Self-Respect First

Saturday morning my fourteen year-old daughter asked to shave the side of her head. She asked, not acted, because of the mutual respect we have fostered between our children and ourselves. She knew exactly what we would expect from her because fact is, I’m a talker.

I talk about choices, values, perceptions, judgements, self-respect, mistakes, responsibility, morals, empathy, and sympathy concerning every imaginable topic. I don’t shy away from discussing sex, abuse, alcohol, drugs, prejudice, conceit, whatever is happening in the news, it’s all on the table. So when my daughter asked if she could shave her head she knew there would be, naturally, a discussion first.

We’ve had many conversation concerning what I find acceptable about ones appearance—things that I am aware are sometimes more about my personal preference than anything else, but they know I can be reasoned with if their desires bump up against my preferences. Both my girls have learned they will have to present compelling argument and prove they have done considerable thinking about the consequences of what they want. Therefore, she was well prepared for the following query.

Why do you want to cut your hair this way? Have you considered what it says about you or how people will perceive you? Are you ready to defend your choice to your friends, their parents, your teachers? Are you going to be upset if it is negatively received? What will you do if you don’t like it?

She wrote out a pro and con chart, searched for pictures online, and ultimately convinced us she was making a thoughtful choice. One that she was willing and able to take responsibility for making.

For me, the choice to let her do it was easy. At her age, challenging how one is seen by the world is a natural step to defining themselves. Rather than deny her all options, it seemed more prudent to guide her, facilitating a positive outcome.

I knew parents might question our letting her cut her hair this way, but I put a higher value on her health than vanity. Since in the past she has asked to color her hair and I’ve refused, I was ready to acquiesce to a realistic request. Letting her cut her hair seemed more reasonable than exposing/inhaling/absorbing chemicals during the coloring/highlighting/bleaching process which some of her friends do habitually.

Ultimately what she chose was a conservative cut, one that left her with the option of having her hair down and hiding the shaved section should she feel the need to.

Her father did a great job with the clippers, giving her a longer version first, then once she approved, he took it right down to an eighth of an inch. She looks adorable. I can see how powerful she feels having made this decision, one that she knew would be a bit controversial. Of course she loves it, and her hair has been up all weekend, showing it off.

She has always been a confident girl, but you all know stepping outside the expected at her age takes courage. That may sound more grandiose than a haircut warrants but to me it is indicative of how strongly she holds her own convictions, how strong her sense of self-respect is. I’m very proud of her.

To me, giving our daughters incremental control has made them better decision makers and stronger advocates for what they truly want and believe in. All too soon they’ll be making these decision on their own. Having witnessed their process, I am comforted knowing that they are prepared to make well-informed choices, reflective of their values.