Respecting Choices: Living in Partnership with Kids

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Our cubbiebearsean has wanted to color his hair for a while. I finally ordered some temporary hair chalk. He decided he likes it so much, that he wants to go permanent. So, I guess that will be the next step. The above pic shows his embellishments for a profile he uses when gaming with his friends.

I think my parents would have been against this when I was a kid, even when I was a young adult. I remember how upset my Mom was with me in the early 1980s when I came home from college with blonde streaks throughout my spiral permed hair. It was controversial enough that I had my ears pierced twice in high school. I have to admit there is a small, sparkly part of myself that relishes in this kid’s independent streak. OK, a large one, but that’s beside the point. 🙂

But, I think as grandparents, my folks would have been completely supportive – as they learned to go with the flow more as they aged, and my Mom was no stranger to vibrant flair. She once dressed in a floor to ceiling macramé hanger with greenery stuck throughout to attend a church Halloween party as a hanging plant. She carried a watering can, and I am pretty sure that she planned on being the life of the party from the get-go. Besides, she claimed a strong Irish heritage, so I think the green in her grandson’s hair would have suited her just fine.

Living in partnership means that we respect and trust our child’s choices for himself. Rather than react negatively to his desire to change his appearance, we embrace it as a way for him to experiment with self-identity at an age when we can help him do so safely and with our support.

If he experiences negative reactions in public, we are here to help him process the perspectives of others in a way that is rational and objective. By embracing his interests, we are affirming to him that he can be as he needs or wants to be. This requires caring more about what he thinks than what we might fear (from conditioning) that others will think.

There really is no harm in having green hair as a child, Many of us grew up otherwise repressed and overly judged in that aspect, and the related voices in our heads continue to criticize our notions of self-expression well into adulthood. I can remember (as I am sure most of my classmates will never forget) trying to exercise ill-handled self expression when I finally had the freedom to do so while away at college… I’m talking Madonna, and not the Virgin version, either. Oops.

By contrast, our support and non judgement should enable our son to have fond memories of trying on different identities, not embarrassing ones like mine.

Giving our son the space he needs to practice self-expression also imparts values of respect, acceptance, tolerance, and non judgment of others’ choices. He has control over his body, as is his sovereign right.

I find that his choices are often very different from my own. Sometimes, I have to resist the conditioned urge to offer what I feel would be a better selection or choice. Certainly, I enjoy seeing my childhood reflection in his face. But, letting go of controlling his choices is good practice that reminds me that he is not a mini me. Children are separate individuals worthy of all the respect that we would give an adult who has our utmost admiration. When given the power to choose for themselves, children develop discernment beyond their years.

Cubbie’s favorite YouTuber (an Irishman, as well) colored the top portion of his hair neon green for a challenge, but he ended up keeping it that way. I love this YouTuber. For all of the taboos he presents (which I gather would send some conventional parents of 8-year-olds into indignant hysteria), Jack Septiceye (Sean McLoughlin) is a fine young man with strong ethics as a human being and a healthy dose of humility. He is also a very gracious young man, never taking full credit for his extreme success. These are the qualities that impressed my son, who has been following Jack‘s channel for more than two years, since he was at about 7,000 subscribers (he now has almost 10 million).

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He wanted to color only one side of his hair, so that’s where we applied the chalk, which washes out in three days. This was the way we agreed together to approach it so that he could be sure he likes the outcome before taking the plunge with permanent color.

I love seeing this human being unfold from the infant that suckled at my breast to the toddler who loved dressing up as a fah-fah-man (fireman) just to go to the store, to this vibrant, creative, expressive older child, unafraid to try on his emerging personality. I wonder how much of this I might have missed by parenting conventionally.
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4 thoughts on “Respecting Choices: Living in Partnership with Kids

  1. Several years ago, my Grandson wanted to color his hair hot pink. He finally convinced his mom to color it and they did it via permanent color. In about a week he was sick of it and desperately wanted the color out. He came to Grandma for that…it was very hard to get out. We ended up dying it brown and it came out brown with pink highlights. He decided he could live with that but he has never wanted to do it again! lol…His mama used to color her hair different colors too. It’s been blue, green, lollipop red, among others. He came by it naturally. 🙂 Although he hated it, it was a good he was allowed to do it because now he knows that he doesn’t like it from his own personal experience.

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  2. I imagine so! That was another thought I had in regards to a comment on my personal facebook page to this post. It is quite possible that as with many things, he will outgrow the desire to do this, based on the experience. If he doesn’t, that is OK. But, if I had to guess, I would say he will get tired of it and change his mind not too far down the road. One thing we decided to do – and it was why we wanted to practice with the chalk – is to variegate the color so that it does not all start at the crown. That way, growing it out won’t require waiting, and it also won’t dictate having to “re-do” roots.

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