RENE SYLER: To My Daughter: See, Hair’s The Thing..

IMG 0176 300x251 To My Daughter: See, Hairs The Thing..

I’m up early this morning, holding my breath and praying about my daughter’s hair. Why would her follicles warrant something as serious as that? Because, yesterday was a different verse of her favorite song of late, her talking about wanting to straighten her hair. The first time she talked about it I listened but gave her a firm no. The second time, I listened, then looked at the links for the non-chemical straighteners she had passed along. The third time (yesterday) admittedly, I didn’t handle it well at all.

It would be different I think has I not gone through so much hell with my own hair, chemically straightening it for more than three decades before finally, fully embracing it, and myself.  When I asked her over and over why she wanted her hair straight, something she couldn’t put into words, other than choking out, “ I just don’t like it.”

This is one of those moments I had to put my foot down. As many of you know, I’m a big believer in natural consequences but I’m also a HUGE believer in natural hair and the thought of her going through what I did for so many years, was just too painful.

I tried to explain to her that her hair is what makes her unique; it’s who she is. And maybe that’s why it was so shocking to me, it felt like, her trying to change something has fundamental and fabulous as her hair, was like rejecting who she is and to an extent, me.

We worked on her hair a bit yesterday, I took time to explain the pros and cons of having curly hair, and that no matter how she wears it there is work involved (because that’s a big part of it too, she doesn’t want to invest the time). By the end of the evening, her hair was washed, freshly twisted and the crisis had been averted. For now.

I fully expect it to rear its ugly head again and for that, I am bracing myself. I’m trying to remember what it was like to be a teenager and want to fit in, after all I was about the age she is now when I got my hair chemically-straightened for the first time. Maybe it’s time for me to back out of it, to stop looking at her hair as though it were my own or wishing it was. Maybe it’s mom who needs to get a grip, to stop digging in so much on this and let her do what she wants with her locks. Or maybe, as is my secret and fervent prayer, she wakes up one morning, thrilled with what God gave her and accepts it, and herself, just the way she is.

What do you think about this? Should I let her do what she wants with her hair, even though it involves chemicals? Should I continue to try to make her see her natural beauty? Have your kids ever wanted to do something this drastic? How did you handle it?

But wait, there’s more!

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René is the author of Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting and founder of its subsequent website,

  • the girl

    If your daughter is under 18, or cannot pay for the style herself, then you have the right and responsibility to say no. I would continue to say no, no matter how many times she asks. Once she is no longer asking you, but can do it on her own, then trust that you have taught her well, step back, and allow her to have the experiences that will shape her adulthood. Have faith that this choice will teach her something about herself, something about the world, and that she will learn and grow from it in accordance to God’s will. I know it is hard for parents to watch their children go through difficult things and we wish we could stop it from happening. But we can’t, and we have to stand firm in the knowledge that we have equipped our children with all of the tools they need for their self-love and self-empowerment. We can only hope they will remember what they’ve been taught in their times of crisis.  

  • Jerseycaptive

    I told myself if I had a daughter and had to experience this, she would have to be an adult and on her own before chemically straightening her hair. Yes, seriously.  I know what it can do, and now I have locs.
    Your post reminded me of my luck in having a son.
    Joking aside.  Could you straighten her hair with a hot comb/straightening iron so she sees how it looks first before something as permanent as a chemical relaxer?  Perhaps even explain honestly and firmly to your daughter too, that with straight hair, her time to maintain it may increase too.  Her hair may be straight, but her roots sure won’t be and the moment her roots show, it’s time to get another relaxer.  Plus her hair can become brittle, damaged, and then she’s left with no hair.  Then she’ll need a wig / weave, and that’s a whole new set of issues.
    You could go wig shopping?!

  • Brookerwms

    How old is your daughter? As a child my hair was permed by the time I was six because it was long and “nappy”. Throughout high school I experimented with cuts and colors and finally decided to go natural in college. I think you should consider taking her to a natural hair stylist and have it cut in a cute curly style. She may be tired o the same look not particularly the curls. Maybe a natural hair tint!?

  • Aileygirl02

    I say its her choice. If she wants to take this step let her do so. She will either learn that it was the right choice or the wrong one. You learned through your experiences that it wasn’t for you. Let her have that same opportunity to discover whats right and wrong for her. Its part of the journey of life… discovering who you are. If she realizes she made the wrong choice. She can always start over. At the end of the day, its just hair. It will grow back.

    This is coming from someone who had natural hair down to her rear and was over it. I asked my Mom if I could get a perm and she said no the first time I asked but the second time she gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. I do not regret it for one second. I’ve experimented doing all kind of things to my hair (dyes, perms, etc). Last summer as I was doing some self-reflecting I decided I wanted to get in tune with what God gave me naturally. Which included me cutting off my permed hair and seeing what would grow. I have to say that I absolutely love the mane God blessed me with.  Its kind of amazing actually. But I would not be in this state of love and gratitude had I not had the freedom to explore all of myself.

    Thats the greatest gift you can give someone, the freedom to find out who they really are. Give your daughter that gift. She will treasure it for the rest of her life and love you the more because of it. You will be suprised at how much giving her a gift of this sort will positively affect other areas of her life.

  • I think you have given her all she need to know; you’ve shared your experiences with her, the pros and the cons. Although I am passionate natural hair advocate, I experiencing with styling options is a great part of being a teenager.

    Where most of our teens learn that their natural hair is ugly, so there is no choice but to straighten. This causes damage but your daughter got a positive message and I think she may need her own experience. Yes of course it wouldn’t be my choice either but teens have to grow up and need to make their own choices. Unfortunately we can’t prevent them from making the mistakes we made.

    To prevent her from doing so, I have only one piece of advice; ask her to participate in America’s Next Natural Model, an annual pageant to promote natural hair. Feel free to check it out at

  • tell her this… first off her hair is absolutely GORGEOUS… i can’t understand why she would want to put chemicals in it(which is weird that i’m saying that because i’m not against chemically relaxing hair) however, women (with relaxers and some without) are paying hundreds of dollars to get weaves that i look exactly like her hair… i would know i was one of them.  i never let my hair just be in it’s natural state… from plaits as a kid to relaxer as soon as i was old enough.  I’ve been natural for 12yrs now but i remember paying 300dollars for a curly hair weave to only go natural a few years later and realize my hair was naturally very very curly. Now women stop me ask me how i got my hair so curly.  I would just try and compromise… flat iron it…to start and see how she likes it… the thing is whether you’re natural or relaxed women just have to know how to take care of their hair is all.

  • Its ironic that i watched this video “400 years without a comb” this morning, and then i come across this article.

  • LnKSun

    I have the exact same hair texture as your daugther! Unfortunately, as no one showed me how to take care of it when I was young, I started relaxing it at 11, to “fit in”, dreaming that one day, I would have long straight hair. Well… In 11 years of straigntening, my hair got thiner and thiner and the more it got thin, the more I had to cut it… So, 2 years ago, after spending hours looking at pictures like your daugther’s I finally decided to embrace my natural hair. I cut EVERYTHING off (only one month after my last relaxer). And this is the best decision I have ever taken about my hair! Within 2 years, it has grown more than during the past 10 years! I FINALLY feel so proud about my hair and definitely  feel “prettier” (when my hair was relaxed, I had a very low opinion about myself). I am looking forward for it to grow, grow grow. I’m looking forward to have it as long has your daugther’s! She is so lucky that her hair is so beautiful.

  • Shazz

    Her hair is gorgeous.  Maybe she has a difficult time controlling it, but I say NO to any harsh chemicals…  Natural is always the best option, but as a young lady she would probably welcome some versatility.  The other thing is that curly hair tends to be a bit dry… If the pH level of the hair can be organically altered and infused with moisture, she can enjoy the options of wearing her hair Straight, Wavy or Curly and not have to worry about the hair frizzing or swelling. One such product that offers those capabilities is Natra Laxa kHem pHree –