Many powerful girls are mislabeled as bossy, a bully, behavior disordered, or the other B-word. The cost is that they may choose to hide their light or to ratchet up their rebellious behavior. Let me share an example of one such girl I previously counseled.
Bonnie, 12, was kicked out of her school in the 7thgrade because of several incidents of lying to teachers and breaking the honor code. I asked her at our first counseling session why she was lying, and her response was telling. “I know now it was for power, attention, and control. I always felt like there were too many rules, and I was going to play by my own rules; it gave me a sense of control to do my own thing and not listen to others.”Bonnie told me she used to make up silly lies all of the time because, “It was fun to build my own stories in my head, kind of create my own personas. It became like an addiction.”
It was in 3rdgrade that Bonnie started bullying girls through exclusion, gossip, and turning the group away from certain girls. It gave her a tremendous sense of power and control to have the group follow her every move. “I also tried hard to hide my insecurities. I refused to wear the trendy, popular clothes everyone else did in order to be different, and then I made fun of girls who didn’t wear my style. I wanted to set the trends and to have a voice in my world.”
I worked with Bonnie’s parents on listening and trying to create win-win agreements where she had a lot of say-so, and that helped her to quickly settle down. I helped Bonnie become aware of how she was actually giving away her power when she rebelled vs. adults because her behavior was based too much on them instead of what was right for her. We also found some positive ways to exert her influence. Bonnie became one of my most valuable camp counselors by age 16, especially with her ability to relate to girls struggling to gain some control in their lives. In her second year of college she created her own on-line fashion merchandise store and has attended several women’s empowerment seminars. Bonnie is already making her mark on the world.
Bonnie didn’t allow herself to get shut down by adults. I have found that many powerful, independent, strong-minded girls have a sense early on of their uniqueness and a yearning to be seen, heard, respected, and recognized for their strength. If they don’t find suitable outlets for their power, it will usually emerge as mischief, i.e. power struggles, “mean girl” behavior, lying, risky behaviors, etc.
I’ve helped many a girl redirect their behavior by giving them opportunities to be a strong leader. I do not want formidable girls to hide their light because their peers and the adults around them are uncomfortable with them. When girls like these are provided places to be powerful, they relax and you get the best versions of them.
Don’t be so quick to judge, label, or punish authoritative girls. See through the external behaviors for the strong leader within.