Respecting Children: Hair, “Pretty” and Setting Limits with Family
In my Heartfelt Letter to Family, written before I had my son, I talked about not forcing children to say sorry and setting limits respectfully. I also mentioned a bit about not wanting “pretty” to be a main concern for my daughter.
Since then, she has grown and I have learned more about Nonviolent Communication (NVC). We all talk about feelings and needs. Lately we have spoken regularly about how people are different and what to do when people want different things.
A few months ago, my 3 yo came separately to me and my partner and said she didn’t like her hair up and she didn’t want to wear it up anymore. (I rarely mention putting her hair up, so this is more about grandmothers.)
It turned out, from her words, that she didn’t feel comfortable asking for her grandparents to stop, so she was asking us for help. We suggested we facilitate a conversation between her and her grandparents. Some time passed and she brought it up again. In the meantime, we have clarified that sometimes she wants her hair up and sometimes she doesn’t. She said her grandparents feel happy when they put her hair up, and she likes them happy but she doesn’t want her hair up.
Well, after conversations with grandparents and my daughter separately, we finally had a direct conversation all together with grandma, my daughter, my partner and I when she came to ask about a sleepover with at grandma’s house:
My partner recalled our need to talk and said, “Remember you and I were talking about how you wanted to talk about putting your hair up?”
I worried and wondered if she would feel scared or overwhelmed and look down and mumble, and if it would seem like I put her up to this.
Instead, my girl, who seems so little sometimes and so big others looked up, confidently looked her grandma in the eye and said clearly, “I want you to respect my space. If I don’t want my hair up I don’t have to. I want you to respect my needs.”
I wanted to give her a chance to clarify and say her needs again. “How will she know what your needs are? How can you tell her what your needs are?”
“My need is when I don’t want to put my hair up, I don’t have to.”
I felt relieved and proud to see the confidence in my daughter’s face and voice. I felt comforted by her incorporation of some key words and concepts I have been working to nurture and nourish in my family. I felt empowered hearing her express herself, and inspired that I might hold a space for my daughter to feel empowered to tell me or anyone what she needs.
I’m not sure from the response what the reception was. I do think her grandmother respected her expression. We will see how things continue from here.
To think that with all my mistakes and things I wish I had done differently, I might succeed in raising a resilient, respected and compassionate human being…..well, that has me feeling over the moon and more connected and at ease than ever with my daughter.
Since we had finished what we needed to say, I reminded her of the plan by sharing with her, “I noticed you sat down, but you are leaving now to go to grandma’s house aren’t you?”
“Yes, but I wanted to sit down and talk about it” she said plainly.
And off she went to an overnight sleepover without me…
Read my original Heartfelt Letter to Family for the backstory on how far we have come and the other sticky points with family members.
You may also like my post on Talking with Young Children about Feelings: Encouraging Self Advocacy in Children.