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My mum has always wanted me to have short hair - a short bob or a pixie cut. When I was little, I had little choice in the matter. The teachers at school addressed me as a male, classmates didn't want to play with me because I was "odd", but a short haircut was what I had.

Seventh grade I made a huge scandal at my mum's hairdresser, and since then I've been growing out my hair. Nowadays I'm 30, and my hair is curls that go to my waist (or to below my hindquarters if I gently pull on a strand to stretch it to its full length). I love my hair. I'm not very confident about my appearance, but my hair is the one thing I think is beautiful.

My mum, however, still thinks I should get a pixie cut. She misses no opportunity to say that my hair is "a mess", "a bird's nest", that it makes me look "unsophisticated" and "like a dirty hobo". Also that I "waste" a huge amount of time taking care of it, where a pixie cut is much easier and faster to wash etc.

I have tried telling my mum how I feel about my hair, and how her comments are really unpleasant to me. She waves it off as "bullshit". My little brother (19) has told her more than once that he is uncomfortable with how she treats the issue. No results. She's right, I'm wrong, it's for my best, eventually I'll realise it and get a pixie cut like she says.
I've also tried mentioning how my grandma always tells my mum that she's fat, and asked my mum whether she finds it pleasant. My mum's response? "But she's right"! (She's European size 42 - not fat at all.)

Overall my mum and I are quite close. We do "girls vacations", she asks my advice about things about as often as I ask hers, generally we agree on things, I drop by to visit my parents about once a week + family outings. But the comments about my hair are always there, especially around special occasions, or when I tell her I'm going on a date - when I'm trying to look my best.

How can I communicate to my mum that her comments hurt me, a lot? How can I also explain that my pain is not "bullshit", and that hurting me is not "for my own good"?

  • 1
    I'd note that your first question (stop making comments) and last questions (comments hurt, pain not BS and hurting not helpful) are very different. I'd like to suggest that this question stick with the first question - but the choice is up to you. – baldPrussian May 17 '18 at 23:36
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Making someone change their behavior is very difficult. Changing your response to that behavior is a lot easier.

Let's start with the second one. Obviously these comments hurt you, and you disagree with them. It seems that you try to educate your mother that you like your hair how it is, to no avail. So the first step is to stop getting into that argument. Next time she brings it up, I'd suggest responding with, "We've talked this one to death; we disagree. Now let's talk about something different." And if she won't change the subject, then leave the room.

Now, how to get your mother to change her behavior? It's apparent that the most obvious tactic - talking to her about it - has not had a desired effect and most likely won't. That's the harder question. So, the behavior needs to be unrewarding to her - only when a behavior fails to achieve a desired result or achieves an undesired result will it change. When she says anything about your hair, I'd suggest completely ignoring it. Refuse to say anything about it. Change the subject to something she hates and refuse to change from it until she changes from the subject of your hair. The point is not to be difficult but to over time establish that any comment on your hair will at best be completely ignored, end your interaction with her, or switch to a topic of conversation that she wants nothing to do with. Not only will that not get a rise out of you, it will also wind up being annoying to her. That stands the best chance of educating her that this subject is now off-limits.

  • Yes, this is something my therapist suggested I do for my parents is to not play into the behavior you want to be changed. Instead not respond to it or choose to walk away. I also deal with similar issues to the OP! – ggiaquin16 May 17 '18 at 23:37
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I can totally relate and I have experience on your problem. I also managed to succeed without deteriorating my relationship with mom.

Right now I'm growing my hair long too, it's been almost a year and already down my shoulders, I'm so satisfied.

Initially having the same exact comments from her while growing up my hair:

And I tried the same techniques than you: trying to persuade her into refraining, letting her know her comments were not appreciated, reversing the situation so she would step on my shoes reminding her about unpleasant comments from dad.
None of that reasoning worked.

Her comments didn't hurt me as much but were certainly annoying! You know what worked?

Being emotional in a positive way
Parents respond better to emotion. Be energetic and convincing when you say:

I'm very happy like this! :D You don't want me to be sad, do you?

I even added a wacky element to it.

"a bird's nest"
Great, I'll always have company!

"a bird's nest"
I'll learn how to talk to birds!

"a bird's nest"
It will be like ratatouille, birdatouille!

"like a dirty hobo"
A happy hobo though

If your boyfriend/girlfriend is present you can draw some harmless fun support.

"like a dirty hobo"
Honey! It seems you are living with a hobo, from 1 to 1 million, how cute is this infamous hobo everyone talks about?

There's a good reason for this genre of theater to exist, it's called 'Farce', be farcical without being aggressive or offensive, this is your mom after all.

My mom started criticizing my beard years ago, it was now my hair, but after this methods, she almost completely stopped commenting, so now instead of making comments every time we see each other and several times during the visits, every mudin fluffling day... now she says it once a month or so, and I stand my ground with a smile and an upbeat attitude.

I'm so happy with my long hair :)

She can't go against my happiness. Your hair sounds amazing btw.

Live long and prosper lVl,

5

In my honest opinion, your mothers argument is not actually about your hair. I don't know you or your mother and cannot say what the true reasons for her comments are, but I'll take a guess:

  • While you had short hair, you were your moms obedient, cute little girl
  • In puberty (7th grade) you refused to be obedient and grew your hair as a physical proof
  • Now you are an independent adult, having your own life and your own style. No matter how good your relationship with your mother is, objectively you don't need her anymore.

But your mom can still exert some kind of power over you by bringing the matter up. It is your big red button, and pushing it will always, reliably, produce the same result: She gets your undivided attention. That she hurts you with her comments doesn't matter as much as the fact that they make her feel good.

(The same kind of behavior can be observed in children throwing a tantrum or damaging things to get the attention of a parent, even if said parent will scold them.)

No discussion will ever make her change. You have to change your reaction to her comments. Like baldPrussian recommended, do not give her any positive outcome. Things you can try (alone or combined) include:

  • "I will not discuss this again"
  • Overly showy, with a bright smile: "I'm so happy with my hair, to grow it was the best decision in my live". Dance away or make some comparable histrionic exit.
  • Ignore her comment and change the subject, stubbornly so if she persists to comment your hair. Have a dedicated "no hair" subject ready when that happens, do not try to come up with a topic on the fly.
  • Turn away from her, give your attention to something or someone else
  • Leave the room without a further word

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