Ask Mom Mom: Ugly Hair, Tacky Clothes, Little Kids

Dear Mom Mom,

My nine year old daughter has “questionable” taste in clothes, shoes and hair. I know she’s only following the current trends which she sees at school and on tv, but I hate to support and promote ugly and tacky clothing which looks cheap and may give people the wrong impression about my daughter. Of course, she claims I’m the only mom in the world who won’t let her have a colorful hair extension. Am I wrong for wanting my daughter to look like a sweet little girl and not an edgy teen?

TC in DC

Dear TC,

The best parenting book I ever read was Kids Are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso. If you are only going to read one parenting book in your life, read this one. One of the many worthwhile premises of this book is that, whenever possible, we have to allow kids to make their own choices and learn from their own mistakes, as long as what they are choosing isn’t illegal, immoral or unsafe. That simple phrase right there has been invaluable in teaching me when to step in and when to stay out.

Is hair illegal, immoral or unsafe? No, not usually. If it was Nazi skinhead hair, then we could wave our immoral flag and heartily veto it. But simple hair choices: short, long, colorful or even unbrushed? Let it go. (I can feel my mom fainting at the unbrushed part from here). Kids need to figure out their own style identity and that’s one of the few choices they get to make in a world where much is already decided for them.

Does that mean you can’t attempt to gently influence these fashion choices? Of course not! And taking it a step further, I don’t think you have to pay for colorful hair if you don’t personally care for it. I quickly learned that my mom would pay for clothes she liked, so I often tried to meet her halfway and find something that worked for both of us. However, even if you HATE it (and it’s not illegal, immoral or unsafe) give your daughter the opportunity to pay for half of it herself by using her allowance, birthday money, or earning money through doing extra household jobs. She will have the added benefit of working towards something she wants, and you can proudly tell your friends, “She paid for that hair with her own money.” Win-win!

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