Should parents control their children’s hair?
As children grow up, a common debate among parents is how much control they should exert over their kids’ appearance and self-expression. One particular area of contention is children’s hair. Some parents believe they should be able to fully control their children’s hairstyles, while others feel children should have autonomy in how they wear their hair. This article will examine the pros and cons of parents controlling their kids’ hair and provide guidance on finding the right balance of guidance and freedom.
The case for parental control over children’s hair
Here are some of the reasons why parents may want to maintain control over their children’s hair:
Maintaining a well-groomed appearance
Some parents feel strongly that their children should keep their hair well-groomed and tidy. Unruly, unkempt hair can suggest to others that the child lacks discipline and care. Controlling hair length and style is one way parents ensure their children look put-together.
Upholding family or cultural values
Certain hairstyles may go against family norms or cultural values. For example, some religious families require girls to have long hair and boys to have short hair. Controlling children’s hair is a way to uphold long-standing traditions.
Avoiding inappropriate or distracting styles
Parents may want to prevent children from wearing hairstyles deemed overly flashy, inappropriate for school, or distracting to others. Unnatural hair colors, mohawks, or very long hair can be seen as disruptive or unprofessional. Controlling hair can steer kids away from styles parents feel are unsuitable.
Saving time and money
Styling and grooming hair takes time and money. Allowing elaborate styles may burden parents with extra haircare duties and expenses. Keeping tight control over hair is one way busy parents reduce time and costs.
Projecting a parental image
Some parents believe exerting control over their children’s appearance reflects positively on them as parents. Well-kept hair suggests parental oversight and involvement, whereas unruly hair implies a lack of discipline in the home.
The case for giving children autonomy over hair
On the other hand, there are also strong arguments for allowing children independence when it comes to personal style and hair choices:
Hair is very tied to identity and self-esteem, especially in the tween and teen years. Giving kids freedom over their hair allows them to express their personality and individuality. Exerting control can make kids feel suppressed.
Respecting personal preferences
Children have their own tastes and preferences when it comes to style. Overruling their desires can make kids feel frustrated and disrespected. Parents who collaborate on hair decisions make children feel heard.
Making hair choices helps children practice decision-making and responsibility. As kids get older, controlling their appearance delays their maturity. Giving appropriate freedoms helps them become more independent.
Accommodating peer culture
Hair and fashion choices are influenced by what’s popular among peers. Overly controlling what’s “in” or “out” can isolate kids socially. Parents who are flexible with evolving style trends help kids fit in.
Picking your battles
In the grand scheme, hair may be a trivial battle not worth fighting over. Easing control shows children that parents trust their judgment and avoids tension over minor issues. There are bigger values to impart.
Finding the right balance
Most experts agree that a balanced approach is best when it comes to parental control over children’s hair. Here are some tips for parents struggling to find that sweet spot between authority and autonomy:
Set basic standards
Have some baseline standards in place for neatness, cleanliness and appropriateness but don’t micromanage every strand. Communicate your expectations clearly and be prepared to discuss them.
Think about where hairstyles limitations may be more or less important. Special events, school and family gatherings may call for more conservative looks. Weekends and downtime could allow for more freedom.
Involve children in decisions
Rather than handing down rigid rules, collaborate with kids. Take them for haircuts, offer input, and reach compromises on style decisions so they feel ownership.
Focus on values over personal taste
Distinguish between your own personal style preferences and values like modesty, respect, responsibility and cleanliness. Don’t project purely subjective opinions as absolute rules.
Adjust for age and maturity
Grant younger kids some freedom but with lots of guidance. As they get older, allow tweens and teens more independence in exchange for demonstrating responsibility.
Make haircare a shared responsibility
Don’t put all the work on parents’ shoulders. Teach kids age-appropriate skills for washing, brushing, clipping and styling their own hair as part of taking pride in their appearance.
Let natural hair texture guide choices
Work with each child’s hair type and texture when establishing guidelines. Curly, thick, frizzy or very fine hair may need special care or shorter cuts to keep manageable.
Address bullying or discrimination
If certain hairstyles invite teasing or unfair assumptions, have honest but sensitive talks to arm kids with coping skills. Don’t blame or ban victims.
Make room for self-expression
Allow children ways to assert their individuality without compromising values. Hair accessories, creative parts or cuts, or occasional colorful dyes can satisfy the desire for self-expression.
Signs parents are too controlling over hair
Sometimes parent-child conflicts over hair arise because parents are exerting too much control. Here are some signs parents may be going overboard:
- Micromanaging every haircut or daily styling tasks
- Enforcing rigid rules about hair length, texture or style with no input from the child
- Punishing children for expressing their hair preferences or style ideas
- Basing hair rules on subjective personal taste vs. shared values
- Having more rules for girls’ hair than boys’ hair
- Linking hair too strongly to morality or “proper” behavior
- Rejecting any non-mainstream hairstyle as inherently wrong or dangerous
- Blaming or shaming kids for being teased about their hair
- Equating natural hair styles with being unkempt or unprofessional
Signs children should have more hair independence
On the other hand, here are some clues that easing up on control may be warranted:
- Children chronically objecting to parents’ haircare rules and choices
- Kids expressing feeling embarrassed or dislikened by their own hair
- Teens hiding their real hair preferences from parents
- A child is being teased but parents won’t allow any change in style
- Daughters envying the freedom brothers have over their hair
- Child lacks basic hair management skills for their age
- Parents spending excessive time controlling or managing child’s hair
Hair habits to encourage in kids
While parents determining every detail of a child’s hair isn’t ideal, letting kids have total free reign isn’t recommended either. Here are some positive haircare habits parents can actively encourage in children at different ages to foster responsibility and care:
- Assist parents with basic hygiene like washing and brushing
- Let parents handle any trimming or cutting
- Teach them how to express simple preferences like bows or parts
- Provide child-safe styling products they can imitate parents with
- Coach them through brushing and fixing basic styles alone
- Help them use kid-safe styling tools responsibly
- Collaborate on age-appropriate haircuts together
- Ask for their input on products, accessories and styles
- Do occasional special styling for fun together
- Expect consistent hygiene and brushing without reminders
- Involve them closely in salon visits and haircut decisions
- Teach techniques for managing texture and frizz
- Watch online tutorials together for styling ideas
- Help identify flattering cuts and styles for their texture
- Reinforce hygiene without nagging
- Mostly let teens schedule own cuts and treatments
- Consider allowing dye if done responsibly
- Require they budget/earn extra expenses like extensions
- Guide them in advocating against discrimination
In the end, only parents can decide the right balance concerning control over their children’s hair based on their family values, the child’s maturity and context. While no single formula exists, setting some flexible guidelines, focusing on shared values and teaching responsibility allows parents to maintain authority while respecting a growing child’s need for self-expression. With open communication, empathy and adjusting approaches as kids grow, parents can find the sweet spot where both practical needs and emotional needs are met.