Children’s book author and activist Meena Harris (who also happens to be Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece) has strong thoughts about how to raise assertive daughters. Her new picture book, Ambitious Girl, is a celebration of such strength and sky’s-the-limit dreaming, and it follows a young girl who learns to embrace, rather than temper, her many life goals. We caught up with Meena to chat about why word choice matters—and the two words she thinks parents should ban from their vocabulary.
With girls, there’s often a temptation to sugarcoat hard realities, Meena explains. But when you’re addressing things like sexism and racism, it pays to be open and honest. “Kids are smart! And they’re dealing with all kinds of complex thoughts and feelings at the same time. So, with all the obvious caveats about keeping things as understandable and age-appropriate as possible, I firmly believe you should be honest with your kids about the hard questions,” Meena says.
Cool It With the “Loud” and “Bossy”
“I generally try to avoid negative words that I know are unfairly used to critique women, such as ‘loud’ or ‘bossy,’ Meena says. And if you are going to use those words, think about context. “[You don’t want to] use words in such a way that suggests some sort of character flaw,” she adds. “It’s the difference between saying, ‘You’re loud!’ and ‘Let’s not scream at the dinner table.”