One parenting move that has always bothered me was when parents tell their children that they are "bad." As in: "You are a BAD boy!" after the child did something wrong. I have a problem with that phrase for many psychological reasons that I won't bore you with, but mainly because it puts a label on the person rather than the behavior. The boy isn't bad, his behavior was. Get it?
I think kids live up to whatever label you put on them, so...don't give them a negative label!
I was getting a much needed pedicure the other day and was sitting next to this lady who had two girls, ages 4 and 5 who were there with her. I always like to talk to other moms of girls who are close in age to get tips, advice, etc. The entire conversation took place well within earshot of her two beautiful daughters: The mom said that her first daughter--who was getting her nails painted--was an angel (she was sweet, well behaved, proper, preppy, neat, clean, girly), but her second daughter--who was playing on the floor--was "the devil." She actually said that out loud in front of her girls. She went on to call her devil daughter "Shrek" because she looked like a tomboy and liked to get dirty and play like a boy (certainly not because she was a green, fat ogre). This mom went on and on about how different her two girls were while (unknowingly?) praising one and putting down the other.
While there is nothing wrong with being a tomboy and being "not girly" it's really all in the way that you label it to your child. She could have called her adventurous, active, high energy, and that she liked casual/comfy clothes.
Most of the time, children will behave like we expect them to behave.
As parents, we also believe that it is our job to teach Maddie what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable by labeling the behavior. Little stuff and big stuff.
"Maddie, that is NOT acceptable behavior" is something that you will hear me say when she does something from hitting me or sticking out her tongue to a stranger. I've said this to her way before she understood what the words meant, but she always knew by my tone.
The other day, she was playing with her baby doll and I heard her say, "No, baby, that is not apepable 'havior!" And she meant it! I'm not sure what that baby did to get in trouble, but at least Maddie didn't tell her that she was a "bad girl!"