When he wants to keep his hair long
Mannix - Boys with long hair

Raising boys with long hair

What happens when a little boy doesn't want his hair cut?

We sat down with two moms who let their boys grow long hair despite criticism and awkwardness from other adults and kids.

In 1968, the rock musical Hair opened on Broadway. At the time, its emphasis on men who grew long hair as a form of radical expression was considered ground-breaking. Is long hair on boys still an issue? According to two moms who have allowed their sons the freedom of self-expression, there are ups and downs to being a boy with long hair.

Mannix's blond curls

Carrie Anne Badov is editor-in-chief at Everything Mom. Her 9-year-old son (pictured above) has never had a haircut. "At first my husband and I decided to keep it long because he had these lovely blond curls, unlike anyone else in the family, but as he grew older we turned the haircut decision over to him," she says. Peers and adults often tell Mannix that he looks like a girl.

" To Mannix and ourselves his long hair is just a part of him, like freckles on your nose or the color of your eyes."

"At a young age he would get very upset and even angry at people for making this mistake, responding in an aggressive tone that he was a boy and not a girl," says Badov. "He could never understand why people would make this assumption."

After being teased over his hair, Mannix asked to have it cut. Badov talked to him about whether or not he felt pressured from being teased, and he ultimately decided to keep it long. "Once we went in the bathroom and I held back all his hair to show him how he would look," she says. "He was amazed at how different he appeared, saying it didn't look anything like the boy he was. Mannix is shy and doesn't like to draw attention to himself. To Mannix and ourselves his long hair is just a part of him, like freckles on your nose or the color of your eyes. His hair never enters our thoughts until someone on the outside makes a comment."

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Rowan's brown waves

Susan Goldberg writes at Mama Non Grata and has two sons. Her 9-year-old, Rowan, hasn't had a haircut in three years. He never explained exactly why, but he was clear that he didn't want it cut.

Rowan - Boys with long hair

His mom agreed that as long as he kept it clean, he could grow it out. Now that his hair falls to his shoulder blades, Rowan is often mistaken for a girl, a situation that sometimes results in awkwardness.

Goldberg isn't insulted by the mistakes, though she finds it frustrating when parents refer to Rowan as her daughter at times when it's obvious he's a boy — such as at all-boy soccer team matches. "All other signals or contexts are overridden by the length of his hair," she says. "What particular bit of hard-wiring in the brain finds it so impossible to see beyond a kid’s hairstyle to who he or she actually is?"

Read about boys and body image >>

Tips for boys with long hair

If your son wants to grow his hair long, be prepared to respond to simple misunderstandings as well as teasing. Practice short dialogues with your son so he's ready to answer adults or peers who mistake him for a girl. Talk about expression and identity and ways to diffuse teasing. Try to emphasize that there's nothing inherently insulting about being called a girl. When it comes to openly critical responses from adults, try to stay calm but firm in your family's decision. You're simply honoring your son's wishes.

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Tags: gender

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Comments on "Why I refuse to cut my son's hair"

Paul March 20, 2014 | 4:27 AM

All my boys have long hair. My 8 year old wears his in a pony tail as does my 3 year old. The other guy just lets it all hang out. Two are dark haired and one blond but all have the deepest brown eyes and people constantly mistake them for girls which they find funny. It is our decision to have their hair long and our problem to take care of it at bath time!

Random March 16, 2014 | 3:05 AM

No, no hair-cuts schools make you get haircuts which is very annoying. they violate kid rights by forcing them to get hair-cuts. I don't exactly like hair-cuts I simply hate them cause I don't like short hair and school's need to accept that

Paula February 01, 2014 | 7:13 AM

I didn't get my son's hair cut(to shoulder length) until he was nearly 5, just before he started school. He was very upset and so was I. We agreed he could grow it. He is now 9 and has grown to mid back. He plays football for which I put in a bun for him. At other times he wears a pony tail and I often braid it for school. My husband and I have no problem with the length of his hair, we have no plans to cut it yet. Hair is personal thing and my son is accepted as just having long hair.

Carrie Anne January 08, 2014 | 7:20 AM

As a parent we encourage our kids to have faith in themselves and in their beliefs. Giving them responsibility, such as getting themselves dressed or making their own breakfast, is one way to encourage their self confidence. I believe our role as parents is to guide our kids. We give them direction and raise them with acceptable boundaries. But there are reasons behind these boundaries. Like all decisions my kids will have to make there will be some who disagree and criticize them but that's something even as adults we can't escape. I love the young man my son is growing into. As long as my son takes care of his hair why should I interfere with his decision to grow it long? Just because other's don't feel it is acceptable? Does it put his health and safety at risk? Some decisions we HAVE to make for our kids. But I also we have to learn to let go and give our kids space to make mistakes and decisions on their own and before they are too old and don't know how to deal with decision making and responsibility.

Ewokmama January 07, 2014 | 10:58 AM

My 7yo son Jack has long hair, as well (although not as long as these boys). We've cut it a few times but he prefers it long. It seems to be even more important to him to keep it long since it grew back after losing it during cancer treatment. He has so little control over what is happening to him with the treatment and his hair is one thing he has a say about.

angie January 07, 2014 | 7:40 AM

I say do what you wish, but I hate when a parents says, they are leaving it up to the childs decision to cut his hair or not. All that does it is take any back lash off the parents..You let his hair long, it seems normal to him , since he knows no different. So own it parents.If you want let a child make decisions about his hair, then wait till he is older , in his teen years so it is truly his decision. Does the same parent let the same child make other decisions about what he eats for breakfast, what time he goes to bed or how he acts at the same age? I am not saying you are bad parents and or a bad child, but OWN UP TO YOUR DECISION,

Christopher January 06, 2014 | 6:45 PM

Great article! Hair is a personal thing and it belongs to the individual, not to mom or dad or anyone else. Our two boys are older (12 and 15) and have always had final say as to how they wear their hair. The 12 y.o. just got his cut after a couple years of growing; he liked it long but realized it was in the way for sports. The 15 y.o. on the other hand has grown his to his waist. Both are great kids and I wouldn't change a thing about them.

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