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Huffington Post: Gina Rivera on encouraging kids to select their hairstyle

When I was a little girl, all of us had bangs. That’s what our parents chose.

Times have changed and I think that’s a good thing, particularly for our kids. I’m inclined to let my kids chose the hair they want, with a few exceptions that have never even been an issue. I think that letting them decide about their own hair is better for them, which is truly the point.

So much of life is about learning to deal with change, to see that it can be a really good thing and that typically whatever changes can change again.

That could hardly be more true than it is for hair, making it a great place to experiment and experience change without big, irreversible consequences. Whatever we do to our hair, it’s never permanent. Also, changing hair is not particularly expensive. It certainly doesn’t need to be.

Culture has opened the door to different styles for children, many of them approaching what adults wear.

You may be bucking at the notion of letting your children chose but let’s look at a couple of examples:

• Eddie is 12. He wants a Mohawk. That’s not uncommon, and you may be fine with that. More likely, though, you cringe at the image. Instead of saying “No way!” consider suggesting, “How about we try a fauxhawk? We can do that right now.” A fauxhawk is a far less aggressive style that’s very trendy and cool, and one that can easily adjust to more traditional cuts.

• Susie is 16. She wants to shave one side of her head. You freak. My suggestion: quietly take a deep breath and say something like, “Oh, wow,” confirming your surprise, part of what Susie may be hunting for. “Google it and show me some photos of what you want to do.” You didn’t say, “no!” and what may evolve is something acceptable and even quite beautiful. The discussion may open the door to other more important topics.

Here is where I draw the line: your child’s school may have restrictions, and I’m not in favor of young kids getting their hair colored, particularly with permanent and semi-permanent treatments that involve harsh chemicals that can irritate their skin, force them to sit for a long time and cost a lot of money. Don’t lead with these as your first reaction to your child’s request.

Here are some other places where I ‘draw the line’ for my children. They need to exercise good sportsmanship, they need to be respectful of others, they need to do their best in school. With those things in place, any request for a different hair style seems far less threatening.

If I am planning to say, “no,” I try to present options and compromise. Meeting your kids half way helps them learn about compromise and demonstrates that you have faith in their ability to make decisions. If they get their haircut and don’t like it, don’t say, “I told you so!” Find a way to help them, remind them that change is still a good thing and that most of what we change can easily change again.