Please Don’t Force Your Daughter to Wear Giant Hair Bows


The first time time I heard the term “bow bootcamp” my daughter was just a year old. A friend, who also had a one year old girl, mentioned that a mutual acquaintance at church had trained her own daughters and many other girls in her care to keep a bow in their hair. I was intrigued. My daughter had a mess of fine, wavy hair that was perpetually finding its way into her eyes and mouth despite my attempts to subdue it with a well-placed alligator clip. But my intrigue soon turned to unease as my friend relayed this older mom’s advice: “Whenever your daughter removes her bow, sternly and consistently smack her little hand and replace it. Consistency with this seemingly small thing will set you up for disciplining in the future and show her you mean business. It’s not about the bow.”

I swallowed my feminist outrage in that moment and managed to extricate myself from the conversation, but it has continued to vex me over the years.

A quick search on Pinterest revealed that this mom was not the originator of the “bow bootcamp” term (although few others advocated for the use of physical punishment as a training method). But since that conversation over three years ago, every time I see a Facebook picture of a little girl with a giant, outfit-coordinating bow atop her head, I wonder who insisted it complete the ensemble. Every time a friend finds out she is having her first girl, I note other well-meaning moms rejoicing with her over all the bows in her future. Every time I see a JoJo bow framing a tiny dancer’s face caked in entirely too much makeup, I cringe. And every time I hear the phrase, “the bigger the bow, the better the mom,” I just about lose it.

Because the other mom was right about one thing. It’s not about the bow.

In a culture that is already rife with troubling body image issues, drawing battle lines over something as trivial and arbitrary as a hair bow teaches my daughter that her looks are what give her value. It communicates that I don’t care about her preferences or opinions. And even worse, it teaches her that her appearance and willingness to please others with her appearance are more important than her comfort and choices. As a former teacher, I am a devout disciple of the idea that consistency, expectations and consequences are absolutely necessary for children. I set very clear limits for my daughter (and son) and have high expectations for behavior. But the popularity of giant hair bows has nothing to do with discipline and everything to do with presenting an appealing, attractive image to others.

In the name of full disclosure, and lest you think I have fanatically banned all hair accessories in my home, let me be the first to say that my daughter actually loves wearing bows in her hair. Most of the time, it is she who suggests adding one to an outfit, and, much like her recent idol, Fancy Nancy, she laments that her mother is content to walk through life dressed so plainly. I know that many little girls love their bows and bonding over accessories can be a joy for mothers and daughters alike.

But as we enter into the holiday season, adorned with its sweetly monogrammed outfits and coordinating accessories, let’s be sure to take the time to listen to our daughters, whether they be four months or four years or fourteen years old. Within reason, encourage their developing sense of autonomy over their body and their fashion choices. Respect their decisions regarding what they are and are not comfortable with, and teach them that their worth lies in what is inside their precious bodies and not what is resting atop them.

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Hi! I’m Sara, former early childhood teacher turned stay at home mom to two girls and a boy (2013, 2016, and 2018). My husband and I got married in 2010 and are both ETSU alumni. Despite being born here, I grew up all over the country as the daughter of a military family, only finally moving back to the area in 2014. The mountains of East Tennessee were calling us home! I love all that Knoxville has to offer young families in the way of festivals, events, outdoorsy adventures and charm. When we’re not striking off on a weekend excursion to the Farmer’s Market or a new hiking spot, I can be found in my kitchen nurturing a semi-professional baking obsession or curled in the living room with a book. I love getting to write for and be part of this supportive community of moms!


  1. I personally think big bows make babies look like clowns. Simple is best! I have a girl and she loves pretty hairstyles but if she wants to take it down and have ratty hair I let her. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

  2. I agree! If an older girl chooses to wear a bow, then let her but don’t force an infant to wear one. They look ridiculous and uncomfortable. Babies are beautiful without adornments such as this.

  3. My niece loves whatever this Jojo bow trend is with ridiculously oversized hair bows. She’s 4. I think it looks ridiculous. In any case the little girl does like the bows and chooses to wear them. If she wants to wear them she has to allow her mom to fix them when she starts looking like a hot mess from running around outside to play etc or take the dumb looking thing out. But training a child to wear bows and hand smacking for messing with them is completely over the top. If the mom likes the bow that much maybe she should try walking around looking like a fool in the damn bows. I am also not sure why anyone thinks a bow bigger than the child’s head looks cute. It looks stupid. And the parent looks like a moron for thinking it looks cute. But we have cultivated a society where feelings are valued more than truth, so we will all say aww how cute and not mean it. Don’t say it’s cute when it isn’t- you don’t have to come out and say it looks absolutely moronic, just don’t say anything at all. The false encouragement about how cute things are when they really aren’t cute perpetuates the problem. The motto was ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ NOT ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, just lie.’ Put the bows down.

  4. I’m uncomfortable around children to begin with . But….
    If I see a child with a big matching bow in their hair . ..I avoid them at all costs .
    It’s like a neon sign saying “Look at me…and my totally self absorbed mom who thinks I am adorable and special .”
    Be afraid . .be very afraid .

  5. Sunny I think the same way about bows. I have two grown daughters and they never like stuff in their hair other than a barrette or a head band they could adjust. I always felt my girls were feminine enough that everyone could see they were little girls. I didn’t need to point it out by a ridiculously over sized bow that looked like it would fit better on a Homecoming Corsage. Is it some kind of mental disorder on the Mom’s part. It’s like look at me! Munchousen bow proxie.

  6. I just knew SOMEBODY else out there besides me had to HATE these bows! They’re cute on LITTLE girls (operative word being “little”), especially a SMALL bow on an elastic band around a baby girl’s head that is, shall we say, hair deficient ☺️😉.
    They’re also cute on little girls up to about second grade; beyond that is where it gets a little “questionable.” If your YOUNG daughter WANTS to wear a bow, then be a nice mommy and allow her to wear a bow. However, as her mother, it is your responsibility to make sure that she leaves the house well-kempt with clean clothes and clean hair and body. It is also your responsibility to make sure your young daughter doesn’t leave the house looking like a stupid moron. And I’m sorry, JoJo, but those bows of any significant size on a girl your age or older just look idiotic. They scream, “Look at me! Look at me! Aren’t I beautiful?” Make an impression on people with your good manners, your kindness, your wit, and your intelligence or vocabulary!!
    Every time I’m at a school sporting event and the cheerleaders or drill team or majorettes have those GIANT bows on their head, I just shake my head, quietly laugh at them to myself, and just wonder, “Where is that girl’s parents, and why are they letting their adolescent daughter out of the house looking like a very LARGE child?”
    And if the Teacher/Director makes it a part of the girls’ uniforms because they’ve ALWAYS WORN GIANT BOWS, then the girls and their parents need to mutiny for their rights (and their better taste) and refuse to wear them!
    If you ask me, MAKING these young girls wear these huge bows covering up their heads and hair is just a little bit “sick.” And if the young lady WANTS to wear a giant bow covering her head that distracts from her own natural beauty, then the parent(s) need to say “Oh, no, you’re not” and “You’ll thank me when you’re grown and you look back at old pictures from this time of your life!”
    The “sick” part is that this practice totally infantilizes these young girls. What NORMAL person looks at a young girl and says, “Boy, that high school cheerleader sure is cute, but she’d look a whole lot better if she looked like she’s about 10 years younger!” Anyone that thinks or WANTS that, in my humble opinion, has a few screws loose! That’s just not NORMAL, and those damn bows are just not NORMAL for a girl past 7 or 8 years old.
    And college cheerleaders wearing these damn huge bows—don’t EVEN get me started! I’m sure the ONLY person, or people, that thinks that is attractive is either a PERV or someone with a “little girl fetish” AKA a pedophile.
    Use the sense God gave you, girls, and “Just say “No” to bows!”” #justSayNoToBows!#

  7. I hate these Oversized bows! Who’s idea was it to make little girls wear a Super Bow on their heads? It looks Ridiculous! I’m just glad I’m not the only one that SEES these HUGE Things! And I could Never tell Anyone that Billboard Bow looks nice cause honestly, it looks like Shit! That Bow is All you focus on when Anyone wears them! I figure these moms make their daughter wear those Monstrous Bows to take attention AWAY from the child! JMO!😳😱😑 Say NO to the Oversized Bow!


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