Tears roll down her face and she says, "Mama I hate my it, I hate it, I hate it."

She is three-years-old, not 15. She isn’t meant to notice this.

“I hate my hair,” she said sobbing as she gazed into the mirror.

“I want straight hair. My hair is ugly.”

As my daughter collapsed into a sobbing heap tugging at her curls, I stood amazed. How did she get such intense emotions about how she looks? How can she be so passionately filled with hatred for a part of her I adore? How can this happen when she is just three-years-old?

Emme the brave!

My daughter is funny and clever and intensely affectionate. She is easy-going and gentle and worships her older brothers.

She likes to think she is more grown up than she is and is fiercely independent compared to her elder brothers who rely on me for just about everything.

She is feisty at times and brave and tough. She has strawberry blonde curls with highlights like spun gold. Her hair is a tangle of reddish ringlets on some days and a frizzy halo that she refuses to let me brush on others.

It's movie star hair. The kind, as a young gir,l I would have given my smurf collection for, but sadly she hates it. Hates it.

She was born without any hair at all, and only at the age of two began to grow a fluffy crown.

One day she will love her curls

My daughter in now 3 and a half, and like all little people, is on the end of many compliments.

Friends compliment her on how gently she is and easy going, how relaxing she is to be around compared to other more intense children of her age. Strangers in the street remark on how quick she is on her scooter and shop keepers say she has nice manners.

And they compliment her on her hair.

Oh, how they compliment her on her hair.

“Just look at those golden curls.”

“Oh Emme your hair is so pretty.”

“Where did the red ringlets come from?”

“Hey curly head, your hair is amazing.”

She looks at them with her greeny-brown eyes and her soul is crushed. For a three-year-old (going on 15), it’s the worst of the worst. It’s an encompassing inner devastation.

Shauna and her daughter, Emme.

And to be completely honest, I have no idea why she is filled with such loathing.

I am hardly a role model for glamour, most days I wear my hair tied back in a messy ponytail to stop being irritated by it. I hardly wear makeup and couldn’t remember the last time I wore jewellry.

Her two older brothers would go naked all day if I didn’t remind them to get dressed.

Her life is filled with strong intelligent woman. Grandmothers, teachers, Aunties and friends.

But still she judges herself by her hair.

I have tried to blame it on Elsa, that magical Queen with an ice castle and her own kingdom.

And in honesty other little girls don’t help.

I hear the teasing words, “I’ve got straight hair, yours is like a boy's”.

But the worst is comments from well meaning adults. They are trying to be kind and good-natured. They are trying to give her the confidence to lift her shy eyes to theirs and smile. And I know they never consider for a second, that their words cause hurt. 

How can you not love it when it's the same colour as your puppy's hair?

One day my daughter’s hair is going to be a source of pride for her. One day she will define herself through her intelligence, her kindness and generosity, her capacity for love and through her reddish-golden ringlets.

But until then I beg of people – find something else to compliment little girls on. Tell them how brave they are, interesting, how kind they are to their pets, ask them whether they have mastered the art of riding their two-wheeler bike, or what’s the strangest food they have tasted.

Because when a three-year-old is in tears about how she looks, we all need to take a long hard look at how we are expressing self worth. Let's face it, the only thing a three-year-old girl should think about her hair is how much she hates it when Mummy brushes it.

What do you hate your daughter or son being complimented on?

Want more? Try:

Dad confesses: Help! I can’t do my daughter’s hair.

Should kid's wear shoes? Two Mums go head to head.