Parents should let kids experiment with their looks

If I ever become a parent, I hope to be respectful of my child when she/he reaches the age when the search for her/his own style begins.

We must remember that her body is not ours, and she does have a right to decorate and style it to her liking. Fighting over clothes and hairstyles is not worth the battle…. (216)

– The Confident Child: raising a child to try, learn, and care by Terri Apter

I still think it is necessary for parents to provide guidelines and draw some boundaries. If a girl always insists on wearing revealing clothing, even on the coldest winter days, simply because it makes her feel sexy (and it’s something she needs all the time), then I would think it would be more productive for the parent to have her work on self-esteem issues while making sure she dresses warmly enough.

I’m not a parent, and I don’t know if I’ll ever actually be one. I am quite afraid of being one because there are still so many things from my childhood that I still haven’t put behind me, and I’m afraid of unintentionally causing emotional damage to my child, simply because of the way my parents raised me. But I digress.

I think if my teenager wanted to alter her appearance, I will allow it, as long as the procedure is not permanent, not expensive, and does not have the potential to cause permanent damage. Hair grows out again, so any changes to it aren’t permanent. Hair extensions, however, are expensive and for people who don’t want to wait for their own hair to grow out, so I wouldn’t approve. Circle lenses carry the risk of depriving the eye of oxygen and causing blindness, so I’d say no. (Besides, if she has eyes like mine—small but with large irises—circle lenses will only make her eyes look completely dark, except for the corners.)

I won’t readily give something to my child if I don’t think it’s necessary, but I also won’t flat out say no, because I don’t want her to feel like she can never get what she wants. Instead, to instill a sense of the ability to work toward goals, I will allow her to have it if she works for it. After all, nothing is free in life. I personally hated hearing “No means no.” It made me jealous and resentful. I thought about stealing and hurting others because they could have what I couldn’t, but I didn’t actually act on those impulses.

I think a lot of experimenting with one’s appearance goes on during the teenage years, and much of it is just a phase and says nothing about a person’s future behavior. I feel it’s something that can be tried, to let it out of your system (unless, you find you like yourself better that way, and want to continue doing it). Otherwise, you might get fixated on it. Maybe it doesn’t happen to everyone, but I know it happened to me.

The reason I say this is that some looks just are no longer appropriate after a certain age. (Exceptions are if you’re a performer or if you work at Hot Topic, or if you don’t need to work.) Looking professional does matter when it comes to getting a job, or even when trying to get admitted to graduate programs that require interviews. My days of having pink hair with no real negative consequences are over.


Original entry from 12/11/2011 8:30 AM.

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5 thoughts on “Parents should let kids experiment with their looks

  1. I agree with you. Kids should be able to look however they want to look. My parents make fun of me because my husband and I let John decide how he wants to look. I think as John gets older, we will tell him that there are consequences to looking different and if he chooses to not look like everyone else, he has to face them.

  2. When my kids were in public school they required uniforms and my son had to have his hair cut. Now that we homeschool, they do what they want. Within reason, of course haha.

  3. I really think that kids should be free to express themselves. I’m with you, though…non-expensive, non-permanent, and non-damaging are the way to go. By circle lenses do you mean contact lenses or….? That has always been my favorite way to change my appearance…purple contacts are my go-to!

    • Circle lenses are a kind of contact lens that has color that goes beyond the iris, so they cover part of the sclera, making the iris appear larger. Wearing ill-fitting contact lenses carries the risk of depriving the eye of oxygen, scratching the cornea, and causing blindness. FDA approved contact lenses that are custom fit by an eye care professional should have fewer risks than the ones that are bought online from businesses overseas.

      • Gotcha…that’s what I thought at first, but then I’ve really only seen the kind that cover pretty much all the white…and then the normal-sized ones, so when you said that they would cover most of her eye I wasn’t sure what you meant, because I’ve only seen that being the desired effect.

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