Mommy I Want My Hair Straightened

What are the six words you don’t say to your mother when she’s the author of a children’s book about loving your natural hair? “Mommy, I want my hair straightened.”

Has she even met me? I was clearly having a Twilight Zone moment. I could’ve passed out! I mean, after all our conversations about loving our hair, and all the workshops I’ve held teaching parents and children to celebrate the beauty of our natural beauty, my child had the nerve to say those words to me TWO DAYS AGO!

I’ll be honest, when I first heard those words come out her mouth, I panicked. I started to frantically question myself. “Where did I go wrong? Am I a fraud?” I thought, “I wrote this book and my own child is having identity issues… Oh, God, maybe I shouldn’t have put her in this new school. She never had these issues at her neighborhood school. Did I make a mistake?” My mind was going 60 miles per hour, with question after question. And, of course, while I’m having this full discussion in my head, she—in true 5 year old fashion—was repeating in her most endearing whine, “I want my hair straightened. I want my hair straightened. I want my hair straightened….” I needed some answers before I could respond…

Seek understanding before seeking to be understood.

I stepped out of my haze, temporarily, and asked her, “Why do you want straight hair?” (There was definitely a slight hint of irritation in my voice.) She, not the least bothered by my tone, sang the praises of the tresses she longed for…. “straight hair is sooo soft and it’s sooo beautiful…” I could’ve thrown up. I’m just being honest. It’s not that I don’t believe straight hair is soft, but curly hair is soft, too. I am not one to go on a “Black is beautiful” rant, to the exclusion of other “races.” I think we’re all beautiful. With that said, I strongly believe that it is essential that my child knows her hair and all other features are just as beautiful as anyone else’s—that her classmates’ hair textures are merely different, but not better (or worse) than hers.

Think before you speak.

So many things were running through my mind, and I had heard enough. I blurted out, “Your hair is beautiful and I’m not straightening it!” Oops. Wrong move. Immediately, hysterical screaming pierced the silence her tears began to flow. My little girl was having a meltdown at 7 o’clock in the morning, blubbering and begging me to take her to Target to buy a flat iron before school. Can you imagine? Did I mention SHE IS 5 YEARS OLD?

Shift from fear to curiosity.

I took a real long, deep breath, and thought to myself, “What have I told the parents at my workshops when they ask about this?” This topic comes up all the time, but in the moment, with my own child all of it went out the window… initially. I thought about it a little harder, then remembered. I told them to celebrate the benefits of their child’s hair texture, to teach them about their own hair and the great qualities it has. And that’s what I did. 

Reconnect.

I snapped out of my moment and reminded myself that right then was really about her, and what she felt was a real need. Straightening her hair is not debatable at this age. I knew for sure that was not going to happen, and I needed to help her understand why. As she continued to chant through blubbering tears, “I want my hair straightened,” I dramatically grabbed my chest like Fred Sanford, slumped over, and pretended to pass out. lol I needed to break the tension and shift her energy. She laughed, even though she didn’t want to. This gave me my “in” to tell her how I really felt… 

Tell the truth. 

I said, “Your hair is beautiful.” She responded, “No, it’s not!” I said, “Your curls are so pretty.” She replied through tears, “I hate my curly hair. I want it straight!” It wasn’t working, but I kept going. I told her that her hair texture allows her the flexibility to do so many different styles. I explained to her that “natural hair” does things that straight hair doesn’t. (I told her this as a fact, without making it seem as if curly hair is better than straight.) She began to calm down. I shared stories with her of former co-workers who asked me to two- strand twist their hair, and how I told them that their hair wouldn’t be able to hold the style. She began to ask questions about other experiences like that…. I talked to her until she began to feel blessed to have her hair texture and was no longer envious of anyone else’s….

I did such a good job that she now wants me to do this style!  

 

Photo Source: hairstylepictures2015.com

Lord, help me. lol

 

Although it caught me off guard initially, it is not uncommon for our children (or for ourselves) to desire to look like someone they admire, or to want to “fit in” by looking more like their peers. I believe it is our job to help our kids see value in being themselves—to teach them that “we are ALL beautiful as is.”

Marlene Dillon,

Author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!

5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Child’s Confidence

selfconfidencekids1

It’s fair to say that every healthy parent wants their child to be confident. Self-confidence is not taught in school (if anything, it’s eroded there). So it’s our job as parents to build our children up so they can face the cruel world out there. 

Here’s a list of 5 simple things you can do to boost your child’s self-confidence.

1) Look them in the eye. 

eyescloseup

Far too often, when we’re really upset with our children, we tell them “Look me in the eye,” and begin to tear into them about how disappointed we are in their behavior. This creates a lasting visual in our child’s memory.  So every once in a while, switch it up. If you catch your child doing something good, use the same technique. Call her into the room, using all three names. When she gets close (probably wondering what she did wrong), get down on her level, tell her to look you in the eye, smile, and say something like, “I am so proud of you. I saw what you just did. You made a good choice and I just wanted to let you know I appreciate that and I love you very much.” 

2) Tell them who they are. 

dancingwithmom

Affirm the natural talents you see in your child. It does something special for your child to hear positive statements about their abilities directly from you. No one’s opinion—no coach, teacher, friend, classmate, or neighbor—matters more than yours. If you notice that your daughter is excellent at throwing a football, tell her. If you walk in as your son is nailing an arabesque, say, “Wow, you’re an amazing dancer.”  And calling him by the title “dancer” allows him to picture being in that actual role. Now, rather than just thinking, “I like to dance,” he can see farther down the road, and think, “Hey, I could be a dancer.”

3) Be honest. 

baby-eyebrows

We all know the phrase “kids can be cruel.” Children don’t really have an edit button. They are blunt, they point out the obvious, and sometimes they can be pretty mean about it. To be clear, this point is not about being honest with your child. Be honest with yourself. Take the rose colored glasses off and look at your child. If little Jimmy has one gigantic nostril and one he can barely breathe through, you might want to start reinforcing his self-confidence in this area. I’m not saying that you should point it out to him, but maybe you should go out of your way to point out cool unique traits on other people. “Wow, Eddie Murphy has a really nice smile. He has a gap. That’s pretty cool and unique.” It may feel weird, but you’re building a foundation of comebacks for your child. So when Billy’s classmate says, “Your eyebrows are crooked,” his response will be, “Yeah, but I like them. Their unique,” instead of immediately bursting into tears and running home. 

4) Seek to Understand Before Seeking Understanding. 

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Our kids intentions are often far different from the outcome of their actions. Many times their attempts at independence, kindness, and scientific discovery, just look to us like a huge attempt to destroy our work or our clean home. Few things can crush a child’s self-confidence faster than getting yelled at for doing something they thought was a good thing. So as tempting as it is to immediately fly off the handle when you see red and yellow flowers drawn all over your work presentation, it will serve you well to train yourself to breathe before you react. Even if it’s through clenched teeth, ask, “What were you trying to do?” Trust me, when she replies, “you had a sad face when you were working so I thought the flowers would make you happy,” you will thank yourself for taking the time to understand her intentions.   

5) Avoid limiting keywords.

nevertooanything

A great way to boost your child’s self-esteem is to eliminate the words “just” and “too” when describing them or others. These words undermine truths about a child’s value and identity, and quickly turn a compliment into criticism. Hear the difference between, “Maurice is smart,” and “Beatrice is too smart.” By simply adding “too” it implies that maybe being smart isn’t such a good thing. Imagine what happens internally when you say to your son, “You’re too little to pour your own juice; you’re just 3.” In my house the rule is “you’re not too anything, and you’re not just anything.” This rule is applied outside our home, as well. I always immediately correct adults who say my daughter is “too tall.” I smile at her and say, “Yes, she is beautifully tall.”

There are many more ways that I will add in the future, but these should give you a good start. Test them out and let me know how it goes. If you have any to add, feel free to respond in the comments. 🙂

THE LINK BETWEEN SELF-ESTEEM & BULLYING

I AM PRO-SHRINKAGE! I don’t even call it “shrinkage.” I think it’s one of the coolest traits of my natural hair. I call it “springiness.” I love how when I pull on my twists, they bounce back. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to see the shrinkage shots. You know the pics where a beautiful natural woman, with the most amazing curly hair, is tugging at one of her coils to show how disappointed she is with the hidden length of her hair?

It only bothers me because so often women of color, well Black women, place a lot of value on hair length. It doesn’t matter how beautiful, healthy, bouncy, hydrated the curls are, if it shows 5 inches and it’s actually 12, she’s pissed and hates her hair. I just wish we would embrace all the awesomeness of our hair. This is not just true for Black women. I see the same with women of other “races.” I’ve had so many friends with hair down their back that complain that their hair grows too fast. “Ugh… I just cut it!” Or women with the natural curl pattern that many of us attempt to mimic with a twist out (yeah, I said it), complain about just wanting to straighten it.

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is my attempt at teaching children that however we came out is fine. That God, The Universe, The Source, the Creator, or the atoms that combined did not make a mistake on you. You are amazing AS YOU ARE! The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can teach our children to love themselves and those around them. If you hate what you see in the mirror, how can you truly love anyone else? If you are disappointed in what you present, how can you avoid “hating” on the next person? If you feel that you are ugly, isn’t it almost “natural” to want the person you see as pretty to feel your pain? What we often don’t see is that bullying and self-esteem walk hand in hand. This is why I mentor 4th through 8th grade girls. It is crucial that we teach our children that “we are ALL beautiful as is.”

*If you are in the Chicagoland/Northwest Indiana areas, click here contact me about my empowering girls’ mentoring workshops. I would love to visit your institution! 

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Me & Mini MeMarlene Dillon is the self-published author of the empowering children’s book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!  She is a single mom on a mission to inspire others by living fully and purposefully,  and by sharing her gifts and her story openly. Through powerful workshops she mentors young girls, and teaches parents and children how  to build healthy self-esteem and confidently pursue their passions.

If you find value in what Marlene is doing, and would like to  support her efforts, please use the link below to make a secure donation via PayPal. A gift of any amount is greatly appreciated.

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Guest Blog – Flying Turtle Publishing’s Virtual Book Tour!

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is pleased to announce that our site is the first stop on Flying Turtle Publishing’s Virtual Book Tour! 

by Flying Turtle Publishing
August 4, 2014

Marlene Dillon, my host for this stop on Flying Turtle Publishing’s virtual book tour, has done wonderful work empowering children with her I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! book and workshops. Thanks for hosting Flying Turtle, Marlene.

There’s Power in Peace

It’s not easy being a kid. There’s so much to learn and everything is new. As soon as they learn one thing, there’s another challenge looming just ahead. Is there any wonder that kids feel stressed?

Good or bad, stress is a by-product of trying — trying new things, trying to meet demands and obligations, trying to find our place in the world. Our stressors are frequently caused by outside forces. But inner stressors are no less potent. Trying to be what we think we should be.

Fuelled by our media-driven culture, our children begin their indoctrinations, almost from birth. They’re pushed to want things, to be thinner, bigger, faster, smarter, prettier, and stronger. Children as young as three years old grasp the concepts of “pretty” and “ugly.”

As parents, we’re often so preoccupied with managing our own stress that we may not recognize when kids are stressed out. Recent behavioral changes such as acting out, changes in sleep patterns, or bedwetting can be indications. Children may complain of stomachaches and headaches or suddenly show drastic changes in academic performance.

Younger children may revert to old habits like thumb sucking, or develop new ones such as hair twirling, or nose picking. Nightmares, clinging and overreactions to minor problems are common.

Our everyday lives are so filled with busyness. Like adults, kids need time to rest, doodle, read for fun or just daydream. It is important for children (and their loved ones) to learn a variety of ways to master self-regulation—ways to calm and focus themselves.

peace place

In My Peace Place, children can explore different techniques for calming and centering themselves. The book is written with an easy rhyming scheme to be soothing to young minds, but the ideas for stress reduction are good for all

Parents can help by giving kids lots of opportunities to practice the techniques presented in the book. Reward them with praise and encouragement when they show competence in calming themselves. The self-confidence that results will help when children approach other challenges. As they grow, children will continue to benefit from knowing they have the power to direct their thoughts and feelings. They learn that they don’t need to look outside of themselves for comfort.

The last lines of My Peace Place summarize what we hope all readers will achieve:

I promise myself that all will see: my peace place helps me choose to be
THE VERY BEST, MOST PEACEFUL ME!

 

me and teaMari L Barnes writes for children under the pen name of Mari Lumpkin and for adults as ML Barnes. Her books, Parting River Jordan and Crossing River Jordan are proof that church can be funny. Mari’s company, Flying Turtle Publishing, specializes in books that families can share.

Click here to find out how to get a Flying Turtle Publishing’s Blanket Fort Club certificate for your child. PLUS, subscribe to Turtle Talk and you’ll automatically be entered to WIN a $10 Amazon Gift Card in our monthly drawing.