I have straight brown hair – I have my entire life. I remember going through many seasons of wanting curly hair…actually the seasons might have been years…but it certainly was common among not just me, but most girls, to wanted what they didn’t have.
Different colored eyes. Different color skin perhaps. Different shaped body. And certainly different type of hair was always a topic of discussion…as I write this I’m reminiscing on 6th or 7th grade…oh, how I’m happy those years are over.
Fast forward, I’m now in what feels like the most mature, confident and wise self I’ve ever known. When I look back on my younger self, there’s so much I want to say. But before I can even complete that train of thought, I’m interrupted by the pressing concern I have for my daughter who yesterday told me she doesn’t want curly hair anymore. Literally, she said: “Mommy, I don’t want curly hair anymore.” as she put her head down. My heart just sunk!
Now, let’s be clear, I’m a cheerleader on every level of life. You can ask my friends. And especially around differences, I whole-heartedly support diversity, individuality and love of others. As a straight-haired girl, I’ve always been a hair ally to the girls with curls. You can confirm that with my friends too. I’ve learned about different hair patterns, products and maintenance systems that work for hair types different than my own. And maybe from this exposure and enthusiasm to support others, from day one with my daughters, I have expressed love and support for how they look, especially their hair.
Note: Of course I spend tons of time building their character, but for the purposes of this blog post, I needed to talk about girls and hair. I just had to mention this so you don’t think I spent all my time on looks. Not me at all.
Both of my daughters have always been stopped by strangers and complemented for their looks and hair. Another thing I told my daughters, say thank you, but that’s not what you look and wait for in life. It’s nice but that’s not your purpose on this earth. But my youngest daughter in particular was born with great curls. I’ve always said it and strangers would always say she has great hair. She’s like a baby version of Diana Ross’ daughter, Tracey Ellis-Ross.
So it struck me as surprising that my 5-year-old daughter would say this to me after all of the positive deposits I’ve made into her on this topic. But as we were discussing “why” she wanted different hair I realized this is the same issue us women battle everyday: loving ourselves just as we are. It takes work and practice. We all look around everyday and see others who are different than us. It’s natural to be curious about what it feels like to be shorter, thiner, taller, thicker…whatever the “other” is for you. But at the end of the day, we can to come to love ourselves just as we were born.
So what did I do to help my daughter’s love for her hair? A couple of things – here they are:
1. Open Discussion: I didn’t just brush off her statements. I took her words and built it out into a broader discussion of loving what you were born with and making daily decisions to be happy about what you have. Trust me, 5 and 6 year olds can get this. I explained we can wake up every day thinking about all the things we wish we had which would most certainly make us feel bad. OR we can say thank you to God for what we do have and affirm love to ourselves daily. Like Daniel Tiger says, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” I think this same simple principle applies here – it’s about choosing to love yourself no matter what and being thankful for what you have. Otherwise, you miss out on fun and happy time with yourself and others, due to pouting about what you don’t have.
2. Using Affirmations: That night my daughter shared with me how she felt about her hair, I told her to repeat 5 times, “I love my hair.” Just like with us adults, if we are feeling a little weak or blue in a certain area, we can immediately lift our feelings by thinking and saying positive affirmations. Our thoughts create our life experiences and thus our feelings. And using this domino effect of thought to feelings works on kids too. I even went as far as to pull up the Sesame Street video “I love my hair.” I also believe music is a powerful tool. Melody and rhythm help kids learn and be attracted to certain content (good or bad). In this case, this video is of a curly haired girl loving her hair in all the ways she can manage it whether it be braids, ponytails or an afro.
3. Sharing Personal Experiences: It’s as if our kids can’t even understand that at one point in time, we were little kids like them. One thing I’ve found to be successful with my girls has been, sharing my personal stories. I tell them how I’ve made mistakes, gotten scared, nervous, shy and certainly wanted my hair to be different. At one point in time, I did have a curly perm in my hair (thanks Mom!). My girls usually say “really?” to all my stories and the look in their eyes tells me that they don’t feel as alone in their feelings as they once did.
4. Surrounded By Positive Imagery: Whether it’s hair, body or overall self confidence, I think it’s important to limit exposure (when possible) to unhealthy body imagery and teach kids how to filter what they do see and hear. Music, TV, magazines…all media…is a powerful influence on our little ones. I mean, look at Barbie for heaven’s sake – she STILL has unrealistic body proportions. The cartoon princesses have makeup and “fancy” hair and jewelry. I’m not saying that is wrong, I’m simply saying it applies a beauty standard on our little girls that they didn’t necessarily decide. We won’t be able to be with them every second of the day, but we can give them the tools they need to be confident and successful in this society. So, I show my girls pictures of women with curly hair who are loving it and let them have fun with their hair in different styles.
After about a month of blowing up this discussion topic and diving deep into this topic of self love, I can happily say I haven’t heard any comments about not wanting curls.
Let’s hope my little one continues to grow her love for herself, way beyond her hair. Wishing you the same with your little ones too.
Have any good tips on how you have built hair confidence in your little ladies? Let me know. Comment below.