Please Don’t Give Me Advice About My Daughter’s Hair

Today in Blog Challenge Land…

It’s Whiney Wednesday.

It doesn’t feel right to whine today. Not on a day when we celebrate coming together and remember the events that happened twelve years ago.


There is something that has been bothering me for quite some time. And since I often write to give a voice to concerns I think others share, it seemed like as good a time as any.

So. Here we go.

Please don’t give me advice about my daughter’s hair.

If you are a person in her life, then you already know that we are working on it.

But if you are total stranger, your attempts to start conversation with “Is she yours? What products do you use?” are just thinly veiled judgements. Even if you do not intend to judge. That is how it is perceived.

Here’s the deal. If you are a total stranger and you give me advice about my daughter’s hair, you are operating under four incorrect assumptions.

Incorrect Assumption #1: You have the right to give me advice.
I see things I want to correct every day. Parents making different choices from the ones I make. Overweight kids drinking soda. Tentative kids with helicopter parents. Kids who clap on 1 and 3. But you know what? It’s none of my business. It’s just not. And my daughter’s hair is none of your business.

Incorrect Assumption #2: Because I am white, and because her hair is often leaving something to be desired, I must not know what to do with hair like hers.

Anyone who thinks this is the problem is welcome to come over on hair night.

My daughter is big for her age. And strong. And strong-willed. And tender-headed. She kicks. And punches. And screams. And cries.

She does it for everyone. White, black, at home or at a salon.

She really- REALLY hates to have her hair done. She has been this way her whole life. We assume she will grow out of it. So far she has not.

So when we’re out and about and her hair is a mess, it’s not because I don’t know any better. It’s becaue this is how far we were able to get this time.

Incorrect Assumption 3: Giving me advice is just trying to help and does no harm.

I wish that was true.

But man. Being a mom is hard. Am I right? I mean seriously.

And on some days, a critical stranger is enough to push me over the edge.

Except when you’re a mom, there is no edge really. You just have to keep going. Feeling like a failure. And keeping it together for your kid. I wouldn’t really put that in the “no harm” category.
And there are days when I know her hair is a mess. And I want to stay home and avoid the potential criticism. Not only is that highly inconvenient, I know my daughter has to feel some of this tension. No harm? Not hardly.

And speaking of my daughter.

As a transracial adoptive family, we have racial issues built in. Some of them have already come up a bit. I am as proactive as the next mom. I’ve gone to workshops and have participated in on-air forums and follow blogs and more importantly I have a community of in-person friends who understand. But I know there will be difficult times.

Frankly, I do not need any of these times to be brought on by my daughter wondering why that lady feels the need to tell Mommy how to do her job.

And finally.

Incorrect Assumption #4: Because I have a daughter of color, all of my values must align with all people of color.

This is a tough one. And I’m hesitant to say it. And maybe I’ll face criticism. And maybe some of you are shocked that this is an issue.

And let’s just acknowledge how crazy that is anyway because all people of color have the same values? Really?

And yet.

My abilities to raise my daughter of color “correctly” has been called into question by strangers. StrangerS. Plural.

I get that hair is a really big social issue for people who identify as black. I want to raise my daughter with pride in herself, and with pride in her gorgeous natural hair.

But sometimes as a mom, as HER mom, I have to say OK. Enough with the hair for today. Go play. Or go to bed. Or go be a kid. Or go focus on something else.

This decision is not out of ignorance. It is out of knowing my child, and having the prerogative-as her mother- to decide what’s best for her.

So. The next time you see me at the mall and you feel the need to start up a totally nonchalant no-harm-done conversation with me about hair products, don’t be surprised if I look at you like this.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. chicachicababies
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 15:51:12

    I’ve never had someone say something – I just fear that they will. My partner thinks I’m completely paranoid about it (maybe I am). I just want to convey to black women that even though I’m white, I KNOW – I know that I have to use different product, I know that I can’t wash it the same, I know I know I know. But in 30 seconds of active toddlerhood, all my conditioning and hair styling will be ruined and my kids will look like I haven’t done anything to their hair in a week. It just takes one blanket pulled over the head and there goes the hair. And it’s totally stupid that I care so much.


    • Thoroughly Modern Mommy
      Sep 12, 2013 @ 19:20:02

      It’s not stupid and you’re not paranoid. That’s exactly why I wrote this. It’s a real issue- I’ve had plenty of women strike up “harmless” conversations. And it’s really hurtful. And it makes me worry how much that hurt and anxiety will rub off on my daughter. Maybe we should have tshirts printed up that say “I know- I KNOW!”


  2. nappyheadchronicles
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 14:00:13

    when one of my cousins was younger, her hair was a total disaster. oddly, her white mother never asked her black father’s family (i’m on his side of the family) for advice on what to do with it.

    and we never offered it.

    i think we could have helped her a lot if she had shown signs of wanting the help, but we just didn’t want to step on her toes as a mother or to insinuate that she doesn’t have it together because she’s white. and we never though that, by the way.

    but we wanted to respect her boundaries. from what i’ve read here, it sounds like we did the right thing.

    eventually, the hair thing worked out and now she (as in my cousin) is handling her own hair just fine.


    • Thoroughly Modern Mommy
      Sep 16, 2013 @ 15:26:22

      Thank you SO MUCH for your comment. Yes, I have to say you did the right thing. I am surprised you were never asked for help, but there could have been a million reasons why she didn’t. I know in our case, we have black women from church who ARE part of my daughter’s life, and we absolutely do ask them for help! But it’s tough when the advice is given by total strangers who don’t know us our our daughter or her personality, which is actually the biggest struggle!

      I’m so glad, too, to hear your cousin has grown into taking care of her own hair. That’s really our goal. Keep it healthy so that when she’s old enough to care (she’s only 4) she can have healthy options. And I do want to encourage natural hair for as long as I can. Fortunately we live in an area (right outside NYC) where natural hair is everywhere 🙂


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  7. Hannah Bunker (@hannahbunker)
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 12:14:48

    I love this post. Don’t you just love people who like to give unsolicited advice? “Oh hey, you’re having trouble having a baby? Is he putting it in the right hole?” <—NOT even joking! Someone said that to me! It took every bit of Jesus in me to not claw their eyes out.

    But I wanted to let you know that I genuinely laughed out loud here…"I see things I want to correct every day…kids who clap on 1 and 3."

    hahahaha…it created a lingering chuckle. Still chuckling.


    • Thoroughly Modern Mommy
      Nov 16, 2013 @ 12:19:08

      “Maybe he should leave his socks on.” <— My personal favorite…


    • Thoroughly Modern Mommy
      Nov 18, 2013 @ 23:26:28

      “Maybe he should keep his socks on.” <—– My personal favorite en re: procreation advice. Seriously.


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