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Gender Confusion: Should I cut my son's long hair? Babble.com's Parental Advisory.

My son has very long hair. We’ve always liked it, even though people tend to mistake him for a girl. It has sometimes bugged me, but now that he’s four it’s starting to worry me, too. Do you think it will affect his confidence and his self-image? He says he does not want to cut it. His dad also has long hair, but he also has a beard, so it’s not exactly the same thing. Am I messing him up by letting this go on? – Hairy Scary

Dear Hairy,

This is one of those many moments in parenthood where you need to take a step back and see whether the situation is actually affecting your kid, or just affecting you. When people think your son is a girl, what happens? How does he act? Does he seem upset? If you ask him about it, what does he say?

It’s important to remember that gender confusion has little meaning at this age. Boys and girls are just beginning to differentiate themselves socially. As this normal developmental process continues, it’s possible that your son’s feelings about being misinterpreted might change. Or they might not. Either way, you’ll probably know by the way he acts whether he’s upset by the situation.

One of our sons is a longhair, and when asked how he felt about being called a girl, he said, “I’ll just tell them I’m a boy.” His self-assurance was clear. It seems like your son’s similarly set. And in that case, everyone is doing fine. It’s not like your son is making a statement or trying to differentiate himself. His dad has long hair, he has long hair. Long hair, in your family, is what guys do. Chances are, your son has made this observation, and it’s part of why he likes his hair the way it is.

To many adults, the idea of a “girly” boy brings up some issues. Your impulse to cut his hair may be more related to your social anxieties, not his. Try not to project too much cultural baggage about gender onto the situation; you’ve been feeling confident about a longhaired boy thus far which shows us that you’re already fought against the tide of baby and toddler gendering. If you and your husband want to debate the various social stigmas about feminine vs. masculine traits, try to keep the dialogue out of your son’s earshot. Otherwise, you risk injecting a negative spin on something he seems to feel pretty good about.

As the parent, you obviously have the power to tell him to change his look. But before you plant him in that choo-choo barber chair against his will, think hard about why you’re doing it . . . is it for him, or for you?

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

Article Posted 8 years Ago
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