This past weekend at the Teaching Self-Government couple’s retreat this story was shared by one couple. And, their daughter was there to tell her side of the story too. The room was silent as we listened to this girl tell about the lessons she learned from dying her hair pink.
One Family’s Pink Hair Lesson: The Parents’ Story
“How we teach our children self-government has been an area of focus in our home recently. Some have been complementary of it and others, only because of lack of understanding, at times openly critical. So, I wanted to share the following for those of you that have been keeping an eye on how we’re doing this.
Here is a good example of how using the basic skills of ‘Changing Children’s Hearts and Behavior by Teaching Self-Government’ we were able to maintain a feeling of peace, love, and harmony in our home this week.
This week one of our teenage children, together with her friends, decided to color her hair with a bright pink stripe. The choice was made without seeking parental permission or advice. When we found out, we decided not to react; after all it is her hair. We did however, reminded her that our family mission statement which she was part of creating and sustained, said that “Our youth follow For the Strength of the Youth”, and that our family prompt is “keep it together”. Then, together we reviewed the “dress and appearance” section in the For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet.
Once a review of what she already knew was done, we explained that keeping a bright pink stripe on her hair is against our family mission and desire to have the Spirit in our individual lives and home. Also, that she was part of creating our family prompt to remind us when we need to stay on the right path, and that our job as her parents is to help her “keep it together”.
Here is where the self-government basic skills came in. We told her that since her hair did not meet our family mission statement she needed to either cut off the pink stripe of hair or dye it back to her original color. (This was a no answer she didn’t want to hear.) She disagreed appropriately and explained that her friend’s parents did not ask her friends to dye it or cut it and that in due time it would wash away. We listened carefully to her point of view and when she was done, we explained that this was more related to her not keeping the family mission she sustained and our desire to keep a feeling of peace and love in our home. That instead of grounding her or being disappointed and upset with her, our instruction was for her to choose between the options above. At this point in reality she had three choices, (1) cut off her hair, (2) dye her hair, or what most teenagers do (3) throw a teenage tantrum.
Knowing if she should chose to throw a tantrum we would start the “Rule of Three” and she would take the risk of having to (1) do a major work assignment, also possibly (2) do problem solving exercises, and if long enough with the tantrum (3) lose her privileges for 24 hours (this means working hard and doing problem solving exercises for 24 hours), she made an instant choice to not throw a tantrum.
Our daughter explained that she did not want to cut her hair and decided to dye it back. She dropped the subject and by the end of the day her hair was back to the same beautiful shiny brown she was so blessed to have. We proceeded to complement her for her choice and acknowledged she had made this choice on her own, that she could have done as many do and throw a tantrum, but she did not.
We explained to her that although some may look at us asking to dye or color her hair as taking away her agency to choose, that we feel our teaching and giving her the choice to correct what clearly was a wrong choice, is far more important than letting her keep her hair the way it was and punishing her for it. We explained that by using her self-government skills she was able to help our family maintain a feeling of peace and love…and as a bonus she was able to live by high expectations that will allow her to maintain her natural beauty and invite the Spirit in her life.”
The Daughter Said
The daughter shared her thoughts about this story too. She felt it was a wonderful moment in her growth and self-government learning. She said, “I was worried I was going to get in trouble. Before Nicholeen came to our house my parents would have really ‘let me have it’…But, my parents were so calm and comfortable to talk to…I knew that I needed to choose the right way to fix the situation.” When talking about why she chose to dye her hair she said, “I knew dying my hair was wrong in the moment when I did it, but I wanted to fit in with other kids my age, and we had planned to do it for a long time. Now I see why I felt wrong about it. I should have followed that feeling.”
Here are ten self-government lessons we can learn from this experience.
- Calmly bringing a wrong to the attention of the child gives them the opportunity to recognize that they already knew it was wrong, and gives them the courage to follow this inner feeling when it comes again in life. This young woman was obviously influenced by social pressure, even though inside she knew it was wrong. By addressing the situation, the parents gave her permission to follow her heart in the future. They gave her strength and understanding.
- Parents who include their children in making family mission statements are prepared with a great reminder to their children of how they should communicate and feel toward their parents and their family standards.
- Family standards, or rules about what a family will wear, won’t wear, will say, won’t say etc., are vital for keeping children out of moral trouble and focused on true principles when they need it most, in their teen years. If parents teach these rules from a young age, then they can confidently refer back to them when the lessons are most important.
- In this interaction the family used all of the Four Basic Skills: They gave her a no answer and she accepted it. She disagreed appropriately and the parents listened. They explained the consequences of her choice and she accepted the consequence. And, they gave her an instruction to dye her hair back and she calmly said okay and followed it. Because the family had previously spent time learning self-government communication skills, when a difficult situation presented itself they were ready to calmly and lovingly discuss the situation and respect each other.
- This fifteen year old girl didn’t always trust or respect her parents. But, after learning an effective way to communicate with them, and that they were going to govern their communication too, she had renewed respect for them which is apparent in her willingness to stay calm and accept the very difficult no answer they gave her.
- This girl proves that when a person learns effective communication skills, and parents govern themselves by communication principles as well, the child will take responsibility for her own actions.
- The calmness of the parents was equally as important as the structure the family had decided to live by. Their tone during the interaction showed that they trusted in her goodness to choose the right choice, and that they loved her and didn’t judge her. When she felt this calmness, trust and love she chose to maintain an open heart too. Their hearts communicated much more than their words did in this situation.
- This family has made a prompt “keep it together” to remind themselves that they can’t throw the feeling in the family out the window because of one hard moment. I love the way they use this slogan to keep the whole family focused on their family vision.
- In this situation the parents corrected their daughter for her wrong choice, they pre-taught her about what would happen for each choice she might make, and they praised her for her correct decision. They were also willing to use the “Rule of Three,” which is their way of interacting with the children if they choose to go out of control, if they needed to. Their calm confidence and use of correcting, pre-teaching, and praising, made a normally heated conversation safe and healing to all the members of the family.
- As parents choose to govern themselves by certain communication principles children respect their parents rules and standards more and also choose to use the self-government principles they have learned too.
I want to thank this family for sharing such a personal moment from their lives with all of us. They showed how focusing on self-government has helped them, and how the principles can make the most difficult situations great family connecting moments instead.
Whether you care about a child having pink hair or not, this is a perfect example of how parents can use self-government principles and a loving tone to help their children keep family standards. And, having family standards, like those in the For The Strength of Youth pamphlet, is a vital part of a moral upbringing.