Styling Kids

Welcome to the April 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Personal Care

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles relating to their children’s personal care choices.


I have three equally wonderful children, who are each completely unique. My Bean loves Fourth of July, all things red, white, and blue, and, above all else, anything related to firefighting. The Bug is my dapper little man, enamored with purple and black, and is a farmer at heart. Squeaker is still pretty young, but his personality is already an amusing blend of Beanie and Papa’s laid back cheerfulness and mine and the Bug’s persistence and willpower. So far, his interests are limited to his nesting boxes, jingle bell, and whatever his siblings are playing, but I’m sure it won’t be long before he is telling me all about what he love, love, loves.

One thing that is important to Papa and me, as parents, is that we don’t tell our children how to feel, or what to like. We don’t tell them what their interests should be. We don’t tell them who they should be. We don’t tell them what they should look like. We do set some ground rules and guidelines, but we let them express themselves as much as possible.

One area that we really incorporate this is the children’s appearance. For us, guidelines are things like; we expect that the children will be dressed neatly, in age and weather appropriate clothing. When clothing no longer fits or is in disrepair, it is no longer worn. We don’t have licensed characters in our house (with a few exceptions), and never on clothing. We don’t go for witty sayings that our kids don’t understand. We brush our hair and teeth every day. We keep our hair neatly trimmed and style it daily.

That is about where our influence ends. The kids shop with us most of the time. I provide a general shopping list when we are changing season or size. They pick what they want to buy to fits that list. Seven short sleeved tops means something entirely different to the Bean than it does to the Bug. And I find it quite amusing that while much of the Bean’s clothing is gender neutral, the Bug refuses to wear her cast off blue and red clothing most of the time.

Something that always surprises me is that my Bean can look like whatever she wants, wear whatever she wants, and draw little or no criticism, while my Bug has a harder time with other people’s opinions. He is often mistaken for a girl, much to his chagrin. As I said, his favorite color is purple – which is apparently not a boy color, so much. I get it – I had never thought of it as a masculine color until I had the Bug. But now, it irritates me to no end that finding purple clothing that is masculine is so difficult. He often buys girl’s tops because they are beautiful purples when the boy’s department is only full of blue and green that he doesn’t like. I do try to steer him towards the plainer ones, to minimize the girl comments, but his long sleeve favorite has a slightly ruffled hem and cuffs.

Also, he has wanted long hair since he was old enough to talk. With his short little wisps around his face, he would beg me daily for a ponytail like Beanie’s. I would explain, day after day, that he had to grow enough hair for me to put in a ponytail if that was what he wanted. It took him two and a half years, but finally his hair got long enough to make him happy, and it has continued to grow since then. I’ve insisted on trimming it up to keep it growing evenly, and in a nice shape, but I’ve never taken the length of it away from him. And he loves his “golden curls”. Really, they are quite handsome, and on a teenage version of himself, would have girls going wild. But on a three year old, they are quite controversial. Many people feel that I should force him to cut it, even though he loves it.

People feel that they have every right to tell him that he should cut it, ask him why he doesn’t tell his parents to take him to a barber, or threaten to cut it off for him. When we tell people that it hurts his feelings to be told these things, we’ve been told that we should force him to cut his hair so that people would stop saying things that hurt his feelings.

I think it is because people feel that a three year old shouldn’t have an opinion, or that his opinion should be based on the opinions of the adults surrounding him. Or maybe it’s because people feel uncomfortable that he is pushing a gender boundary already. He doesn’t know anything about gender stereotypes yet, though. What he does know is that he wants to grow his hair long, and his beard “down to his belt” – when he is old enough to grow one at all. And he knows that he is a happy little man, who is comfortable with himself and the way that he looks, and who is loved and supported by the people who love him.

Our goal as parents is to continue supporting our kids in their quest to be themselves, whatever that may look like, and to raise happy, self-confident children who love themselves as much as we love them.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)


14 thoughts on “Styling Kids

  1. Your little man is very handsome. I have always thought of him as an old world gentleman, born in the wrong century. A hundred, two hundred years ago he would be right in line with mens fashions.Last week, Adam was once again, mistaken for a girl. I waited a minute then loudly called his name. The woman walked right up to him and apologized, where he said, “that’s right, I’m a boy!” It can be had for little kids to feel ok with standing up for themselves and correcting adults, even for something as blatant as mistaken gender. My guy seemed so relieved when he realized he has a right to do this.


  2. What a wonderful example of respect and kindness you’re setting for your children! My only child is newly two and it has been awhile since we went clothes shopping, so I haven’t thought to include her much in the process at her age. I’m inspired by the freedom you give your children to choose their own attire, and I definitely plan to let my A do the same next time we update her wardrobe. I’m getting excited just thinking about how fun and insightful it will be to see what she chooses! Thanks for this 🙂


  3. “Love your thoughts on this, and I wish that Kieran wouldn’t have wanted to cut off his beautiful curls before he turned three. 😦 He waffles between wanting to grow it and wanting to cut it shorter, and I know that he’s been pressured to look “”more boyish.”” Your comment on people wanting kids to have opinions based on the opinionsof the adults surrounding them is so spot-on – our culture really devalues the fact that our children are people!”


  4. i think little man looks smashing, and not only because i like his style but because the fact the HE likes his style shines through, and that looks great on anyone! whenever i still hear people feel a color or a style is ‘strange’ for a boy or girl to wear, it stills surprises me that the thought process is still alive and kicking lol.


  5. I love people’s justification that it’s your fault that they’re hurting his feelings — umm…yeah. I’m glad to hear of another little boy who loves purple! It’s Mikko’s favorite color, and you’re right: It’s so hard to find boy shirts in purple. I get all giddy when I source one for him! Otherwise, they tend to have pink flowers on them, too. Sigh. I don’t know why people can’t just leave kids alone to be who they are in that moment. Why do others care so much about being judgmental?


  6. “When we tell people that it hurts his feelings to be told these things, we’ve been told that we should force him to cut his hair so that people would stop saying things that hurt his feelings.” Oh my goodness. I guess that’s the same people who think it’s okay to judge because “hey, if you didn’t want to be judged, you shouldn’t have worn that/done that/said that.” How about, everyone makes their own choices, and everyone else leaves them alone for it? How radical an idea would THAT be?Sorry, that just made me angry. Goes to show that bullying is still alive and well, even among grown-ups.


  7. Both of my boys experimented with long hair before kindergarten, but the one with golden hair was the only one who regularly got mistaken for a girl. I’m just lucky to live somewhere (northern CA) where people always apologized for assuming he was female, even when he was wearing a dress. It’s exciting to see a culture becoming less uptight about gender roles.


  8. We’re in the beginnings of that policing of hair. I’m not making Acorn cry at the barber, and so his hair hasn’t been cut, and we’re toying with the idea of just not cutting it until he chooses…which might be a while, given that at almost 4, he still only says a handful of words, but since he seems to get other preferences across to us clearly, we’re just waiting to see.And yet…the school psychologist wanted me to justify his curls – “is it a sensory thing or an anxiety thing? well, neither, we just decided not to cut it. The “what cute hair!” followed by a disappointed “if only he was a girl” comments we get in therapy waiting rooms make me cringe. My own father made me cut my hair short as a kid, and I keep waiting for it to start from him, or from my husband’s grandmother who’s already very outspoken about policing what Acorn wears and does and plays with.And I just keep looking at all of them and saying, “he’s three. who cares what his hair looks like?”


  9. I am having a similar problem with my 4 year old son. His hair is about chin, maybe shoulder length and recently people have been making it very obvious that they think he is a girl, simply because he has long hair. He actually dresses very boyish, he loves robots and dinosaurs and all the things you can typically find on boys clothing. I make a point to call him by name, (Jack) or say “he/him” and still, ‘her’ comes out, or they stop themselves when I say ‘he’ and say ‘oh a boy’ . In fact, just today, a 6 year old little girl told him that he ‘looked like a girl because he kind of had hair like a girl’ I wish hair didn’t have to be the deciding factor in whether you are a boy or girl. Do people go around and ask bald women if they are men?Like a few other comments, we are leaving the hair cut decision completely up to our son, I do insist he keep it trimmed when it gets to the point where he spends most of the day pushing it out of his eyes, but other than that, it’s all him!


  10. Self expression is an important part of growing up. I’m not one for stereotyping hairstyles, people should wear what makes them comfortable. Girls can have short hair and wear blue, boys can have long hair and wear pink as far as I’m concerned 🙂


  11. We have a daughter of nearly four and a ewborn son. When my daughter was a baby, I thought I had a hard time finding gender neutral clothes, but now I have a boy, things are even worse. As usual for newborn gifts, I got lots of clothing… and they’re all blue. I was so angered by this that I went to shop for the boy (we buy very little clothes) and hardly found anything that was not blue or tiny tough guy style. It’s a baby, darnit!


    1. Next time round you might need to tell people a little fib (…we don’t know the gender yet…) Lol. When I had my little girl at the early child care clinic, another mother asked how old our little boy was, because she was wearing green! I guess green might be a male colour – to a sheild bug 🙂 Your last sentence just cracks me up!


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