So your normally reliable teenager comes home one day and announces her desire to:
a. Color her hair.
b. Get a piercing.
c. Buy and wear a strange looking outfit.
d. All of the above.
You, as a parent, react in one of the following ways:
a. Tell her no.
b. Tell her absolutely not.
c. Ask her if she recently hit her head.
d. Take a moment to consider her request.
Although a, b, and c seem like viable options, force yourself to choose option d.
Teenagers are an interesting species. They look like little adults, but their brains won’t stop developing until their turn twenty-five. They’re swimming in hormones that can make them moody and impulsive. They are struggling to determine their identities, navigate peer pressure, and manage their self-esteem.
Every generation has a fad, and current teenage trends involve bright hair and multiple piercings. It’s not much different than the sky-high hair of the ’80s or the grungy flannel of the ’90s (just more permanent, perhaps). So before slapping down an instant no, take a deep breath and think about your answer. Remember that hair will eventually grow out. Will a new cut or color improve her appearance or boost her self-esteem? When it comes to piercings, remind her that a piercing is more permanent and will result in a scar even if she decides she no longer wants it. Is your child responsible enough to take care of a new piercing? Is the location of the piercing going to jeopardize future career options or relationships? Is there anyone in your area who has been trained to do the kind of piercing your teenager wants? (Piercings should be performed by a trained professional with a sterile needle and environment—not someone at the mall with a piercing gun.) If she is asking new and different clothing, consider your own perceptions of appropriate dress, as well as any dress codes imposed by your child’s school. Will the outfit make her feel more confident? Will the new clothing allow her to express herself in a positive way? Remember, your sense of style may be different than your child’s, but it doesn’t make their sensibility wrong.
Regardless, always ask for their reasoning. Is it something your child really wants, or is she just asking as a way to follow the herd? Give an answer only after you’ve fully evaluated her motives and your feelings. You might decide to let her make the changes—as long as she’s willing to spend her own money. Or, you may have reservations about her requests and would feel better if she waits until she’s older.
You are the parent. Respect your child’s budding sense of independence, show your appreciation that she discussed it with you, and make the decision that’s right for your family. You can’t go wrong as long as you listen to what she has to say.