vegas. I say dont ban it, embrace it. Bossy isn't a bad quality when its used appropriately. Banning words is a ridiculous idea. Just learn to love bossy. Someone has to be the boss in any situation from banker in Monopoly to managing employees. Just also teach compassion, equality and respect. Those go hand in hand w being the boss.

Johnny

There's a difference between "bossy" and "assertive". Two entirely different things. You can be a leader without being bossy. Sounds like another liberal "feel-good" agenda so we can ban another word that people use in everyday life.

Steve E

Pushing liberal political topics on a job-connection board is sure to drive away some customer.

Stick with the topic on hand.

KMH

Wow, interesting to observe everyone get so wrapped around the individual words and phrases and not the message. Sheila, I interpreted your message to mean: in cases where we can encourage growing children to soar with their natural leadership skills, let's not mistakenly use the umbrella term bossy. Of course, if they are exhibiting bossiness, let's help them see the difference. Sure "ban" is not my word of choice but I believe Sheila intended for us to avoid it in cases where leadership is the true underlying characteristic. I wish topics like this were received with more thought and fewer for and against stances. Soak it in with a grain of salt before you attack. Trust we all want the best for our youth and are generating ideas on how to get there.

Rachel

I am so surprised by the negative comments. As parents, we need to teach all of our children to be a true leader - a person who drives for both their own success and the success of others.

This campaigns asks you to take a look at your children and the words you use to help them attain that goal.

The statistics researched as part of this campaign are heartbreaking. For example, between elementary and high school girls' self esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys'. Doesn't that tell you that something is off with our culture?

Forget about the word "bossy" and instead look for the leadership potential in all children and expect greatness from them regardless of gender.

Check out www.banbossy.com for more information.

Patty

Awesome. Sheila and Sheryl - great leaders - I share your perspective and have similar personal experiences! We will strengthen our future leaders and our schools, companies, and country with encouraging all of children to lead with integrity and eliminate the negative connotations placed on our developing young people. Keep on leading!! Thanks for your willingness to 'have the discussion'

Marcus

This is a huge pile of nonsense! I read already several stupid ideas but it was mostly fiction. I am surprised how somebody can seriously consider changing dictionary and trying to ban regular words based on a few examples without any real relevance.
Banning words is an ideal method for parents and people, who failed talking to kids, educating them and
especially teaching them that what they do is more important than how somebody categorizes it.
I would recommend banning your totally useless idea and focus on more important aspects of life!

James

Let's keep the word "bossy".. It's a great descriptive. Let's ban "Progressive Liberals" who think "bossy" is bad but say nothing about "bitch". Just ask Beyoncé and her friends how often they use that word but now don't like "bossy". Stop being a victim Sheila... Probably 3 people in your life called you "bossy".... The rest said "achievement oriented". Please keep your progressive liberal agenda out of your work. Opppps was I too "bossy" to say that?

Eddie

First if all. This is supposed to be a free country. Bossy is not even a bad word. If ppl bullying on you they can use whatever work they want like you are so "cute". Are you gonna ban that word? So stupid and dumb think ban a word can change the situation. Find problem from yourself. Duh!!!

lauren

I am sorry, but "bossy" is a word that describes a child who keeps telling people what to do that do not want to do it! Are we supposed to make the children who do not agree with the "bossy" child now because she/he is in a leadership position? Sorry, these kids often have the least amount of friends. Telling others what to do, regardless of what word you use, will make no difference in a girl becoming a good leader. In fact, they will be the opposite of what you and these other "intelligent" folk are trying to promote. Another word will be used, if it's not "bossy," I guess you prefer your daughters being called by another "B" word, the one that refers to a female dog.

A good leader LISTENS, takes in CONSIDERATION of others, and makes WELL-INFORMED decisions. A child who is "bossy" is the equivalent to a little dictator.

And yes, my oldest son is "bossy" with the baby. And guess what, it's not healthy and we tell him to stop ordering his brother around, that he is his OWN person!

Zen Girl


What a bunch of crap. And I'm NOT talking about the article here. I rarely see so much hatred, criticism, and obvious ignorance all in one place as I do when I look at all these comments! You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves for being so quick to criticize when you are all OBVIOUSLY MISSING THE POINT!!! I highly doubt that this article is about going on a mission to ban a word from a dictionary. You people are taking the title too literally. Maybe Sheila should have titled it "let's be less judgmental and quick to label girls as bossy when they show strong leadership qualities: the double standards facing women in roles of leadership" so that all you jerks who don't know how to read between the lines would have understood it. But that sounds far too intelligent, and I doubt the majority of you would have taken the time to read it. I thought the alliteration in the lighthearted title was a nice touch, because I didn't take it literally. But then again I've got more than a seventh grade education, so perhaps the real lesson here is to not write anything above that level for a public audience. So shame on you Sheila, for writing something that can only be comprehended with a high school diploma or beyond. Don't you dare make that mistake again, or you will be persecuted by the ignorant, hateful, and vengeful majority, who take the frustrations of their pitiful lives out by barking loudly at things they don't fully understand.

Now that that's out of the way. Sheila, I hear what you are saying. Women face a double standard in the workforce, especially in the more industrialized countries with extreme stratification of wealth & gender roles. I for one will encourage my baby girl to find and strengthen her own inner voice, and to not be afraid to stand up for what she believes in, as respectfully as she can manage, given each situation. One valid point I read from a comment was to teach our children not to care when others don't "like" them. This is a mission of self-respect & esteem. If we build our children up, they are more likely to deflect other's opinions of themselves more easily, and be more confident in their roles as leaders, in their decisions, and in how they conduct themselves under scrutiny & pressure. (In the workforce and in life in general).

Bossy doesn't initially convey negativity to me personally, but I've always been a little bossy myself so I am biased!! (I think people who are natural problem solvers tend to be a little more bossy because we already know the solutions to problems that others are still trying to figure out. But harshly barking out orders just because we don't want to be bothered with taking the time to explain the solution to others isn't going to get many loyal followers). So I try to balance that with respect and listening to other's input before just blindly barking orders.

So, to your support your main point, I think to use the term "bossy" as a blanket word for those who are confident, assertive, well spoken and natural problem solvers is a mistake. As long as a girl is being respectful and considerate to others , I think she deserves a better title than simply "bossy". Men who display leadership traits of assertiveness, confidence, and outspokenness are just called good leaders. So why should women be reduced to "bossy" for having the same traits?!!!

Miss Bossy Herself

OK, I agree with most of you that this is a really misguided campaign. I am a life long sufferer of "really bossy". Yes, I am the boss, have run my own companies, organized people and my pushy nature has been at the root of my successes, but it has come at the expense of other people's feelings many times. My daughter is just as bossy as I ever was however she is sweet natured and considerate, thank God, but only because I suffered the friendless years of nobody ever liking me and didn't want her to feel that as well. If your child, male or female, is being called "bossy" it most likely means you are letting them be rude and disrespectful, and saying things like "They're a leader" or "Brighter than other kids" like my parents did. People with leadership qualities will rise to the top no matter what, and if they are considerate and polite, they will do it a heck of a lot faster and with friends! What matters most in life is not being in charge, but being loved and loving, you find that out after awhile.

Sara

I disagree with this campaign as well. Bossy behavior is not appropriate for boys or girls. It is most likely to lead to bullying behavior. Lets focus on being respectful toward others. There's nothing wrong with being well-liked. Those kids have more friends for a reason. They listen and are kind and considerate. Both the boys and the girls. Sure, society needs assertive types, but lets not celebrate them.

Will

I see that being labeled bossy clearly impacted the authors success. Maybe if I was tagged bossy as a child I'd be a CEO right now as well. Perhaps bossy is a label that results in introspection and self improvement, as well as conversations with parents who might be able to coach their children to use their leadership skills differently to achieve better results. But let's ban that right now and develop the next generation of yes men and people who haven't had any opportunity to improve and develop themselves because they weren't allowed to encounter any challenges or strife in their path toward success. Sounds like a super idea. Keep spoiling and pampering your children and see what level of success they are able to reach in their lives.

ESTELA

How about "I'M MORE THAN JUST A SEXUAL OBJECT" campaign. That's my real concern. Women today sing along to songs that refer to women as "whores", "b..ches", etc. Others pose as so called "models" with very revealing swimsuits/clothing for popular magazines. Those are the ideas we need to fight against! Women are succeeding in the workforce/education (60% of my pharmacy school class are WOMEN) and that trend will continue to improve. We need to promote respect for women in other areas like the music, innapropriate TV shows, etc.

Jiim

Unfortunately I find women take bossyness to a new level. I don't agree with this campagn.

Lindsay Willis

I own a very successful business as well. I'm intelligent enough to truly not care if anyone has ever called me bossy. This is ridiculous. I don't like care.com pushing their agenda. That's done! You must have been a tattle-tell as a child...oops let's ban that too! This goes along w/ everybody is a winner (they're not). Life is competitive & so is nature. It's real. Not fantasy. As long as my children aren't mean, bossiness comes with their little personalities. I just wasted a ridiculous 6 minutes venting!

Elsi Ouzts

What happened to freedom of speech? People are allowed to say things that other people don't like, without the threat of some sort of legal action. Bossy isn't threatening harm to your or someone elses person, so get over it and grow up. You should be able to take some criticism and not have a tantrum saying that no one can say that ever.

I will not stand for infringement on my basic rights.

Danielle

I'm surprised at all of the negative comments, because this article really hit home for me. I'm the kind of person who considers others' needs to a fault- and also someone who belongs in leadership because of my smarts, organizational skills, and ability to think long-term. Growing up I felt very uncomfortable with expressing leadership because I had no concept of what that would look like for a female in a positive way. I just felt bossy and unpopular whenever I took charge, so I didn't do it often. Thanks for the blog!

Val Hook Barr

Interesting....as a nanny, IM the one being bossed around by the children and I cannot talk to the parents about it...hello! Accknowledge that your kid is disrespectful and TAKE action!

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