General Question

casheroo's avatar

When is a child old enough to decide for themselves?

Asked by casheroo (18017 points ) March 25th, 2010

So, my husband disagree on something we both feel rather strongly about…
Our sons hair.

I prefer it long. He got his first haircut in January, at exactly 2.5 years old..and yes, it was pretty long. I hated that we did it, and didn’t like the cut in the back, but the front looked nice and it was less messy when it came to dinner time, since he won’t let us put it in a ponytail.

My husband says it’s time for another haircut. And I do sort of agree, and we may cut it closer to the warmer season…but when do we allow our son to decide?
When we ask him if he wants a haircut, he says no. But, I doubt he really knows what it means. We distracted him during his last haircut, which was done at my friends apartment. So it wasn’t a big production at a salon or anything.

He will be 3 in July, and I have cared for other 3 year olds and they all seemed to have quite a gripe on their opinions regarding such a thing.
Is it unrealistic to ask him what he prefers? Is this something we should do until he asks us not to?

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35 Answers

susanc's avatar

I wouldn’t! I’d tell him happily that Oh Boy, it’s New Haircut Day! If he doesn’t know what the difference is, why would it be in his best interest to be asked this puzzling question? (You are nicer than I can imagine being.)

dpworkin's avatar

I have raised 4 children. It has been my habit nor to make them do something they don’t want to do, except in matters of safety or discipline. Why make him get a haircut if he doesn’t want one? What is the principle?

Chongalicious's avatar

Small children know what they want better than anyone else on this earth! I say if he gives you an answer, that’s his choice, let him make it.

WestRiverrat's avatar

You and your husband should decide on the when. Let your son decide on the style and length within boundaries you and your husband set.

Seek's avatar

I’m on the long-hair team, if that’s what he really wants.

I have a tendency to ask toddlers who say “no”, “Are you saying ‘no’ because you mean ‘no’, or just because you want to say ‘no’”. It’s amazing how often they’ll say the latter. You might try showing him some pictures of boys with different haircuts, and asking him if he’d like to look like any of them.

ChaosCross's avatar

Ages would variate, children being different from one another. It is hard to describe, but they usually say something or do something that finally makes you notice that spark in their eye indicating they are now mature and should face the consequences of their own actions.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Children learn how to make good choices by having chances to make choices. However, not all choices are equal. At three, they are emotionally attached to their bowel movements. The decision to get their hair cut is not age appropriate; of course he’s going to say no. Some things are stated as a fact, as it’s time to go to bed, it’s time to take a bath, it’s time to brush your teeth, it’s time to cut your hair.

Choices are red t-shirt or blue sweatshirt? Cowboy boots or tennis shoes? Airplane jammies or Spiderman? True Story of the Three Little Pigs or Chicka-chicka-Boom-Boom?

susanc's avatar

Wow, I can think of a lot of grownups we need to work that way with.
Public option or bed with no supper?

skfinkel's avatar

Young children are developing their own sense of independence and self at these ages. There are so many things children don’t have control over, I would opt to give them control as much as possible over their own bodies. Haircuts is one of the areas that I would let them decide. I also like the idea, though, of showing them options. But, the decision can be theirs, and you can take pride knowing that it is their decision and you respect that. A good model for what is coming.

Rarebear's avatar

I would avoid putting your son in between the argument that your husband and you are having. I would suggest that you guys need to decide betwixt yourselves what you want to do and then just do it.

In terms of asking opinions of the kids, I would more or less agree on what @dpworkin says to an extent. For example, my daughter, who is nine, wants her hair long, but she has an annoying habit of chewing on it. Is it a public safety hazard? No, but it’s kind of gross. So we told her, either she stops sucking on it or it gets cut. Period. She stopped sucking.

dpworkin's avatar

Children need limits to feel secure, and autonomy in order to individuate properly. I suggest very strongly that you stick to your guns if there is a good reason to say no, and that you try to say yes the rest of the time. In my home a haircut wouldn’t be worth a fight.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I am from a culture where boys often have long hair. And most of the time parents let them choose when they want to cut it off. My mother did. They are usually very clear when they are ready for it to be cut. When it comes to identity if a kid knows what they want and is able to say so then I say let them choose (unless it’s a safety/hygiene issue).

If you ask your LO why he doesn’t want a haircut can he answer (or attempt to)? If he has an answer that might be a clear indicator that he does know what is going on and has a preference.

I was looking at a child development sight and it said that age 6–7 is the time when you should foster decision making. So although it wouldn’t hurt right now it may be honestly beyond his developmental capacity to truly make a decision. ???
Development Link

DarkScribe's avatar

When is a child old enough to decide for themselves?

The day after s/he moves the last parent into a retirement home.

Buttonstc's avatar

Since the primary issue with the longer hair seems to be getting it messy with food, perhaps offer him the option of ponytail when eating or get it cut (similar in principle to the hair chewing girl).

This teaches him some decision making within acceptable boundaries.

Chances are with summer coming, he might opt for a buzz cut for comfort.

But if he really wants it long, then he’s the one who sweats.

As long as he isn’t mucking it up with food, I’m assuming it would be ok with you.

Rarebear's avatar

@dpworkin Agree completely. Either cut the hair or not—in the long run it doesn’t matter. My point is that the child shouldn’t get in the middle of the argument. When I read @casheroo‘s question I was worried by “let the child decide” he would be put in the middle of the argument.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I didn’t get to decide on my own haircuts until I was in high school. Not that my life was so regimented that I couldn’t decide a lot of other things on my own. But Dad gave me crew cuts several times a year, and—that was that.

So I’d say “when he’s cutting his hair himself or paying to have it cut”, then he can decide that for himself. (That’s also when I started picking out my own wardrobe, too—when I started to pay for it.)

And that kind of control didn’t hurt me, either. With my own son, it was more along the lines of, “Today is my day to get a haircut. Come with me and we’ll get yours cut, too.” I gave him somewhat more say in how he could wear it than I had, but final decision was mine, until he started driving to and paying for his own.

Pandora's avatar

The day he refuses to cut his hair and he’s in his teens or for as long as you are supporting his butt and he’s mooching off of you. You decide which approach is best.

dpworkin's avatar

Yeah, the little fucker, and he damned well better eat them fuckin’ peas, too if you’re payin’ for ‘em.

casheroo's avatar

I can’t ever imagine forcing a teen to cut their hair. That sounds so ridiculous to me.

Pandora's avatar

@casheroo There you go, so you’ve decide you will let him decide when hes a teen. LOL

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yeah, I have this issue with my mother and she does put him in the middle – she does the whole ‘oh you should cut his hair, it gets into his food’ and she says it’s not about gender norms but I know it’s because all our ‘influences’ scare her to death (she’s quite gendered). To be fair, she cut my and my brother’s hair very short when we were little but I’m not about it – I love my son’s hair super short and it took awhile to get his bio-dad and the rest of my family on board (not that I needed them on board, but they needed to calm the hell down). Now, it’s the summer time and mom’s starting to drill about this issue again – I will cut his hair a little but not much…as far as what he wants…if he really wanted a haircut, he’d tell me and I’ve learned (after months of him being indecisive or switching his opinions) to tell when he really means something.

casheroo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir My mother is the exact same way. I get passive aggressive comments about his hair constantly. At least the only reason my husband wants to cut it is a legit one..he worries that our son will be too hot, since he won’t let us put it up in a pony. So, he’s worried our son will sweat and it’ll just be gross. I say we wait and see how it goes. Also, we never really cut it, just trim it. When we trimmed it, she cut almost two inches off and it was still long. I’d never cut it short, just a trim or the same style.

Boombip's avatar

It’s dosn’t matter. I’d cut his hair but he’s 3. If you cut his hair it will grow back. When he grows up he can decide whether or not to be a hippie. But simply on a grooming note, cut it, it looks nicer.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

For right now I’d keep cutting it as is workable for you and your husband, your kid will have an opinion soon enough and then you can negotiate what you think is reasonable then.

meagan's avatar

I’m sure a three year old would enjoy cutting his own hair.
If hes allowed to make these decisions, let him at it!

PandoraBoxx's avatar

As an aside, if you ask children what they want for a snack, they usually ask for junk food. If they’re playing, and you walk in a place a plate of cut-up fruit or veggies next to them without saying a word, they will eat them. My point being, children don’t have to decide everything, and not everything has to be a question. With dinner, I never made them eat what I cooked, but if they didn’t like dinner, then the alternative was oatmeal, yogurt, or cheese and crackers. But they had to take at least a bite of everything

JeffVader's avatar

What is wrong with all these people….. He’s a child, & a very young one at that. He has extremely limited reasoning & decision making skills, he’s not a small adult. If you think he needs a haircut, it’s a decision for you not him, front up & be the parent!

MissAusten's avatar

@casheroo My youngest son has long hair, and we all love it. He usually loves it too, but once in a while someone will mistake him for a girl and he does not like that. He just turned 5, and if he really wanted a haircut I would take him but not have it changed drastically. This is my son after a haircut. Right now his hair is quite a bit longer than that, almost to his shoulders.

Early this fall, my son decided he did want a haircut. His hair had gotten really long over the summer, and it was a bit out of control. He said he didn’t want short hair, but wanted it “medium.” After the haircut, the hairdresser turned him toward the mirror and said, “What do you think?” My son stared at himself with shorter hair, burst into tears, and said, “It’s awful!” He was so mad he wouldn’t say what he didn’t like or let the hairdresser try to cut his hair another way. It did look pretty bad because she’d made his hair all one length, but it could have been easily fixed. My son decided he would never get a haircut again. I felt bad for the hairdresser who had only done what my son had asked. When we got home I fixed the haircut myself and decided a 4 year old shouldn’t pick a haircut. I think he only wanted the lollipop for sitting still and didn’t expect his hair to look different! I’m not letting him decide about his hair again until he’s older.

Now, when his hair starts to get too long, I don’t make it an option. I say, “It’s time for a trim!” Not calling it a haircut seems to make it less drastic in his mind. I also tell him that getting a trim keeps his hair nice and healthy. At this point, I think you and your husband should have the final say. Let your son make choices on what to wear or play, maybe what to eat for breakfast, and save the haircut choices for when he’s 6 or 7.

casheroo's avatar

Okay, maybe people didn’t read…I do NOT want to cut his hair, my husband does. We were talking about if our son would be old enough to decide, so we don’t have to disagree about it. I love my sons hair long.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@casheroo I meant super long, not super short – I like his hair long

dutchbrossis's avatar

I think you and your husband should let him decide, it is his hair.

casheroo's avatar

Just to update:
Randomly, I decided to get his hair cut shorter. He seemed excited about the haircut, and didn’t fight it..so I guess he still doesn’t have an opinion either way. He did seem confused at first, when he touched the back of his head..but he’s gotten over it and likes showing off his haircut.
Here’s a before and here are some after

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@casheroo He’s a cute kid no matter the hair though I do prefer his hair longer.

Seek's avatar

d’awwww… he’s adorable.

Buttonstc's avatar

He looks adorable either way, but I’m sure he’ll be much more comfy with the summer months coming up. I remember Philly summers :)

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