Ah, the haircut. Cousin of the dreaded nail clipping. If you’ve found out that your toddler hates haircuts, your mission is no longer to get Baby the perfect ‘do. Now, it’s to convince them that no, you have not invented this scissor-focused ritual just to torture them and yes, you will both come out of this alive.
The way to soothe haircut fears and tears will vary because every child has different reasons for not liking haircuts. Maybe it’s the noise of the scissors or clippers, maybe it’s the strange environment of the barbershop or salon, or maybe it’s just the fact that someone is trying to remove something from Baby‘s head! They’re all pretty reasonable concerns, and there are things you can do to reassure them about them.
Use different language
“Haircut” sounds a little intense, doesn’t it? To avoid the idea that all of Baby‘s hair will be cut off, try calling it a “trim” or a “spa” or “getting your hair done.” Similarly, it might help to avoid saying the word “scissors.” After all, aren’t scissors those dangerous things you’ve told Baby they are never, ever supposed to run with?
Even something as simple as just referring to them as “shears” or using “clippers” for both scissors and the clipper/trimmer tool can help change the tone of what you’re saying to Baby. And don’t forget to let Baby know how proud you are of them is for doing this!
Practice at home
If the salon or barbershop environment is overwhelming for Baby, maybe you can give them their next few haircuts at home. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’ll just help Baby get used to having their hair cut and keep their hair at a manageable length.
You can help them relax by forgoing the actual haircut for a fake one, using play scissors or your fingers. See, not so scary! You can also play around with a spray bottle just like the hair stylist might use. It’s a fun toy to play with and will help Baby get used to the process.
Provide a distraction
Maybe Baby is thinking too hard about how close those scissors are to their ears and needs a distraction. At home, you can try cutting their hair in a fun place like in a wagon or in the bathtub (just watch out for cutting wet hair too short, and make sure to block the drain).
At a shop, you can give them headphones to block out the noise, have them watch a television show or play a game, give them a toy to occupy their hands, or promise a treat after the haircut is over.
Use alternative methods
If Baby doesn’t like the buzzing sound of the clippers, try out the scissors. If you’re already using scissors and the snipping freaks them out, try the clippers. You can let them touch the clippers to see that they’re not sharp and won’t hurt, and the buzzing sound is actually kind of cool, right?
You can also try letting them watch you get a haircut first, let them sit in your lap for your haircut (and then their own), or maybe even go to a child-friendly salon where all the stylists come prepared with tips and tricks of their own.
Wait it out
If you’ve tried everything under the sun to get your toddler to warm up to haircuts and nothing works, it’s possible that they just isn&;t ready. Some children just hate haircuts! Others are really sensitive to noises and being touched, which can make a haircut legitimately terrifying. A child with a sensory processing disorder, for instance, might take years before they are really comfortable with a haircut.
Whatever the reason for this haircut hate, it might be in your and Baby‘s best interests to just wait for it to pass. They might have shaggy hair for a while, but you can sneak a little bang or neck trim in relatively quickly every now and then without sitting them down for an entire cut.
If your toddler’s particular fear of haircuts makes you think they might have a sensory processing problem, reach out to your healthcare provider to talk about it. They might be able to suggest even more ways for you to soothe Baby and understand what it is exactly that they are having trouble with.
- Bassett, Hannah K.; Dorwart, Elizabeth. “Sensory Processing Disorder.” Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. Stanford Medicine. November 5, 2013. http://dbpeds.stanford.edu/content/dam/sm/neonatology/documents/Sensory%20Processing%20Disorder_110513.pdf
- Davis, Kim; Dubie, Melissa. “Sensory Integration: Tips to Consider.” Indiana University Bloomington. Indiana University. https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/Sensory-Integration-Tips-to-Consider