Why My Kids Have Scraggly Dreads…

This past New Year’s marks the two year anniversary of me starting and stumbling through to a more moral and honourable way of parenting.  Over the course of the past two years, I’ve distilled my parenting approach and come to fully embrace it for what it truly is: non-authoritarian parenting. I must admit that many times I regretted that I had ‘let my daughters in’ on my change in parenting philosophy, especially my oldest daughter.  Why had I not just quietly made changes without informing her that I had no right to impose my will on her or that she possessed the inherent right to author her own life?  Frustrating and humbling as it has been to have my 7, 8, and now 9 year-old call me out on the incongruent, immoral or hypocritical nature of some of my behaviours, I am, after all, very glad I did tell her.  It has kept me – she has kept me – honest, honest and walking a path of integrity. It’s far too easy to violate the rights of children since they are relatively powerless, largely or completely dependent upon us, and also largely lacking the force and ability to defend themselves and their rights.  All the more reason why abusing a child’s inherent rights is so heinously wrong.  Much harder – though getting easier for me by the day – is the path I now walk, one of non-authoritarian parenting. What does non-authoritarian parenting look like in my house these days, two years later?

  • It means I don’t always ‘get my way’, even though I’m the parent;
  • It looks like compromise;
  • It looks like negotiation;
  • It looks like respecting a child’s right to say “NO” which, I’ve come to realize, often means they will be more likely to say “YES” the next time around simply because their right to choose has been respected;
  • It looks like kids with scraggly dreads in their hair and long nails because I respect their right to choose how they care for their body.  Sometimes it even smells like stinky kids who have chosen not to have a bath or a shower for 2 weeks… 🙂
  • It looks like me modelling the behaviour I want my children to learn: walking my talk because I *know*  children learn what we do and not what we say;
  • It looks like discussions around right* and wrong* behaviour and that each of us chooses and is responsible for our own behaviour;
  • It looks like my children learning about the effects of their choices on other people and learning about the natural consequences (good or bad) of their choices;
  • On my part, it looks like patience and understanding and remembering that my girls are children and that they are in the process of learning to be responsible, respectful adults.  There is no need for shaming or reprimands because of the very fact that they are children;
  • It looks like me distilling my understanding of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and what the word ‘respect’ really means to me.
  • It looks like me sometimes being very unhappy with my children’s choices but still respecting their right to make those choices;
  • It looks like me communicating respectfully how a child’s choice may have positively or negatively affected me;
  • It looks like a living workshop: my family and I re-learning how to live successfully and respectfully in community; and
  • It feels healthy, it feels peaceful, it feels good.   🙂

NB: *I would like to clarify what I mean by ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour.  To me, ‘right’ behaviour does not mean a child complying with what a parent or an authority figure wants or demands.  I don’t classify ‘right’ behaviour as obedience and ‘wrong’ behaviour as disobedience.  By ‘right’ behaviour, I mean behaviour that respects the rights of other people and ‘wrong’ behaviour being behaviour that violates the rights of other people.



  1. Dee said,

    July 26, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    I love this Cat! I struggle with this way of life on a daily basis. My need for control sometimes stands in the way of respecting my children’s rights to make decisions that deep down I know they have the ability to make. I need to learn to trust that I am their facilitator on this journey and should not dictate. It’s hard sometimes.

    • Cat said,

      July 27, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Hi Dee,

      When I talk to folks in person about my parenting approach I’m always sure to state that these are ideals that I continually strive towards but am not always successful at embodying! It sure is hard! AND it does get easier over time as it becomes more and more habitual… 🙂

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