Is Brushing An Unwilling Child’s Hair Assault?

My daughter's wild hair.
My daughter’s wild hair.

I admit, brushing my daughter’s naturally curly hair isn’t my favorite part of the day, but we’ve got it down to a five minute science.

Spray with water, a spritz of leave-in conditioner, and then brush with one of these: pretty much the greatest thing ever to happen to me as a mother.

You could probably call me obsessed with doing my daughter’s hair. When I was little my mom was always at work, so while other little girls went to school with French braids, pigtails, and perfectly positioned barrettes, I rolled up with my unkempt, self-managed do.

I hated it. I wanted cute hair.

For the most part, my daughter likes telling me how to fix her hair each day. She’ll request a braid or a ponytail and, yes, there is a fair bit of whining, but I see that as no different than her complaining about what I make for dinner. In contrast, mom blogger and Attachment Parenting advocate Jane, from Nothing By The Book, has chosen not to brush her children’s hair. She equates brushing an unwilling child’s hair with assault and says that doing something to an unwilling child’s body is teaching them that it’s okay when someone tries to touch their body inappropriately.

I didn’t brush—don’t brush—my children’s hair when they did not want me to brush their hair—because it’s their hair…Hold on. I’m going to shout it. IT’S THEIR HAIR. Part of their bodies. I do not assault it, when they are unwilling, with a hair brush, any more than I would assault, do violence, on any other part of their bodies. THEIR BODIES. Their own. Under their own dominion—not mine. Their wild, messy hair? Part of the lesson that they’re learning that no one—not me, not nice Mr. Jones down the street, not that creepy dude in the park, and not their first, over-eager boyfriend—has a right to do anything to their bodies that they don’t want them to do. This is a lesson our children need to learn, repeatedly, while they are close enough to us that they will learn it, hear it. But we don’t teach it with words. We don’t teach it with scary lectures or with fear.We teach with how we treat their bodies. From their nose to their toes, and all the parts in-between. And their hair. Think about that next time you wield a hair brush.

The bold words are all Jane’s. Here’s the deal: While I support every parent’s right to raise their children in whatever way they feel is best, this isn’t the route I would choose. If I supported Jane’s logic then I assault my children dozens of times a day. I view my job as mom as teaching my children how to take care of their bodies, and proper hair maintenance is a large part of that. Just as I wipe their bums and noses and clean their ears, brush their teeth and clip their nails —  I brush their hair. I am teaching them, by example, how to maintain their bodies and why this is important.

Is brushing hair super important in the grand scheme of a child’s life? Probably not. But, like it or not, the older they get, the more important body hygiene (yes, brushing hair is hygiene) becomes. Guiding children in the right direction includes teaching them the basics of life. Get up, make your bed, brush your teeth, brush your hair. Kids, as we know, don’t always make the best decisions and need a little nudging in the right direction. Telling a grumpy child to stand still while you brush their hair is not assault, and it most certainly isn’t teaching them that creepy dudes touching them is okay.

I truly appreciate Jane’s desire to teach her children autonomy, but I feel like there are better ways to impart that message while still teaching your children the importance of maintaining their bodies. And really, is catering to a child’s every whim, tantrum or dislike the best way to raise smart, capable, productive people?

What about you? How do you feel about Jane’s decision and reasoning behind not brushing her children’s hair?

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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