A 15-Year-Old Wants To Streak Her Hair. Her Parent Says "No" With No Rationale. How Should The Parent Have Handled This?

Question: A 15-year-old wants to streak her hair. Rather than discussing the reasons for refusing to allow her to do it, the parent simply says "no!" How could the parent have communicated this decision better? (The teen feels dismissed and devalued.)

Answer: All teenagers are going through a crisis in their identity. They're asking themselves: Who am I? How am I the same as my friends? How am I different? How am I special and unique?

And all of us need to be unique and special in a certain way.

So, the good news here is that this girl is asking the parents if she can streak her hair. She's opening a conversation. Now with a boy, he may want a mohawk or he may want to grow his hair long or something else.

But the parents shouldn't really just say no. If they just say no, they're dismissing, devaluing the teenager and they're not showing respect. I mean, have a conversation.

So, what should the parents be thinking in terms of the conversation?

What's the risk? Is this irreversible, like a tattoo? Or, does streaking grow out? Is it something that the child is doing because all of her friends have streaky hair?

Is it something that would make her stand out and be an object of bullying or scapegoating or standing out from the crowd? And remember, it's her hair, it's not her hair. You know, is this your agenda or is this her agenda that you're dealing with?

Then, speak with your teenager. Ask her about what it means. Ask her about why she's doing this. Wonder with her how the consequences would affect her life. Would she feel better about it?

The most important points here are, one, to have a conversation and not just say no. By the same token, not just say yes. I mean, she's opened a door, walk through it.

The second important concept is to remember, you've got to pick your battles. What's more important, a streak in the hair or other factors that will happen in adolescence -- issues with sex, with drugs and alcohol, with driving, with being in unsafe places or in unsupervised parties.

You know, this is only one of many things that are going to come up with teenagers, and it's important to kind of check out your priorities and what you want to fight for and where you want to draw the line.

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