Start Your Week Off Right!

Hi Readers — This just in. Read it and grin. — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: My 9-year-old son and I went to a little strip mall yesterday. It has five stores. Joey needed a haircut and I needed thank you cards and wine. I sent him with money to get his hair cut while I hit the other two stores. This is where he always gets his hair cut and he knows what clipper setting he needs them to use and such.

He came running into the store saying that they would not cut his hair without a parent present to let them how we wanted it cut. He was confused because he had told them exactly how he wanted it done. I sent him back to tell them that if they can’t take instructions from a customer who happened to be 9 years old then he would take his money elsewhere.

They cut his hair.

I guess the way to get Free-Range concepts accepted is to hit ’em where it hurts…the wallet!


54 Responses to Start Your Week Off Right!

  1. SKL March 29, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    Love it!

    I got my 3-year-olds gift cards to a favorite restaurant for Christmas. They call these their “credit cards” and they are supposed to use them if they want stuff off the menu that I don’t normally buy. You wouldn’t believe the difficulty the restaurant staff have with this complexity. Dudes, it’s called separate checks.

  2. pebblekeeper March 29, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    LOVE it!

  3. Issa March 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    You’re right! What an awesome story to start the week off with! I absolutely grinned. :-)

  4. helenquine March 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Fantastic! A tactic I’ll have to remember.

    SKL – LOL at separate checks! And I love the “credit card” gift idea.

  5. Penni March 29, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Tragically I have heard on more than one occasion of hairdressers who refuse to cut a little girls’ hair when only a father is present.

  6. Ben Parker March 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    That is tragic indeed Penny. I hope they took their business elsewhere.

  7. Olga March 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    My husband and I took our son to the dermatologist to get a wart that appeared on his forehead removed. He was able to tell the doctor his name, his age and where he live as well as what his problem was – my husband and I laughed that we could have saved the 4 hour round trip commute and sent him in a taxi – of course we were only kidding since Alex is only 4 (four) years old! We live in Romania which is probably the most free range country in the entire world. As a Canadian expat, it seems to me entirely reasonable to send a 9 year old to get his hair cut on his own, and as a sister of a moderately autistic brother who is 35, I can tell you my mother would do anything to be able to send my brother somewhere by himself!

  8. ADHD Librarian March 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    My eight year old is capable of telling the hairdresser what he wants done. I wonder what crazy world those hairdressers live in?

    Even if he wandered in and asked for a diagonal purple mowhawk, it is hair. Give it three weeks and it is all as good as new.

  9. Maggie March 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

    FANTASTIC! Mom’s response was spot-on.

  10. Peter Brülls March 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    Are three years old in the US allowed to enter contracts? (Which buying lunch is).

  11. Kenny Felder March 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    It’s so rare to get a great story with a happy ending. Hooray!!!

  12. Lee/Pure March 29, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    Unfortunately I can completely see a world in which a young child goes and gets their haircut without the parents permission at all and the parents sue.

  13. Nicolas Martin March 29, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    I’ll defend the hair salon in this case. They are vulnerable to a lawsuit that might kill their business if a parent sues them for doing an unapproved cut on a minor.

    I knew an old-style physician who had a general practice, delivered babies, and did surgery for 40-odd years. The only threat of a lawsuit he had was when a young man came to his office with an afro comb that got stuck in his scalp when he fell off the garbage truck he worked. The boy’s parents threatened to sue the doc for removing the comb without their permission, though the removal was uneventful.

    If you mash this blog together with, you can easily understand how things have come to their present sad shape. The threat of of lawocracy is omnipresent.

  14. RobynHeud March 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    I remember the first time my mom left me alone at the salon while she went to run errands. I had refused to agree on a haircut so before my mom left she told the stylist to give me whatever I wanted and what I wanted was a pixie cut. My mom was furious when she got back, but not with the stylist, with me. The lady who cut my hair still got a nice tip. Or how about the time in high school a couple of friends and I cut a friend’s hair by about a foot (her mom refused to let her get her hair cut). In both situations, the parents realized what most everyone ought to know: hair grows back and it’s not the end of the world if it take some time to do that.
    Also for the comment that buying lunch is entering into a contract, that would imply that people under the age of 18 are legally not allowed to buy any services and by extension it also implies that any form of monetary exchange is a contractual agreement. Does this mean we should forbid our kids/teens from running to the store for milk because they’re not legally old enough to enter into a contract?

  15. Brenda March 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    Per my contracts law course, of course children under 18 are allowed to enter into contracts, many live on the their own. Not everyone has a lifestyle where they stay in the family nest until their mid-twenties. Anyway, as I recall from that distant past, the question was not whether they could enter into contracts, which did not amount to the ordering of food, but more the purchasing of of a used car sort of transaction, but whether or not the contract was enforceable against the minor. In most cases the contract was enforceable as long as it was for a necessity. The definition of necessity was pretty broad as I recall.

    Mind you, I practice not the contract law, as yoda would say. Nothing above should be taken as the giving or receiving of legal advice, for that you should not be reading an internet post.

  16. Uly March 29, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    Peter, I would suggest that spending a small amount of money on lunch is a “contract” only in a very expansive view of the word. Next time I talk to my internet lawyer, I’ll ask her what she thinks.

  17. Lola March 29, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    I wonder how many of these situations can be solved by keeping a bunch of signed authorisations that simply read “Yes, he IS allowed” at hand…

  18. Uly March 29, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    Depends on whether or not the people accept the authorizations and don’t think he forged them.

    However, why should you have to do that?

  19. Heathyr March 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    But that defeats the point of giving your child independence! If a child has to lug around permission slips for everything, how is that Free Range?

  20. SKL March 29, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    LOL on the legal contract question. If they went to the corner store and bought a candy bar, would that be legal? Buying a kiddy lunch on a gift card isn’t much different from that. And I guess having mom sitting right there during the entire transaction would mitigate the restaurant’s liability in case of a lawsuit.

    I’m assuming that was a joke, by the way.

  21. SKL March 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    I have to admit I would not be pleased if my kids went without my permission and got a horrific haircut. But I’d be upset at the kids, not the salon (well, within reason . . . ).

  22. Dee Hall March 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    It’s specifically credit-based contracts that there are limitations on for under-18s (in my understanding). A purchase situation where the correct amount of money is given and the product or service received is not that type of situation.

    But even that does have some unfortunate side effects. By the time I was 14, I had my own checking and savings account, not co-signed by my parents. Many (all?) banks wouldn’t let a 14-year-old have those nowadays. In fact, when I went to CLOSE that account when I was 23, the bank refused to close it “without the consent of my co-signer.” They didn’t know who the co-signer was–there was no co-signer in the electronic records, but were insistent that I couldn’ t have set up the accounts without one. It took them 4 weeks to track down the physical signature card from the closed branch where I’d set up the account originally and determine . . . OMG there was no co-signer.

  23. Alana M March 29, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    Unfortunately I can see them thinking some irate parent is going to come in for cutting little Johnnie’s hair w/o their permission – Johnnie raided for piggy bank to get his haircut how he wanted.

  24. MaeMae March 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    I can’t see either of my children spending their money on an unauthorized haircut. I think they would save their money for candy and toys and such.

  25. Adrienne Breaux March 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    Nice! So weird to me that those people just weren’t listening to him because he was a kid, thought I could imagine a scenario where a kid has come in and asked for something crazy and maybe get in trouble. But unless Johnnie was asking for a mohawk I’m sure his request was more than reasonable!


  26. Teacher Tom March 29, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    I can see having that policy at a tattoo parlor, but a barber? 9-years-old is the perfect age to have any kind of haircut you want. He has the rest of his life to look like everybody else!

  27. Jan S March 30, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    I, also, understand the paranoia of the barbers. That said, they should have enough sense to realize that it’s a repeat customer who (I assume) isn’t getting an outrageous haircut.

    The situation was handled perfectly. Business owners need to accommodate busy non-helicopter parents and their capable kids.

  28. Edward H. March 30, 2010 at 3:46 am #

    Hasn’t this “kid gets horrific haircut” plot been on every family sitcom for decades?

  29. pentamom March 30, 2010 at 3:50 am #

    Buying lunch at other than a fast food restaurant is a little bit more like a contract than buying a candy bar is, because the restaurant has to fulfill their end, before they see any money.

    But still, it makes no sense that the restaurant would have a problem with this — SKL’s not sending her kids in there alone, she’s right there with them when they order.

    I can sort of see the salon’s POV on this as well. Lawsuit or no, you really don’t want an angry parent coming storming in screaming that you ruined their kid’s hair without their permission. It’s not good for business, and the salon’s responsibility is their business, not promoting free-rangeness. So while I think it wouldn’t hurt them to lighten up, I can’t really hold it against them that they’re unwilling to work on a young child without knowing a parent approves. Not accepting a father’s approval, though, is beneath contempt.

  30. Janni March 30, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    Pretty much doing anything leaves one “vulnerable to a lawsuit.” I think we need to stop letting that long-shot possibility control every one of our actions, personally.

    And what damage would one be suing for, exactly? The loss of $20? The 4 weeks spent looking at a kid’s poorly done haircut and the grief this caused the parents?

    This kid’s Mom was dead on–if they’re unwilling to let her kid walk in and have a haircut, then she can take her money someplace that will respect her child and take him seriously instead.

  31. frances March 30, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    I used to work at a salon in college. I wouldn’t have cut his hair. Definitely if he was 11 or 12, but not 9. I

    ‘m all for free range, but I can’t tell you how many parents have done this and then come storming in twenty minutes later screaming at the hairdresser for ruining her kids hair, or doing it wrong. Then they demand their money back and one woman even threatened to sue. And her daughter was 15!

    Unless I knew for a fact that the parent was totally down with that kid coming in to get his hair cut I would have sent him away. This mom would have been better off walking him in and letting them know that she was okay with him coming in alone. Then she could have left him there and done her business. She put the hairdressers in an awkward position. How do they know how “free-range” she is?

    @Penni -I agree with you, that is ridiculous. I hate this idea that people have that a father is somehow less of a parent than a mother. It’s annoying and it sets feminism back decades. How are women supposed to have lives when they are pigeon holed into being the only person capable of caring for the kids?

  32. Nicola March 30, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    Awesome! 😀

  33. LindaLou March 30, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Eh. I started reading this thinking, “Nice story. The boy was empowered and got his hair cut and everyone was happy.” Then I read on to hear how the mom was completely freakin’ rude. End of heartwarming free range feelings. back to feeling like the world is populated by asshats. That could have been such a wonderful teaching moment for everyone… Sad.

  34. deanne March 30, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    The sitcom statement reminded me that one of the very first episodes of season one of Leave it to Beaver where he is sent to get a haircut, loses his money on the way, then tries to cut his own hair so his dad won’t find out. Of course at the time, no one thought anything of a 2nd grader going into a barbershop alone, let alone walking downtown to the shop by himself as well.
    I know a lot of the old sitcoms show a fake and idealized world, but it can be fascinating to watch re-runs just to see what WASN’T considered noteworthy in those days!

  35. LindaLou March 30, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    Okay, I read reread this and see that it was the mom instructing the kid to be rude. Even worse.

  36. The Kitchen Vixen March 30, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    You make me want to have children so I can be just like you when I do! You are so awesome Lenore! :-)

  37. Kimberly March 30, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Boy you are on the right track. I think all kids should be able to give their basic medical history, when they start going to school. I have some chronic conditions – my parents made sure I could give a history to anyone that might need it before I was allowed to go off on my own. By 5 or 6 I could give a pretty complete history – though I had some problems with some words.

  38. Kelly G in ATX March 30, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I had a good laugh over this one. I have to admit, I’m a little surprised by some of the comments I’m reading; I don’t know that the mom was necessarily teaching her son to be rude. We don’t have a detailed script here people, just a funny anecdote about a mom who is immensely proud of her free-rangin’ style and was able to teach her son a lesson about how things work in the real (for better or for worse). If the salon really wasn’t comfortable about it, then they wouldn’t have done it. Period. It sounds more like they just didn’t think he was being serious and didn’t want to deal with a nine year old boy.

  39. Ellen March 30, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    Let’s give the barber a break.

    While most of the people on this board think it should be ok for a 9 year old to get a haircut, the fact is that in 2010 it is not common for 9 year olds to get their hair cut without their parents. The poor guy probably never had to deal with this situation before & was just afraid he would be pissing off the parents if he cut the kids hair.

  40. Alexicographer March 30, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    Whatever my age, I don’t see that telling a business that isn’t willing to follow my instructions on a haircut that I’m not going to get my hair cut there is rude. So if I (age 40) go to my hairdresser and she tells me she needs my husband’s input or that she’s not willing to dye my hair purple and I tell her (in either case) that rather than use her services I’ll go to a business that will, I’m being rude? Huh?

    I say good for this family, both mother and son.

    At age 11 or 12 and without telling either of my parents I was doing so beforehand, I walked (~1.5 miles, including crossing a 4-lane road — at a light, carefully, of course) to a nearby mall (this wasn’t an unusual thing for me to do, and I was allowed to wander around town without giving my parents my specific plans — it’s hard to have specific plans for wandering, after all — during daylight hours and as long as I was home for supper) and had my hair cut, from very long (2 feet) to very short (2 inches). I had an allowance, and also earned money from a paper route, so paying for this was not a problem. No one questioned my right to do so. I found it tremendously empowering.

  41. Donna March 30, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    I didn’t see the mother, or son, as rude at all. Kid wanted a haircut and place wouldn’t cut his hair. What were they supposed to do? Conform to what the salon wanted just because? Put themselves out and go someplace else?

    I also don’t get the being upset (at the salon or the kid) about hairstyles, whatever kid decides to do. It’s their head. I’d probably be peeved if my kid got a pink mohawk the day before my wedding or some other big event because of the unexpected nature of it, but otherwise, who cares what he or she does with his or her own hair. Seems to fall in the pick-your-battles realm and, as long as everything else is okay, hair is not something to get upset over.

  42. SKL March 30, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    I can see both sides. But if the facts were that (a) this kid was a regular with these haircutters and (b) the haircut he requested was within the range of what the mom normally paid for, then the mom acted appropriately. If there was doubt about that, Mom could have popped her head in and told them “he’s my son, he can have any traditional haircut he wants at the $X level, and he has the money in his pocket. I gotta go.”

  43. AirborneVet March 30, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    I think everyone is missing one of the main points to this little story. The parent did say that this particular salon/barber was where this boy ALWAYS got his hair cut. You can’t tell me at least one person in there didn’t know who he was.

  44. AirborneVet March 30, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Now I see SKL got it. :-) Didn’t see your last post before.

  45. Alexicographer March 30, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    The whole contract law discussion cracks me up, for the following reason: let’s imagine I go to eat dinner with a child (not mine) in a (sit-down) restaurant. I place my order. The child places his or her order. Our orders are filled. Now imagine that when the bill comes I say that I’m not responsible for paying for the child’s meal, and the child says that he or she isn’t going to pay either. Are we off the hook? Simply by sitting with the child did I imply I was going to pay for his or her meal? Does anyone imagine restaurants really care about this? Didn’t we go to and order food in restaurants as teenagers, independently and with no adults present? I certainly did.

  46. Peter Brülls March 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Actually, in it would be possible to construct a case like this, at least over here. As you note, restaurant usually do not bother with the problem.

    Also children are not teenagers. The sentence “children under 18” makes zero sense to me, it’s akin to “children under 38”.

    Roughly speaking, the situation’s over here in Germany is kinda like this.

    Childern: 0-13
    Youth: 14-18
    Adult: 18++

    There are some provisions, like that you can (and usually are) get judged and punished with the provisions for youths, when in front of a criminal court.

    14 is also an important cut-off date in sexual and religious decisions. (Though there are various safeguards to protect youth from getting exploited by adults, the idea is to have them explore sexuality in their age group.)

    Children *can*, per contract law, enter legally binding contracts, but they can challenge them much more easily and they are pending the guardian’s approval. The older you get, the higher the amount of money you can sign away, as a general rule.

    I’ve read up and see that common law, which English speaking countries use, handle this differently, but the articles mention that courts would decide of a case-by-case basis.

    I suspect that in everyday live if wouldn’t be much different.

    That said, I find that not giving a nine-year-old a sensible haircut strikes me absurd. I loved going to the barber when I was at that age, as they had lots of comic books lying around. :-)

  47. Donna March 30, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    On his 10th birthday (15 years ago), my brother and one of his friends went to a sit-down crab leg lunch alone (kinda long story as to how that ended up happening). The restaurant had no problem with seating them and serving them. Nobody worried about youths entering contracts for food. Lil bro said that the staff at the restaurant were extremely nice and treated them like any other customers.

  48. SKL March 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    When I was a kid, it was never an issue whether a restaurant would serve me, even if my parents were not present. Certainly as young as 8 years old, I went to restaurants without parents and ordered something modest and was served. The only limitation was that I only got 40 cents for allowance in those days, so there weren’t very many times I could afford so much as a side of fries, unless I pooled with my sibs. But no restaurant (fast or slow) ever tried to kick me out or not cater to me just because I was an unaccompanied kid.

  49. Dave March 30, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    Yeah mom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  50. SMH March 31, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    I have a 9 year old son. He has gone to the same salon and same hair dresser his whole life. She would never cut his hair without my permission. I don’t have to stay in the salon but I do have to ok any haircut he wants. The salon doesn’t want to get sued and I don’t blame them. Don’t blame the salon. In this case, the boy isn’t the true customer, his mother is (and she should have been there to approve the haircut.)

  51. Janni March 31, 2010 at 3:57 am #

    Is there an actual record of lawsuits that were upheld as the result of bad haircuts? And if so, how many out of the many many haircuts children have had done alone through the years?

    I think we react to the possibility of lawsuits the same way we do to the possibility of a child getting hurt by being allowed to be free range–the odds may be very long indeed, but we don’t seem to care so long as it’s theoretically possible, or has happened once, somewhere, somehow. We don’t do the math.

    Technically legally anyone has the right to sue for almost anything. Letting our lives be controlled by that fear is almost as bad as letting our children’s lives be controlled by the fear of abduction.

  52. Donna March 31, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    @ SMH – I disagree completely. This mother clearly didn’t feel that she needed to be there to approve her son’s haircut. She either trusted his judgment or didn’t care what he ended up doing with his own hair. Not every parent has the need to control his or her child’s hair. Part of being free range is trusting kids of a certain age to make decisions as to what kind of haircut is best for them. 9 is a perfectly reasonable age to do that. If you hate the cut, who cares? It’s not your hair!!

    Also, no 9 year old boy I’ve ever met creates mischief by breaking into his piggy bank and running off to a salon to get a haircut. If I remember 9 year old boyhood correctly, bathing and grooming are not high on their list of voluntary behaviors. The reasonable assumption is that the boy was there under parental order. And it doesn’t appear from the article that he was asking for an outlandish haircut but rather was asking for what he always gets. If the kid had asked for zebra stripes to be dyed on his head, I may question the situation as a hairdresser. But refusing what appears to be a perfectly reasonable buzz cut is ridiculous.

  53. Karen April 2, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    Yeah–I’m guessing the salon instituted this policy after having to deal with a parent or two in full fury over a child/teen getting themselves an unauthorized haircut. And if the owner/operator was not on site at that particular moment, an employee may not have wanted to risk making a unilateral decision to over-ride the store’s policy. It wouldn’t have been so hard for the Mom to drop the kid off, give brief instructions and THEN go on her own, nearby errand.

  54. MamaCas April 8, 2010 at 1:47 am #

    I love the story and I love the fact that the kid finally was able to get his hair cut. But, to play devil’s advocate, I fully understand the barber’s position. We, unfortunately, live in a lawsuit-loving society and I’m sure it wouldn’t take much for some high strung Mom to threaten a lawsuit over an “Unauthorized Grooming.” And if business owner isn’t afraid of that, perhaps (in this shaky economy) he’s nervous about losing a customer (or 10, when the unhappy mother spreads the word about his “negligence”). Let’s not forget that there are 2 sides to every story and it’s not always as cut-and-dry as we like to think.