Pink Hair Lesson: One Family’s Story

This past weekend at the Teaching Self-Government couple’s retreat this story was shared by one couple. And, their daughter was there to tell her side of the story too. The room was silent as we listened to this girl tell about the lessons she learned from dying her hair pink.

One Family’s Pink Hair Lesson

“How we teach our children self-government has been an area of focus in our home recently.  Some have been complementary of it and others, only because of lack of understanding, at times openly critical.  So, I wanted to share the following for those of you that have been keeping an eye on how we’re doing this.

Here is a good example of how using the basic skills of ‘Changing Children’s Hearts and Behavior by Teaching Self-Government’ we were able to maintain a feeling of peace, love, and harmony in our home this week.

This week one of our teenage children, together with her friends, decided to color her hair with a bright pink stripe. The choice was made without seeking parental permission or advice. When we found out, we decided not to react; after all it is her hair.  We did however, reminded her that our family mission statement which she was part of creating and sustained, said that “Our youth follow For the Strength of the Youth”, and that our family prompt is “keep it together”.  Then, together we reviewed the “dress and appearance” section in the For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet.

Once a review of what she already knew was done, we explained that keeping a bright pink stripe on her hair is against our family mission and desire to have the Spirit in our individual lives and home.  Also, that she was part of creating our family prompt to remind us when we need to stay on the right path, and that our job as her parents is to help her “keep it together”.

Here is where the self-government basic skills came in.  We told her that since her hair did not meet our family mission statement she needed to either cut off the pink stripe of hair or dye it back to her original color.  (This was a no answer she didn’t want to hear.) She disagreed appropriately and explained that her friend’s parents did not ask her friends to dye it or cut it and that in due time it would wash away.  We listened carefully to her point of view and when she was done, we explained that this was more related to her not keeping the family mission she sustained and our desire to keep a feeling of peace and love in our home.  That instead of grounding her or being disappointed and upset with her, our instruction was for her to choose between the options above.  At this point in reality she had three choices, (1) cut off her hair, (2) dye her hair, or what most teenagers do (3) throw a teenage tantrum.

Knowing if she should choose to throw a tantrum we would start the “Rule of Three” and she would take the risk of having to (1) do a major work assignment, also possibly (2) do sodas, and if long enough with the tantrum (3) lose her privileges for 24 hours (this means working hard and doing sodas for 24 hours), she made an instant choice to not throw a tantrum.

Our daughter explained that she did not want to cut her hair and decided to dye it back.  She dropped the subject and by the end of the day her hair was back to the same beautiful shiny brown she was so blessed to have.   We proceeded to complement her for her choice and acknowledged she had made this choice on her own, that she could have done as many do and throw a tantrum, but she did not.

We explained to her that although some may look at us asking to dye or color her hair as taking away her agency to choose, that we feel our teaching and giving her the choice to correct what clearly was a wrong choice, is far more important than letting her keep her hair the way it was and punishing her for it.  We explained that by using her self-government skills she was able to help our family maintain a feeling of peace and love…and as a bonus she was able to live by high expectations that will allow her to maintain her natural beauty and invite the Spirit in her life.”

The Daughter Said

The daughter shared her thoughts about this story too. She felt it was a wonderful moment in her growth and self-government learning. She said, “I was worried I was going to get in trouble. Before Nicholeen came to our house my parents would have really ‘let me have it’…But, my parents were so calm and comfortable to talk to…I knew that I needed to choose the right way to fix the situation.” When talking about why she chose to dye her hair she said, “I knew dying my hair was wrong in the moment when I did it, but I wanted to fit in with other kids my age, and we had planned to do it for a long time. Now I see why I felt wrong about it. I should have followed that feeling.”

Nicholeen’s Comments

Here are ten self-government lessons we can learn from this experience.

  1.  Calmly bringing a wrong to the attention of the child gives them the opportunity to recognize that they already knew it was wrong, and gives them the courage to follow this inner feeling when it comes again in life. This young woman was obviously influenced by social pressure, even though inside she knew it was wrong. By addressing the situation, the parents gave her permission to follow her heart in the future. They gave her strength and understanding.
  2. Parents who include their children in making family mission statements are prepared with a great reminder to their children of how they should communicate and feel toward their parents and their family standards.
  3. Family standards, or rules about what a family will wear, won’t wear, will say, won’t say etc., are vital for keeping children out of moral trouble and focused on true principles when they need it most, in their teen years. If parents teach these rules from a young age, then they can confidently refer back to them when the lessons are most important.
  4. In this interaction the family used all of the Four Basic Skills: They gave her a no answer and she accepted it. She disagreed appropriately and the parents listened. They explained the consequences of her choice and she accepted the consequence. And, they gave her an instruction to dye her hair back and she calmly said okay and followed it. Because the family had previously spent time learning self-government communication skills, when a difficult situation presented itself they were ready to calmly and lovingly discuss the situation and respect each other.
  5. This fifteen year old girl didn’t always trust or respect her parents. But, after learning an effective way to communicate with them, and that they were going to govern their communication too, she had renewed respect for them which is apparent in her willingness to stay calm and accept the very difficult no answer they gave her.
  6. This girl proves that when a person learns effective communication skills, and parents govern themselves by communication principles as well, the child will take responsibility for her own actions.
  7. The calmness of the parents was equally as important as the structure the family had decided to live by. Their tone during the interaction showed that they trusted in her goodness to choose the right choice, and that they loved her and didn’t judge her. When she felt this calmness, trust and love she chose to maintain an open heart too. Their hearts communicated much more than their words did in this situation.
  8. This family has made a prompt “keep it together” to remind themselves that they can’t throw the feeling in the family out the window because of one hard moment. I love the way they use this slogan to keep the whole family focused on their family vision.
  9. In this situation the parents corrected their daughter for her wrong choice, they pre-taught her about what would happen for each choice she might make, and they praised her for her correct decision. They were also willing to use the “Rule of Three,” which is their way of interacting with the children if they choose to go out of control, if they needed to. Their calm confidence and use of correcting, pre-teaching, and praising, made a normally heated conversation safe and healing to all the members of the family.
  10. As parents choose to govern themselves by certain communication principles children respect their parents rules and standards more and also choose to use the self-government principles they have learned too.

I want to thank this family for sharing such a personal moment from their lives with all of us. They showed how focusing on self-government has helped them, and how the principles can make the most difficult situations great family connecting moments instead.

Whether you care about a child having pink hair or not, this is a perfect example of how parents can use self-government principles and a loving tone to help their children keep family standards. And, having family standards is a vital part of a moral upbringing.

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42 thoughts on “Pink Hair Lesson: One Family’s Story

  1. I fail to underwstand a pink stripe being the moral equivalent of stripper clothes, which is jhow the parents acted. There are so many worse sins or gateways to them. It’s a stipe, she could have shaved her head “there, that evil pink stripe is gone.” Get a grip.

  2. That pink hair is a slippery slope, I tell ya. A little rebellion (states voting for recreational pot use) and it surely calls for the full weight and force of the parental (Federal) government to stamp it out before things get way out of hand.

  3. “When we found out, we decided not to react; after all it is her hair.”

    This sounds like a reasonable response.

    “We told her that since her hair did not meet our family mission statement she needed to either cut off the pink stripe of hair or dye it back to her original color. ”

    Wait a minute…not only is that a reaction, that’s an ultimatum.

    “At this point in reality she had three choices, (1) cut off her hair, (2) dye her hair, or what most teenagers do (3) throw a teenage tantrum.”

    It seems like the parents here could benefit from doing some SODAS themselves if these three options are all they could come up with. How about (4) Calmly thank her parents for their concern, hug them and go about her day.

    This approach is undoubtedly better than flying off the handle in a fit of rage and taking some scissors to the pink stripe, but for all the family prompts, mission statements and self government principles, it still boils down to “do it–or else!”; well, maybe minus the exclamation point.

  4. Good to see that the usual promoters of “tolerance” are incredibly intolerant of a family that chooses to manage itself in its own way. Suggestion to the commenters so far: you handle your family your way and let Nicholeen handle her family her own way. From what I’ve seen, Nicholeen is doing a pretty good job. Nobody is forcing anybody here to take Nicholeen’s advice. But the usual snarky comments from the intolerant “liberals” in the Bloggernacle do not help anybody — except if your purpose is to prove how incredibly “superior” you are. If this is the case, all you have proven to the neutral observer is that you are judgmental and uncharitable — hardly the behavior that anybody should emulate.

  5. The comments above remind me of people who think that anything shy of murder should be silently tolerated, except for anything that reeks of “intolerance.” I would not have reacted as these parents did—the ultimatum seemed a little heavy-handed to me. But parents do have the right and discretion to make those decisions, and I think we have too much permissive parenting in our nation, not too little. Leaning against the wind, I applaud the efforts of these parents to maintain family standards in a society that thinks families should few to no standards at all.

    Also, I’m reminded of this quote by Elder Maxwell:

    We will find that not only are there strategic signposts of morality, but there are also tactical standards of morality with which we must be concerned if we are to preserve our identity in the way that is most helpful to us and to our fellowmen. We must not unintentionally assume the appearance of evil in its various cultural costumes and dispensational dimensions. The length of Samson’s hair not only gave him strength, it set him apart from the Philistines, whose passion for alcohol Samson did not share either. The prophet will always help us to set the tone of tactical morality when such is needed to set us apart from some contemporaries. Paul did this for female Church members in Corinth, counseling them, I am told, so they would not be confused with prostitutes because of uncovered hair. Thus, the principles do not change, but as Dr. Daniel H. Ludlow has said, the practices may vary. We can always look to the prophet for guidance with regard to these tactical dimensions of morality.

    I think that in our society, we’re too quick to dismiss any standard that doesn’t seem to have a moral component to it—like tattoos, double earings, earings for men, or brightly colored hair—as trivial and silly. But far from it—prophets have, in the past, cared about these things, and they are not necessarily wrong to do so. If there are counter-cultural movements that espouse values that we wish to avoid, it makes perfect sense to also avoided dressing, grooming, and acting like them too.

    Growing up, coloring hair in bright colors was often a signal of rebellion—rebellion against parents, rebellion against authority, rebellion against the institutions of school, etc. Does it still signal this? I don’t know. But I don’t see a problem with parents disapproving of this behavior.

  6. Not being an intolerant liberal, I’ll weigh in anyways. I think it depends a great deal on the family’s agreed-upon rules. If she chose to sustain rules that specifically forbade dying hair unnatural colors, and then went against them, the reaction is proper. At that point, it’s not about the dyed hair, it’s about integrity and living up to your commitments.

    If not (and the FtSoY does not explicitly condemn funky-colored hair dye) then the reaction was over the top.

    I do have to agree that giving them an ultimatum isn’t really a principle of self-government, unless said ultimatum was a part of those previously agreed upon rules.

  7. Also, one other thing. If coloring one’s hair wasn’t explicitly forbidden, but was implicitly forbidden (as in, arguably, the FtSoY pamphlet) it would be best in my opinion to talk the girl through determining whether or not her hair dye violated the agreed-upon rules.

  8. Geoff, that would be reasonable if the commenters had entered into this family’s home and offered their opinions about their experience. But this incident was posted on a public forum and used as an example of good parenting skills. I would say that invites discussion, both praise and criticism. If that isn’t wanted perhaps you and Nicholeen should remove the post.

  9. I’m just curious about the mission statement and why the stripe in the hair was a violation of it. Possibly this was covered in previous posts. Would someone direct me?

  10. KLC, I am totally open to polite disagreement. Personally, this is not how I would have handled it in my family. But here is a sample of the intolerant, judgmental comments from people here:

    “Get a grip.”
    “ridiculously disproportionate.”
    Snarky sarcasm from Mark N (especially disappointing because this kind of comment is way beneath Mark N, who usually has some good things to say).
    implications that the parents are sending the kids to a dungeon rather than just trying to set boundaries for their kids.
    The usual intolerance from Peter LLC, who can’t stand the thought of anybody disagreeing with him about anything.

    I have been participating on the bloggernacle since the beginning, and these discussions always follow the same pattern: some parent dares to share some parenting techniques. The usual people judgmentally and intolerantly accuse the parent of being judgmental and intolerant, using sarcasm, insults and snarkiness. General opprobrium ensues about how horrible the parents are (see comment number two “the problem here is the parents.”) This pattern may continue to exist on other blogs, but not on this blog. We will be a “safe zone” for people wanting to offering parenting advice without suffering the slings and arrows of the many snarkers out there.

    John C, I can’t direct you to specific posts, but Nicholeen has posted more than a dozen times about the importance of family mission statements and the importance of actually enforcing the terms of said mission statement rather than just letting things slide.

  11. Some people are happy to condemn this family on the basis of the information they have, while others are demanding more information from the family before the publicly commit themselves to condemning them. Pretty inspiring, either way.

  12. Mr. Snark here.

    Yes, I probably overdid the snark thing. Clearly the point of the story here was to show how a family came together after a mission statement for the family had been hashed out and came to an agreement on how to enforce the pre-existing mission statement.

    So I guess I’m at the point where I’m wondering if the family in question has a process in place for amending the mission statement when, in hindsight, earlier agreements might seem heavy-handed or antiquated.

    The idea that this might apply in this instance doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone in the family.

    Sorry for the initial snark level. My first impression left a bad taste in my mouth which I’m still struggling to overcome.

  13. Geoff, Thank you for your support. You refreshingly give me the benefit of the doubt that this post was meant to illustrate the importance of having a family standard which addresses the many varied decisions our families and children face living in the world in these difficult times.

    A family who has decided upon moral rules, as this family has, is doing their child a favor by following through with the rules the family has adopted and even signed as family law. (As was the case here.) It was my hope that other families who feel like society is running them over and turning their children away from family principles and morals, would see how planning ahead as a family for what the family standards are, and then assertively following through when a situation arises is the best course of action to teach children cause and effect, respect, standards, and self-government.

    Proactively teaching children and then following through is always better than reactive parenting which can involve emotion, regret, and often times tolerance of inappropriate behaviors which might have been avoided.

    Could it be possible that many of the commenters are inserting an angry voice tone into the words the parents used while talking to their daughter? I assure you, the words were calm, loving, and filled with understanding. I have worked with this whole family on communicating assertively. The daughter’s comments showed how safe the parent’s tone was. However, the parents also recognize their role as a parent is to guide their children, and correct their children when they have gone off course. I pity the parent who does not know their role, or the skills associated with it. This kind of parent will have great stress, worry, frustration, and regret. They will feel like they are alone swimming in deep water, with no shoreline in site.

    This family had another child years ago who started doing small things like extreme hair styles and tatoos etc. They were not prepared. They tolerated some and fought over some. In the end they lost the son. His small steps had slowly disconnected him from his family. They were estranged. After this, the family sought my advice about how to set up the family government so that they would be prepared for how to handle their children’s wrong choices in the future. I helped them set up a family standard based on the FtsOY pamphlet. This was a success story about how their family preparation preserved the relationships, and actually brought them all closer together. This daughter has a very deep love for her parents now. It was extremely touching for all of us to see and feel her love as she spoke to us of this experience. A change of heart is a big deal! That mighty change is what this post is all about.

    It is my hope that the things I write, such as this article, will inspire parents to deliberately, proactively parent so that they and their children will experience unity and shared family vision, as well as strong connective relationships.

    Ldspilospher, Thank you for that inspiring quote by Elder Maxwell! I love it! I agree. Once we justify one step in the wrong direction, it makes the next step in that same direction easier. There is a reason that missionaries have a grooming standard. They are to be a peculiar people. If memory serves, so are we. I know that even among fellow Mormons it is not popular to follow all the LDS standards from just one generation ago, but our family, and this family who sent me the pink hair story, still believe in raising children who know that being peculiar will mean saying no to some social trends from time to time.

    Thank you all for your thoughts and comments! I’m glad it got us all thinking. That, after all, is the purpose of writing articles.

    P.S. SODAS are a written problem solving exercise. A kind of pros and cons list to review decisions or to practice making good choices. Making good choices is a skill which requires training, just like learning how to do the laundry. :)

  14. Nicoleen, I think this is a great story.

    As parents we have the right to set the rules and standards for our individual homes. If you are ok with having your kids dye their hair, that is your choice as a parent. But, you should not critisize those who have that rule as part of their family standards. Parents NEED to parent, not just let their kids do what they want. Those who have left the snarky comments (thanks so much by the way) when your kids come home, having done something that you disagree with, what will your reaction be? Really what will it be? Will it be ok if the rest of us pile on you?

  15. Nicholeen, thanks for posting. I don’t always agree with the details of your methods, but I’m constantly pleasantly surprised by how much of what you articulate has developed naturally as I’ve learned to parent. It makes me feel like maybe I can manage this parent thing after all! ;) I think, perhaps, parents are often afraid of their children. Afraid of losing their love, or afraid of scaring them away. I find that the underlying premise in your methods and in the ways I’ve learned to parent is to assume that children are reasonable, thinking individuals capable of making their own good choices, if things are explained to them in terms they can understand.

    Of course, mine are still pretty young, so only time will tell how it pans out in my family.

  16. Nicholeen –

    I think part of the issue is that hair color isn’t an issue of morals. It is simply a choice. Yet, the reaction here was to box the daughter in and create pressure until she complied.

    Would I want my daughter to wear such hair? Not really. But, I would attempt to persuade not dictate.

    This kind of restrictive approach may create compliance now. But, I’m willing to bet that that long-term it will lead to even more destructive defiance.

    If we truly believe in agency, we need to allow children to make choices, including some we disagree. Eventually, they will have the ability to make choices. Do we want them to reject our values because they associate our values with excessive, even petty, restrictions?

    A parent can dictate to a high degree when a child is in the home. But, that approach can be a precipitating cause of their kids rejecting their value system later.

  17. I’m glad this family has come up with a system that works for them, but when I consider my own upbriging and native temperament, I am very grateful my parents had a different approach. I am grateful they focused on the expansive beauties of the gospel—had they felt compelled to emphasize compliance with some of our unwritten cultural dress code standards, I’m afraid I would have viewed the church as a petty hindrance and looked forward to the day I could shake it off and leave it behind me. Sister Okazaki has a story in Lighten Up that I find potentially relevant to the discussion:
    “A tougher challenge came in Japan when the boys, then teenagers, decided they wanted to wear their hair long. We had always prized their independence of mind and allowed them to make as many of their own decisions as possible, but this one was hard. The Saints in Japan had strict ideas about how a mission president’s sons should look, and we were concerned about the association of the long hair with drugs—which we knew were available at the boys’ school. We talked it over with them, with each other, and with the Lord. And finally it seemed clear to us: it was far more important to us that they pay their tithing, attend their meetings, and administer the sacrament worthily than it was for their hair to be a certain length. We were not going to fight over something that was, in the last analysis, not very important. So they went to school with long hair and accompanied us home from the mission field with long hair. When members commented about their hair, Ed had a kind way of saying, “They have their agency,” that ended the discussion.”

  18. I think any technique that can resolve this kind of a conflict while keeping everyone calm and rational, is more than likely a very good thing.

    I have to be honest and say that the way the situation is portrayed, it comes across as if the participants were a bunch of robot Spocks playing chess: If you make this move (tantrum), then we’ll check you by countering with this other move (major work assignment, SODAS, etc.). Ergo to throw a tantrum would be illogical. And maybe this is what rubs the liberals the wrong way. But I’m assuming that in real life the conversations weren’t quite so lifeless. : )

  19. When our son dyed his hair blue one Halloween (it was, after all, one of his school colors), we looked at him, smiled, said “Nice hair” and went on with life. He soon tired of it and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to wash it out. Then he got his hair cut short. When the blond hair grew in under the blue tips, the effect was to make his entire scalp look pale green. Sadly, all this ended well before St. Patrick’s Day.

    In the meantime, he studied hard (mostly), did well in school, participated actively in church, treated his mother with love and respect, learned to work, and turned into a well-adjusted and contributing member of society and of the church.

    Our friends in the churches of Christ have a saying: “In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things love.” I’m inclined to put my son’s blue hair, and the girl’s pink stripe, into the “opinions” column, but I can understand how hair coloring accompanying other behavioral or attitudinal issues might well move into the “essentials” column.

  20. I doubt I’ll have a leg to stand on when it comes to this with my kids, since I dyed my hair with semi-temporary red hair dye for a Merida costume, which went MUCH brighter than planned, and now is fading to a pinkish hue.

  21. Great comments everyone!

    Really, to this family the hair was a moral issue. Each family must draw its own moral lines. Their family, like all of ours, have unique experiences and understandings which determine their moral standards.

    The pink hair itself was not the point of the story. The point was that the parents communicated calmly, and that the daughter felt safe. This feeling of safety allowed her to make a choice to accept the no answer her parents were giving her and to respect their wishes. This was a HUGE step for this family and this relationship. This mother and daughter had a history of not getting along, and the daughter even said she “hated her mother” previous to my visit in their home. They completely misunderstood each other. On this rather big issue of hair the parents and child proved to themselves that the relationship was improved and that they really didn’t need to ever worry about not knowing how to communicate again; no matter the issue.

    This was a great moment for this family. It didn’t have that much to do with the hair. It had to do with honesty, trust, relationship. Remember, she and her friend sneaked into the church bathroom during young womens and died their hair pink without asking or telling anyone. This wasn’t a boy just saying, “no I don’t want a hair cut.” She was that dishonest and they still remained calm and focused on understanding what she needed to feel from them. For parents who used to power struggle, this was a tremendous success.

    Again, thank you all for such a lively discussion. Very interesting debate! Even though we all supposedly share the same LDS world view, there are obviously other world view ideas which each of us hold dear. If you have never read THE book on world views “Understanding The Times” I know you will find it as interesting as this discussion has been.

    Their writing could cause a bit of confusion I guess. They are Spanish speakers and probably don’t write with words to please the critical intellectual types. They were all just so excited about their success at changing the tone of their relationships and the way they communicate that they had to write it down for all to see. I think it was pretty courageous. That is why I posted it.

  22. One of the issues is that this family thought it was a moral issue for their daughter to have a pink strip. And that a 15 year old sneaked into the bathroom and put a pink stripe in her hair is dishonest. She’s a teenager she should have some agency and at times be allowed to do silly things that have no permanent damage. She probably just walked into the bathroom and this become an issue of honesty and morality, not fun and being a teenager. Can she not have some innocent fun?
    My wife and I went to the temple last night. My wife has a pink stripe and a purple stripe in her hair.
    Are 15 year olds required to live a higher standard than the temple requires? I wonder whether this is seen as part of the Gospel, the church, or culture, and how enforcing culture in the name of the church, will help any of them.
    I can see that it is good that the parents reacted calmly but it is still a problem when petty rules that have nothing to do with the Gospel are enforced, and I would expect it to lead to rebelion at some stage.
    You claim she agree to these rules. Judging by the coersion used in this post, what options did she have? The only positive I see in the story is that all were calm.

  23. When did parental authority become a dirty word? When was the commandment to honour thy father and mother rescinded? What is this false notion that self-government is somehow contradictory to or that agency is compromised by following an instruction given by a parental authority? Anyone who follows Nicholeen would quickly understand this important principle- a significant learning component to self-government is learning to accept no answers. This is a time honored principle once well understood and taught by wise generations. IT IS A MORAL IMPERATIVE ON PARENTS TO TEACH THIS SKILL TO THEIR CHILDREN, TO NOT DO SO IS MORAL NEGLIGENCE and only aids in the potential for moral deformity.
    To those households engaged in constant power struggles, the pink hair may be perceived as a battle not worth engaging in, or for some maybe even a win-“at least he’s not having sex” or “she’s not doing drugs.” This would be the expected response from a society with such low expectations. Based on some comments, a teenage rebellion against a “no” answer to something they perceive as trivial is their expectation. Do we want to support parenting methods that stem from their own anxieties about possibly going against the grain of society,” lest we provoke Johnny to act more sullen and agitated than he already is.” The truth is the opposite. Low or no expectations coupled with permissiveness is a formula for rebellion and power struggle. I applaud this family for their “greater expectations” because it isn’t about the pink hair; it’s about refusing to settle for the mediocre or lowered bar for youth. It’s about refusing to believe as a parent “my greatest fear is making waves with the adolescent,” as if youth were left unendowed with the faculties for civil obedience-not sullen and agitated obedience, but cheerful obedience even when society says “it’s no big deal”. It’s about a family that actually took the time to develop a standard (not based on random impulse or but their understanding of eternal principles). It’s about communicating them to their children, who are endowed with the faculties for desiring and understanding and obeying truth. It’s about parents and children who actually expect honor and obedience with the THE TRAINING TO MASTER IT. It’s about each family member understanding their duty towards it. Learning to accept “no” answers from God endowed authority is satisfying to the soul and really does bring joy to the individual, whereas the opposite is only a temporary gratification to the flesh. Think about it! Thank goodness for parents who understand, It’s not about the hair.

  24. Geoff A writes, “I can see that it is good that the parents reacted calmly but it is still a problem when petty rules that have nothing to do with the Gospel are enforced, and I would expect it to lead to rebelion at some stage.”

    Are you saying that kids should be allowed to do any and everything that is not specifically prohibited by the Gospel, without parental approval? The Gospel says to honor your father and mother. Parental authority is not restricted to matters covered by the divine commandments.

    I have forbidden my kids to do plenty of things that are not forbidden by the Gospel, yet at the ages of 16 and 19, neither has turned to rebellion so far. They understand and accept that obedience is required, even when I can’t persuade them to agree that I’m right — and that I have to obey others, and that in all likelihood, others will have to obey them some day.

    Obedience, in fact, is a good thing, and requiring it does not lead to rebellion as night follows day.

  25. I don’t have an issue with how this was handled (although it wouldn’t necessarily be the route I would take). There’s certainly a danger in being too strict, but I’m not convinced that threshold was crossed here (although that may depend on the individual child).

    My worry–and this isn’t addressed to any specific individuals here, as they may all be doing a fantastic job on this issue–but my worry is that sometimes kids are told certain behaviors are wrong, and they wrongfully start believing that people who engage in those behaviors (behaviors like putting pink strips in your hair) aren’t good people.

    My parents were fairly strict. I don’t think I would’ve gotten away with permanently or semi-permanently coloring my hair. But as a teenager I had this silly prejudice against people with nose rings and funky hair colors. My parents should have done their best to disabuse me of that prejudice. I would have been a better missionary had I realized before my mission that those things have nothing to do with how good the person is who has them.

    Of course, my mission did change my perspective on things. Two of my best investigators had either a nose ring or bright green hair (the latter was baptized with that hair). Two of the greatest people I’ll ever meet. Half of my most spiritual experiences on the mission involved these individuals. I only regret that, prior to my mission, I was prejudiced towards people with nonconforming appearances. My parents were good enough parents, but I really wish they would have helped me overcome that prejudice before my mission.

  26. Is this family in Utah? My sister spent several teen years with a family in Utah for which hair color was a “moral issue”. They sat her down on the couch and had hours of discussions like this. My sister hated living with the family, hated the ward, hated the church and never went back. Their oldest child did the same thing.

    Perhaps this particular situation was handled “well” but I wonder about the underlying family dynamics. The decision made by this girl does not sound like “self-governance”. She didn’t consider her options and make a good choice. She made the wrong choice and then was forced to correct it because the alternatives were so extreme (cut off a chunk of hair? Really? What parent would feel good sending their child to school with a chunk of hair missing?). IMO, self-governance would be her making choices based on natural consequences.

    Granted, my first child is just now entering his teens, so we’ll see how I do (although I have experience raising my brother as a teen), but this story reminds me so much of my sister’s experience that it really concerns me. I don’t think that what is described here is likely to make the daughter make a “good” choice in the future – just likely to hide it from her parents next time.

  27. “But as a teenager I had this silly prejudice against people with nose rings and funky hair colors. My parents should have done their best to disabuse me of that prejudice. I would have been a better missionary had I realized before my mission that those things have nothing to do with how good the person is who has them.”

    Bull!! How you dress is who you are especially the more extreme it becomes. You can tell by just looking at a person how to judge them if you know what the dress codes mean. The only way this isn’t the case is if the person dressed the way they are happen to somehow be socially ignorant. Can a person dress a way and be hypocritical? Sure, but they would still know what they were doing.

  28. Anon,

    This family lives on the East Coast in one of the lowest Mormon percentage states in the US. This is not a micro-culture, fit in thing. In fact, quite the opposite. I think they see the value in standing apart from trends in order to stand for who they profess to be as Mormons. They want to appear as they are, the kind of people who follow Mormon standards, so that everyone around them knows they are Mormons. I respect that a lot. I wish more people in Utah would do the same thing. I don’t know if this concept is as accepted now days. The way we look (dress) does influence the way we act. I think this was smart parenting. Drawing lines for children helps them choose whose side they are on, society’s or the Lord’s. If parents don’t use lines, or boundaries, for their children they could very well end up spending a lot of time battling the confusion the child is experiencing on many social/emotional levels. Confusion is one of our worst adversaries.

  29. Anon This Time writes, ” I don’t think that what is described here is likely to make the daughter make a “good” choice in the future – just likely to hide it from her parents next time.”

    And is the alternative, letting her do whatever she wants with her hair regardless of what her parents think of it, more likely to cause her to make good choices in the future?

    I think that practice makes perfect: Practicing submitting your will to your parents’, even when you don’t understand, is good practice for submitting your will to God’s even when you don’t understand. Whereas never having to submit to anyone; or submitting only when the thing you’re asked to submit to happens to make sense to you, is good practice for submitting only when you want to; which really is not submission at all.

    Or as one famous Bad Guy is said to have put it: “Non serviam!” (“I will not serve!”).

  30. Nicholeen, here is where I diverge from the parents. Instead of just saying, “You blew our family mission statement, so you are either going to have to dye your hair back or lose some privileges”, they added in that having a pink stripe in her hair interfered with the Spirit in the home (manipulative) and said that her options were to cut her hair (public shaming) or dye it back.

    In your summary, you said, “This fifteen year old girl didn’t always trust or respect her parents.” I will venture a guess as to why. Perhaps it is because they lead off with hyperbole and create a situation where she doesn’t feel safe? Having a parent tell me that my one small bad choice ruined the Spirit in the home and that one of my options would publicly shame me would NOT make me feel safe with my parents. It would not make me trust my parents.

    So, like I said in my previous comment, perhaps this is an improvement in their communication, but there are still some major underlying issues, IMO. In fact, I suspect that if these underlying issues on the part of the parents are resolved, the communication with their daughter would be much easier because then she really would trust and respect them.

    “As parents choose to govern themselves by certain communication principles children respect their parents rules and standards more and also choose to use the self-government principles they have learned too.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. I think the parents need more work in this area.

  31. Agellius, I don’t necessarily agree, but it could be because my father has proven himself to be untrustworthy. I don’t expect my kids to submit without knowing why. I figure that if I am going to give them rules, I really should know why and be able to articulate that to them. In the event that I would have to say no without giving a clear reason, I would hope that I have built a rapport so that my kids trust me enough to accept it. (I don’t think pink hair falls in that category.) I tend to think that’s how the Lord works. Plus, I don’t think that compulsory obedience is submission at all. Forcing my kids to obey by giving them extreme alternatives doesn’t teach willful obedience.

  32. “In the event that I would have to say no without giving a clear reason”

    So long as you live under my house you follow my rules. That is the reason I was given and that was the only reason necessary to your children. Or, in the sarcastic words of Cosby, I brought you into this world and I can take you out! Sure, you need to love your children and not beat them. That said, a firm hand is a firm lesson learned. If they grow up and choose differently then that is their business. A parent is a task master, a teacher, a councilor, an enforcer, and protector. They are not under any circumstance to act as a friend. They can become friends, or not, once the children leave the house and grow up and become truly independent. By that time they should start a family of their own.

  33. Anon:

    You write, “I don’t necessarily agree, but it could be because my father has proven himself to be untrustworthy. I don’t expect my kids to submit without knowing why. I figure that if I am going to give them rules, I really should know why and be able to articulate that to them”, etc.

    I certainly agree that a parent needs to prove himself trustworthy to have any hope of avoiding his kids rebelling. I also agree that kids should know why they are expected to submit. But sometimes even when you explain why, you still disagree. If they agree with you, then there’s nothing to submit to; they will do it (presumably) because they know it’s right and correct. It’s when they don’t agree with you that submission comes in.

    I would suggest that compulsory obedience and submission are not incompatible. Even if you have no choice about something, you can still do it with either a good attitude or a bad one. Submission in that case means doing it because you know that obeying your parents is the right thing to do. If you do it with grumbling and whining, and only because the alternative is worse, then I would agree, that’s not submission.

    The former is what we need to do with God: We have no choice but to obey God’s commands, lest we incur the guilt of sin (and I know no worse pain than that). Yet that needn’t prevent us from obeying God out of love rather than with whining and complaining.

  34. I teach the 12-13 year old Sunday School class. This past week our lesson was “Honor Thy Father and Mother.” The book said to do a role play at the beginning of the lesson. Two teens were the parents and one was the child. The teen playing the child was supposed to ask the parents if she could go to a party. The parents were supposed to say no. The teacher was instructed not to give any tips or pointers and see how it played out and discuss afterward. In my ward, the daughter who got a no answer did not accept it. She stormed off to her room and then chose to sneak out of the house. Many of the teens said they would do the same thing. Some said they would storm off but not sneak out. Only one teen said she would accept the no answer or disagree appropriately. (Her family follows my teaching self-government system) She said, “There is no point in getting emotional. It just makes bad feelings at home.”

    When we discussed the situation and how it was handled I brought up other options the teens could have taken like being obedient or talking calmly about it. The other teens did not like either of these ideas. If they couldn’t have their way they would have a tantrum. I even talked about the word tantrum. These teens didn’t see anything wrong with having a tantrum. In fact, some REALLY liked the idea.

    The ‘role play’ parents didn’t act mean, and they didn’t have a history of being mean or cruel, but the daughter still chose to have a tantrum.

    I think these teens may have a habit of being reactive. In fact, I heard them all encourage each other to react negatively. The idea of honoring their parents didn’t really seem to matter at all. The lesson was full of inspiring stories of people whose lives were better because they honored their parents. The stories didn’t matter.

    At the end of the class, the teens were supposed to write a letter of appreciation to their parents. Many of them didn’t want to do it. All but the one girl sat and stared at their papers. Finally, after lots of awkward silence and minutes ticking by the teens began writing.

    I couldn’t help but think of this pink hair story again, and Yvonne’s comments above. It seems to me that honoring parents is out of fashion and even discouraged by peers and society. This assures me that this is all the more reason we need to require that our children behave respectfully and obediently to us.

    I also couldn’t help but think that there was a reason the church would put a lesson about honoring parents in the lesson book. What would that be? Could it be because honor isn’t taught enough in the homes? Just a thought…Maybe parents hope their child will just automatically honor them just because the parents are good people.

    Parents have to deliberately teach their children to honor them. The parents could be totally honorable and still get dishonored if the child isn’t taught to honor their parents. Not only is honor a condition of the heart, but it is a skill and sense of duty. It is a sign of good character. According to Samuel Smiles book, “Character,” character is built upon duty, love and selflessness. If a child had character they would never say no to their parent’s instructions, unless the parent was evil. And, an evil, selfish parent would not likely rear a child with a strong character and a willing heart. We usually raise children who behave like we do,or like their friends do.

    Cause and effect is essential for teaching children obedience and self-government.

    “Self-government is being able to determine the cause and effect of any given situation, and possessing a knowledge of your own behaviors so that you can control them.”

    When we are children we have to learn cause and effect by losing privileges etc. These beginning lessons in cause and effect prepare the child to look ahead and make correct choices when they are adults.

    These are just some additional thoughts I had this Sunday after my class. It was an interesting class to observe.

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