How young is too young to let kids do crazy things to their hair? One mom learns to celebrate her daughter's style.

By Jenna Helwig
March 15, 2016
jenna helwig daughter style
Credit: Courtesy of Jenna Helwig 

When I saw the news that Tori Spelling let her 7 year-old daughter dye her hair and the controversy that surrounded that decision, I thought immediately of my own daughter who has very strong opinions about her own hair, often in an unconventional way.

Rosa, who just turned 10, is not a typical girly-girl when it comes to her appearance. She will only wear blue jeans and black t-shirts, even at home. Her most beloved item of apparel is a black faux-leather Harley Davidson jacket. One of her favorite birthday presents was a pair of skull-shaped earrings, and needless to say, dresses are not an option.

I have rolled with most of this, because frankly, it's much easier when we all know what Rosa is going to wear in the morning. (What's not easy is finding all-black girls' t-shirts.) But her desire to experiment with her hair has been more challenging for me to handle.

A few months ago Rosa decided she desperately, urgently, frantically wanted spiky hair. My initial reaction was, "No way. A nine year-old girl does not need spiky hair. Maybe when you're 13 or 14." To my surprise, my husband thought it was no big deal. His attitude was she would get it out of her system. (Tori said the same thing about her daughter's hair, proving once again that great minds think alike.)

I was nowhere near convinced.

Then, I saw this article about raising confident girls in the November issue of Parents. The story was inspiring, but it was the photos that stopped me in my tracks. None of these beautiful, strong girls looked conventional. They all seemed comfortable in their own skin and proud of how they looked—unusual hair and all.

Message received.

I took a deep breath and brought Rosa to the salon. The stylist trimmed her hair in back and cut it short on top, short enough that with some well-placed hair gel we could spike it up.

For days Rosa wore her hair spiked up, proudly walking down the street in her leather jacket and with her punk coif.

Then, she realized it was kind of a drag to spike it every day, and she moved on (as my wise husband predicted) to a Joey Ramone-style shag. Now she pleads regularly for colored stripes in her hair. We'll see.

In the meantime, she still has her look: the jeans, black shirts, motorcycle jacket, and shaggy hair. Sometimes I cringe a bit inside when I bring her into the office or when we go to a more upscale event. She definitely doesn't look "nice" in a conventional way, and I have found myself sighing wistfully at the cool, colorful clothes available for tween girls.

But I am coming to accept that Rosa's "look" is very important to her. It helps define who she is, in a way my appearance never did for me. She has very distinctive ideas about her own style and persona—her "toughness"—and I'm learning that it's my job to support her. She is everything that matters: smart, kind, funny, and unique. I am so proud of her self-confidence and willingness to go against the grain.

So no one should be surprised if she appears with colored streaks in her hair sometime soon. I have vowed to relax and support her... unless she gets her heart set on a tattoo. That, my friends, is non-negotiable, and I hope Tori is with me on that one.

Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.