“If your friends ate horse manure, would you?” asked my father. He wondered how likely we would be to do what our friends were doing, to follow the crowd, to run like the lemmings right over a cliff. This was usually in response to something we kids just had to have or activity we wanted to do that he thought was less than sensible.
My husband’s mother was no different from my dad. “At least he wasn’t bearded,” she would say with disgust when describing someone she met back in the 1970s. To her, beards were definitely a sign of some sort of character defect. Only the clean shaven, in her book, gave visible evidence of integrity. I wonder what she would say now about the trend toward facial hair of all lengths and styles on young and old alike. She would probably be less than enthusiastic. She might also object to blue, green and purple hair. It simply wasn’t in her nature to embrace something new.
The fact is, as we age most of us are like this. We hold on to what we know and trust. We resist the new and novel. Knowing this about ourselves does not necessarily make it any easier when our child insists on embracing a new trend. Many parents wonder about the tendency of their kids, especially their preteens and teenagers, to jump on current crazes for a “must have” object or “must do” activity.
- How does a father respond when his child wants hair some color of the rainbow?
- How does a dad make sense of a new style or look, for example, VSCO Girls, and why his daughter insists on claiming this identity?
- How does a father help his son or daughter consider a style consistent with their values?
It’s not easy to know how to handle the various fashions, fads or identities our kids demands to explore, but there are things things dads and moms can remember that can help.
- Trying on different styles or looks is developmentally appropriate. Adolescence is often a time when kids experiment with their identity. It is how they start to know who they truly are—what they like and what they don’t. This may embrace a wardrobe selection different than that to which you’re accustomed. Unless their dress is offensive or highly inappropriate, it is typically best to let it go. Save your energy for the truly important battles.
- Don’t hit the panic button. It can seem as though you have a stranger in the house. Their taste in music may change. Their friend preference may alter. They may show an interest in activities or venues previously dismissed. It can be hard for a parent not to panic at times like this, but it critical to stay grounded. It is actually your stability that allows them to experiment safely, and continue to return home to good, old, predictable mom and dad. Of course, if you discover your child becoming involved with highly questionable or dangerous activities, you may have to intervene. All the same, do it with calmness and grace. Their frontal cortex (reasoning part of the brain) is not fully developed. They need you to demonstrate your stability at a time when their emotional state and reasoning ability is in the midst of a hormone hustle.
- Become a student of your child and his/her interest in the trend. What does your daughter like about the VSCO girls craze? Why does she want to identify with this particular group or look? What kind of music does your son enjoy? Why? What does he like about it? When you demonstrate an interest in your child’s world, you show you interest in them. You can also have important discussions about when it is important to stand out from the crowd or to make decisions independent of others that are consistent with one’s values.
Embracing various styles or trends is part of life. Adults do it too, hopefully with greater thought and discretion, but they still do it. Do your best to talk with your child about what is going on in his world that you might not understand. Avoid judgment as much as possible. Listen and learn as a foundation for more in-depth conversations about the truly important things in life.
For more great insights and tips be sure to subscribe to the Good Dads Podcast, and check out this Trending with Kids podcast where Josh-the-Dad and his teen daughter discuss some of the current trends including VSCO Girls, Snapchat, Tik Tok, and others.
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Executive Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.