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Daughter Dyes Hair Red

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Our 16-year-old daughter dyed her blonde hair red even though she knew it was against our wishes. What is she trying to tell us?

A: Your 16-year-old daughter is telling you that she should be able to present herself physically as she chooses, not as you think she should look. You and your husband have a physical image of how you think your daughter should look. That image is based on your sense of how she looks best and how her physical presentation reflects on the family. Evidently, you think dyeing her hair red is wrong and expressed your opinion to her. I don't know if you forbid her to dye it red or just expressed your disapproval. Forbidding her from changing her hair could have driven her even more toward dyeing her hair "behind your backs."

At this stage of her adolescent development, your daughter is searching for a comfortable identity. She is going to try out different "looks" in an effort to be more accepted by her peers. She wants to fit in somewhere and she might believe that changing her hair color, wearing a certain style of clothes, or listening to a particular type of music might help her to fit in. She also might simply want to see if red hair looks "cool."

Parents shouldn't engage their teens in battles over hairstyles, hair color, or clothing. As long as your teen's fashion and identity statements/experiments don't present clear health problems, I would let her experiment. Attempting to change her mind by forbidding her to look a certain way or punishing her for doing so will backfire and create an unnecessary break in your relationship.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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