Q&A: What if my child wants a radical hairstyle?Written by Jennifer Antonsen
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Question: My eight-year-old wants an extreme hairstyle that would mean closely cropping much of his hair but leaving a long section that would be dyed blue! Should I let him do this?
I understand that an eight-year-old boy could think that an extreme hairstyle is really cool! However, it sounds like you have misgivings or concerns, and I understand that too.
Connect with him
All kids want to feel heard and to feel that their desires will be honoured. So instead of brushing off his hairstyle dreams, use this as a chance to sit down and really connect with him. Ask him to explain to you why this is important to him before offering your point of view. Once he feels that you have heard his heart on this, he will likely be more receptive to hearing your reservations.
Let him know that your concerns about his planned hairstyle are two-fold. Probably of first concern is the impression that a radical hairstyle might give to other people. People (rightly or wrongly) may associate hairstyles like this with people who are rebellious, angry or engaged in immoral or illegal activities. You want to protect your son, and you don’t want others to judge him negatively or assume things about him that simply aren’t true. Use this time to remind him of all the unique and great qualities that he has – those are the traits that you and God want to shine brightly!
Secondly, you can talk about the fact that some hairstyles can take a lot of maintenance! Most boys at that age aren’t interested in frequent haircuts or lengthy time spent styling longer sections of hair.
Ask your son to brainstorm other ways that he can express himself and feel cool. Would a different style of shoe, a more moderate hairstyle or a unique t-shirt be a more acceptable way for him to stand out among his friends? Honour that desire of his, and see if the two of you can find a more suitable way to express himself.
Some schools now have "crazy hair day" where all the kids are encouraged to wear wild styles and colours in their hair. If your son’s school participates in this, make sure you go all out and let him have a wild "do" that day! Or have a crazy hair day as a family. Buy hair chalk or non-permanent colour and stiffening hairspray or gels. Take lots of pictures and make this a fun family memory. Other options could include letting him have non-permanent hair colour on the weekends at home or during the summer months.
In a few years’ time, if your son wants a wild hairdo as a teenager, you may want to consider a different response. At that age, after discussion, you may want to allow or even encourage him to express himself though his hair. When raising teens, it’s important to "pick your battles" – the ones that really matter, and are foundational to your family’s values and safety. If you allow and even encourage a radical hairstyle at that stage it can end up being a point of connection between a teen and their family, rather than a rebellious act.
Jennifer Antonsen is a counsellor on staff at Focus on the Family Canada.
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