When it comes to parenting our teen’s shaving habits, many of us picture our kids having a clean, well-maintained look. However, a lot of teens who are new to shaving want to push the limits and see what new, ‘mature,’ look they can pull off with their newfound hair. And they’re probably making some big beginner’s mistakes. Here are some tips to help your teen experiment with their facial hair and expressive themselves, without looking ridiculous.
Let Them Know Facial Hair is Acceptable
Most parents grew up when being clean-shaven was the only way to look, but that is quickly changing. Almost every advertisement I see on TV shows a guy with a beard, some scruff, or a mustache. Maybe it’s to be more relatable to everyday man, or maybe it’s to show that facial hair is a sign of maturity or wisdom. Either way, facial hair is becoming a lot more popular and acceptable, especially among youth. In this way, it’s important to let your teen experiment with growing out their facial hair because they probably won’t be offending their peers or mentors, it’s just the new style.
Talk About What is Inappropriate
Appropriateness is one of the first topics you might want to talk with your teen about when it comes to facial hair. Just because facial hair is in style, there are rules to what is clean and what is unruly. Make sure they know the importance of grooming their face regularly so everything is even, sharp, and clean.
You might want to teach them to look out for hairs creeping into their mouth, extra-long strands, or patches. Unruly hair can be a result of laziness, teenaged defiance, or disregard for one’s own appearance, which is not a good look to display and could reveal an underlying problem to be addressed. Even if your teen thinks growing out their hair looks ‘good,’ help them understand when they are crossing the line and need to trim. You don’t want them to give off the wrong impression just because they don’t know when it’s time to cut back.
Help Them Acquire the Right Equipment
It’s important for your teen to have the right tools for the job. If they are growing a full beard, you might want to recommend an electric razor to help them fade their beard and keep it at a consistent length. Scissors for trimming are just as crucial. You don’t want your teen to have hairs creeping past their desired length, so a daily reminder to take out the barber’s scissors and check for places to improve can have a big impact on their look as well as their discipline to maintain it.
I don’t recommend that you buy everything for your teen, in fact, I think it’s better if your teen purchases the equipment himself so he knows the cost of facial hair upkeep, and if he’s willing to invest in it.
Don’t Be Judgmental
Teens phase through different looks quicker than the seasons change, so it’s important not to criticize your teen when they’re trying something new. Maybe they try a goatee one week, then the cheesy mustache another week, grow out the sideburns, experiment with a celebrity’s signature look, or whatever. There’s a good chance more than one of these looks won’t be a good fit, it might not frame their face well, or just looks plain silly. Regardless, you shouldn’t make fun of the way they look because teenagers are fragile and they are in the middle of an ongoing process to discover their identity and independence. Plus, if worse comes to worst, they can always shave it off for a reset.
If you don’t like a certain style they choose, you might say, “It’s not the look I would go for, but you do what you want to do.” And know that it will probably change in a few weeks anyway. I suggest that you step in if they are getting unruly and need a reminder that they look sloppy, but try to leave the fashion judgments to yourself.
Model Good Habits
Show your teen how you shave, whether you have expressive facial hair or not, to leave a good impression. If your teen recognizes your habits, they will take your lessons more seriously. If you don’t have a clean look, why should they? This is why Irecommend that you shave alongside them every once in a while, so they can form healthy habits and make better choices when they start to experiment with their look.
Snip, Snip, Hooray
Your teen is on their way. While having a clean-shaven look is a classic style, teens are all about experimentation. I hope that these tips will help you teach your teen what works and what needs to be trimmed. Remember, your teen will probably make some poor choices when it comes to facial hair at first, especially since teens have trouble considering a variety of options, but it’s all part of the process to becoming a well-groomed man.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.