Ask A Mom: Coloring Kids’ Hair, A Toddler’s Furniture Drawings, And More
WBTV’s Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions
Q: Hi Molly! Can you settle something for me: My 12-year-old daughter wants to put pink streaks in her hair. I say go for it. It’s not like she’s interviewing for jobs—she spends most of her day on a screen right now. But my husband gives it a hard no. He says it opens the door to piercings and tattoos. What should we do?—Annie
A: Has your husband ever watched Descendants? The TV musical Zombies? Seen any Just Dance “video game” workouts? Has he walked through a Target, Walmart, or any-store-anywhere with a preteen section and caught a look at the T-shirts and merchandise?
If not, see if you can drag him to one (under the pretense of some other guise, of course) and let him see the pink-blue-purple-rainbow-striped-green-yellow-orange-haired-everyone with his own eyes. Many of the people in front of our kids’ faces—now more than ever with COVID and added screens and movies—have non-traditional hair.
If he won’t go to a store with you, you could always look up these actors and actresses on Instagram, Tik Tok, or Facebook for quick examples of multi-colored styles on Disney-approved platforms.
Not that what is popular should always be okay. Just because others do it doesn’t mean you have to in your household. But when it comes to temporarily dying your hair, it’s not the same thing as it was decades ago. I look at temporary hair dye to our kids, as what bracelet-making and pot-holder-loom-crafting was when we were growing up. It’s just something kids do to entertain themselves.
If he really can’t stand the thought of the pink strips (which, FYI, don’t turn out as boldy-pink as the box would indicate), then maybe ease him into it—or have your daughter ease him into it—with hair chalk. It generally rinses out the next wash.
If all else fails, let him know that 30 percent of Americans have tattoos. That number is up from 21 percent back in 2012. He’s welcome to hate them, but in six more years, your daughter will be legally allowed to walk into a shop by herself and get whatever she wants without any parental approval. If she feels a future a desire to do that, wouldn’t he want her to tell him so he could explain why he feels the way he does, rather than have her hide it because he “never tried to understand?”
Last thing here (because sometimes anecdotes work better than facts): My 9-year-old girl wanted pink strips last year. A friend got her some for her birthday, and months later—by now it was late September—I was still coming up with excuses on why we had no time to put them in. Not sure why I was reluctant; I just was. But one night, she was insistent. I helped her and her friend paint on the dye, and blew their hair dry. She was flipping her new look around, staring in the mirror, grinning. I smiled insincerely and in an effort to support, asked her what she liked most about the pink.
“Because tomorrow is October,” she said. “Breast cancer month. I miss Grammy and want to honor her.”
Oomph. Shame on me.
Don’t let adult assumptions cover up positive childlike intent.
Q: Hi Molly! I think I have a budding artist on my hands. My 3-year-old has colored rainbows on my walls and decorated my upholstered chairs with red markers. (And yes, I usually keep the art supplies out of reach until my older kids bring them out.) She’s even raided my makeup drawer and put my lipstick and nail polish on her dolls. I don’t want to squash her creativity, but this has got to stop. Any ideas?—Paige
A: You deserve an award for patience and kind mothering thoughts. When my 6-year-old son Hutch took a black Sharpie to my light blue floral upholstered chair I didn’t for a second think, “I don’t want to squash his creativity.” I only thought, “Ohmygodmychair, OhmygodHutch, where is that little…,” then I screamed his name.
I took your question to Martha Adelman, a mom and working professional who has spent her career in child development working with kids, parents, and adjoining professionals. She said she wanted to answer your question from 3-year-old’s perspective. (So creative!)
“Wow, Mom. Thank you. You respect my need to use new skills, yet also know I need to understand boundaries. What a joy to be 3 years old and learn to express yourself. It’s good you remember I was born not knowing what is acceptable and what is not. Part of your job is to show me what is okay. I ask you to tell me what I can do. I also, mom, need to know WHAT I can color. Like, actually tell me what is allowed to create my rainbows. An easel? A table? Lying on the floor on my stomach with construction paper in front of me? If you designate one or two locations, I will have independence in choosing from those spots. You’ll be teaching me ‘okay opportunities.’
“Also, maybe, mom, you could also tell me WHEN it’s okay to color? Do you want me to do so only in art time or is anytime of the day okay? You know, I like attention. I need to know I’m doing the ‘right’ thing at the ‘right’ time. Acknowledge me when I color on paper and do it the right way. Use words for this positive reinforcement, or non-verbal cues. A wink or thumbs up works well.
“On the other side, mom, make sure I clean up any coloring on upholstered furniture. Cleaning up can be fun at my age though, if I get to spend time with you doing it. Try not to make this fun. Teach me the wrongness of coloring in spots you haven’t designated.
“And mom, saving my least favorite thought for last. I’m going to sometimes test limits and do what I know is NOT okay. You must have consequences for my ‘wrong’ choices. What happens if/when I color in a place I’m not supposed to color? Does all my coloring stuff get taken away? For three hours? Or maybe three days? (I suggest ‘three’ because I am three and can count to three and understand three. If the consequences go much past that, I don’t understand the punishment in full.)
“Follow through, Mom. Stick to your plan on how to teach me art only in specific areas. I promise I will learn from experience.”
Q: My toddler has always been a great napper and sleeper, but he’s started getting out of his “big kid” bed every time I put him down. Now it takes at least an hour to get him to sleep because he keeps popping out like it’s a game. I’ve tried laying with him, yelling at him, bribing him, giving in and letting him sleep in our bed…and I’m exhausted. How do I handle this?—Liz
A: Gretchen Hunter is a clinical neuropsychologist with Child & Family Development in Charlotte. She suggested these tips:
- Ensure daytime naps are no more than two hours.
- Limit toys in bedroom (only books and no noise toys).
- A consistent nighttime routine.
- Gates/physical barriers if safety or stairs are a concern.
- And, this article from NPR called “The Bedtime Pass.”
You guys. I just read that article. It’s so simple.
“Every night, parents give their child a 5×7 card that is the bedtime pass. They explain to their child that the pass is good for one excused departure from the bedroom per night, whether that’s to use the bathroom, get one more hug, report a scary dream, whatever. After the pass is used, the child may not leave the bedroom again, and the parents are not to answer if they call out.”
I wish I’d known about that bedtime pass years ago. Hutch was a nighttime terror. Friends suggested buying a tent to put on the bed to create more of an enclosed space, like a crib. I also got advice about buying a clock that uses a traffic light. (Roughly $30 on Amazon.) It’ll stay red until it hits the time you set it to turn green. Even young children can follow the “stop” and “go” color-coordinated system. For what it’s worth, the tent worked better in our household than the clock, but neither was foolproof.
If you’re still in need of suggestions, I spent an entire chapter in my book The Juggle is Real bemoaning Hutch’s sleeping issues. I only mention now because in the book I include Facebook comments from other parents. Here is some of their advice:
Christine G. Three nights. Every time he gets up, you put him back. No hugs, no talk (minimal, just to say “back to bed” calmly), just put him back. Your arms will fall off. Your back will hurt. You and everyone around you will be miserable. But it WILL work.
Michelle P. Glow in the dark stickers. If he stays in his big boy bed all night, then he gets glow in the dark stickers to put on his pajamas the next night. It worked wonders for my little one, twenty-something years ago.
Annette Mc. If you find something that works, please patent it.
Bottom line, as you can tell by the experts, the personal experience, and other parental advice, no one answer is perfect. Try what you can.
The good news? They will grow out of it.
Love reading your questions. As always, submit whatever is on your mind any time on the homepage of Charlotte Parent (scroll down and look to your right).