Shonda Rhimes on Raising ‘Stubborn,’ Confident Daughters: ‘I Don’t Want to Have a Nice Girl’

08/17/2016 at 09:00 AM ET

Shonda Rhimes Good Housekeeping
Stephanie Diani

Shonda Rhimes is proud to be raising three headstrong daughters.

“They couldn’t be more different from one another, but they’re all stubborn — and I mean that in the best way,” the Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator, and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder and The Catch, told Good Housekeeping of her girls.

“No one will ever take advantage of them,” she explains of Beckett, 2½, Emerson, 4½, and Harper, 14. “They will always go their own way because they have decided they’re going to.”

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Shonda Rhimes Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping

The 46-year-old single parent says that as a child, she too shared similar traits to her daughters.

“That was definitely like me as a kid,” she admits.

Rhimes, who served as the guest editor for Good Housekeeping‘s first ever Awesome Women Awards issue, explains of raising stubborn children in the September 2016 publication, “It’s so much better than having a nice, pliable child who can be easily manipulated.”

“I don’t want to have a nice girl,” she believes. “I’d rather have a stubborn girl.”

Shonda Rhimes Good Housekeeping
Stephanie Diani

It seems like the apples don’t fall far from the tree, as Rhimes’ opinion is that the only thing that separates awesome women from non-awesome women is believing in oneself.

“The only difference between a woman and an awesome woman is how a woman defines herself, frankly. And what you choose to do with your life,” she says. “Because I think if you believe yourself to be an awesome woman you are an awesome woman and, in general, you behave as an awesome woman.

“If you don’t believe yourself to be one, then you don’t,” she adds. “It’s really about what you believe about yourself.”

Shonda Rhimes Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping

Rhimes admits that she doesn’t understand the hype around the fact that she writes such strong female characters — because women are not naturally weak people.

“I keep getting asked how I write about such smart, strong women, and my response is, ‘What’s the alternative? Weak, stupid women?’ ”

She also touches on the importance of being your own person, even if you are looking to any of her characters for inspiration on how to do that.

“They’re just normal people, not role models — if you’re aspiring to be like any of them, something’s a little bit wrong,” the author and producer says. “You may want to dress like one or have her job, but do not aspire to be her!”

— Natalie Stone and Jen Juneau

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Showing 24 comments

guest on

Pretty sure it’s okay to be nice, as well, Shonda.

Poppy on

I am not the least bit surprised to hear you’re raising three mean girls, just like yourself.

Susan on

Honestly, I’d rather raise nice, sweet, hard-working, accepting, humble, and inclusive young women than those who consider themselves stubborn, which is nothing more than being inflexible (bad), not open to other opinions, and narcissistic. But hey, you do you, Shonda. Just don’t be surprised if your daughter perpetuate that awful but true “angry black woman” stereotype.

catfite on

So she wants her daughters to be pushy and demanding? She can sugarcoat it all she wants but like mother like daughters I guess. How about raising strong confident young women? Whatever, forgot the world would crumble without Shondaland….

Bella on

Great! That’s all us parents need. More kids who will bully our nice ones to the brink of depression, and suicide. SMH!

ddcook2 on

Guess it depends on how you define nice. Along with being nice comes kindness, confidence and empathy

Bella on

I hope you’re home-schooling your mean little brats. Keep them away from my nice, humble & fragile daughters.

ddcook2 on

Guess it depends on how you define nice. Along with being nice comes confidence, empathy and kindness

Bella on

Well Shonda, it certainly takes a mean woman to raise a mean village of women.

ddcook2 on

Just hope your three girls don’t run too fast; they might discover there is no one chasing them. Being nice can also mean being kind, confident and empathetic

Izzie on

What a ridiculous statement for any parent to make. Being described as “stubborn” is rarely seen as a positive, but I guess with their fortune, they’ll have boot-lickers to stroke what will be huge egos.

WonderW on

Wow, so many haters. Nothing wrong with raising strong daughters. Shonda is successful, smart woman who encouraging her daughters to embrace who they are, to assume they are bullies or brats is archaic & ridiculous.

WonderW on

I am surprised at the archaic and hateful responses to this post. It’s ok to raise strong daughters. Teaching girls to have a strong sense of self doesn’t automatically turn them into bullies or mean girls.

Amy on

I don’t think she has to worry about it! Being raised be the queen Biotch herself!

Anonymous on

This is one of the major problems with society. Folks take someone’s words and run- far, far, away with them. “Stubborn” doesn’t mean mean or ill willed. Stubborn can be interpreted, (at least to me), as not backing down from your convictions. It can mean having a strong enough sense of self to work toward your goals despite what naysayers may believe. Stubborn doesn’t mean angry and bitter. Sometimes when people are too nice, they do things to make others happy, rather than pursue what’s in their heart. That’s the point I’m sure she was making. I bet the whole article elaborates on this more, but media puts out this little sound bites to get people all worked up!

taxi21 on

Way to perpetuate the myth that there is no in-between for women – we can either be a hard, stubborn, “strong” woman, or a weak, pliable, “nice” woman.

tonya on

I can see the People crowd is at it again. Twisting her words. Any mother of a girl knows exactly what she is saying. I have a wonderful little girl, who is sweet and gives kisses and hugs, but she knows what she likes and you can’t manipulate her even at 2 to eat or do something she doesn’t want to do. It is trying at times but even her Pediatrician says, you may hate it now but you are going to appreciate it later, especially when she is bullied or someone is bullying another child because you know your daughter won’t stand for it. You raise a child to respect others and treat them the way they wish to be treated but you don’t raise a child to be compliant and not voice their opinion in a respectful way. I unlike many of you actually get what she is saying and gave it thought.

Tay on

I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, but come on. Being a nice girl doesn’t mean pushover or weak. Seriously, you’re sending the wrong message.

Linz on

“I don’t want to have a nice girl, I’d rather have a stubborn girl.” Um. The statement itself is kinda gross. What’s wrong with having a nice child? I already feel bad if she has a daughter who turns out to be pretty empathetic and sweet. One day she’ll read this statement. How do you think she’ll feel? Awesome parenting, Shonda. Awesome. Enter eye roll.

Jay on

Guys she didn’t mean it literally. She meant the nice girls who say yes to everyone but constantly deny themselves. Those are the types of girl she DOESNT want her daughters to be. Of course she wants her girls to be respectful. Of course she wants them to be considerate. But I’m also positive that she wants them to stand up for themselves and have conviction behind their words & actions. Being stubborn isn’t always a bad thing.

joan on

you all are misinterpreting what she is saying. I was a stubborn kid. I wanted my opinion to be heard, but i wasn’t going to do something just because all the girls did it. i wasn’t going to bow down to what others thought girls should be. Once a family get together, an older relative asked me if I wanted to make a plate for my boyfriend for dinner. I said “why, are his legs broke?” He didn’t need me to do it, and didn’t ask me to do it. And I ended up marrying him. I also asked why was it only the girls who did the dishes after dinner. But I was also the one who stayed home and helped my mom after surgery, who helped out my grandparents when needed, and took care of my younger cousins. If one needed help, I helped. Being stubborn or being “not nice” doesn’t equate to mean. Just means to live by your own mind. Some people can do that and be nicety-nice. I couldn’t. I am stubborn and proud of it.

Lisa on

Only asinine Shonda Rimes would think the typical stubborn 2,4 and 14 year olds are God’s gifts to her only. Her bs thinking is the reason I don’t watch either of her shows anymore, and never will. Be nice ladies, and young ladies. Warm, loving and filled with the spirit if God to do good will unto others. Being stubborn only gets you to the age of 46 with no one to share life with.

Nadia on

People who are saying she is raising bullies are most likely white and to be honest the white race is the bully race look at your history.Especially her raising black daughters in this world they better be up for all the comes their way called white supremacy.

It's Me on

She means that she wants her daughters to take a stand and not be push overs…even nice kids who take a stand are sometimes called mean because they are not inclinded to agree with everyone just to please them. She is not saying they should be mean…people stop being so simple minded