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 him that no, you have not invented this scissor-focused ritual just to torture him 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 him 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 he is 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 him is for doing this!
Practice at home
If the salon or barbershop environment is overwhelming for Baby, maybe you can give him his next few haircuts at home. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’ll just help Baby get used to having his hair cut and keep his hair at a manageable length.
You can help him 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 his ears and needs a distraction. At home, you can try cutting his 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 him headphones to block out the noise, have him watch a television show or play a game, give him a toy to occupy his 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 him out, try the clippers. You can let him 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 him watch you get a haircut first, let him sit in your lap for your haircut (and then his 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 he 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 he is 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. He 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 him down for an entire cut.
If your toddler’s particular fear of haircuts makes you think he 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 he is 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