Hair washing battles and your toddler

Whether it’s a new fear or resistance, or one that has been going on for quite some time, having a toddler who battles at bathtime can be exhausting and stressful. If Baby has hated hair-washing for a while now, you may feel like you’ve exhausted all your options. On the other hand, if it’s a recent problem, you may feel stumped about what changed and how to fix it.

Why phobias develop (and continue)

There’s no one answer as to why Baby, or any other child, might suddenly refuse to have their washed. It may be a fear of the water, or they may have gotten some shampoo in their eyes one day when you rinsed the soap out, making them worried about a repeat. Whatever the reason, once the fear exists, it’s up to you to help them overcome it.

One reasons fears can stick around longer than they might otherwise is because parents feel that ignoring or downplaying the problem will make it go away. Instead, this can tell toddlers their fears aren’t being heard or respected, when they actually need to know those they trust are listening to their concerns.

There are a few different ways you can work with Baby to help get past the hair washing dilemma so their locks can shine once again.

  • Ride it out: For as long as you can, let Baby have their way when it comes to washing. Of course, this can get tricky fast, since toddlers can get pretty messy. However, this approach will let them know you’re hearing and respecting their concerns.
  • Wash your hair: You can try soothing their fears by letting Baby help wash your hair, to show them it’s not so scary after all. They can help rub in the shampoo, and even help you rinse. Seeing this a time or two may help wash away the phobia.
  • Play in the water: The hair washing worry may actually be fear or discomfort with the idea of having water on their head. You can help them get used to fun water games, like playing with a hose, or having a swim in the pool. Swimming lessons that encourage them to go underwater with the help of an instructor could be helpful as well.
  • Make it comfortable: Maybe the “non-stinging” shampoo you bought really doesn’t live up to its name. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s by testing it on yourself. You may also choose to meet Baby halfway on hair washing, and try out a less vigorous type of wash, like rinsing with a washcloth instead of with a cup of water.

Patience is key when it comes to toddler fears. Be gentle, understanding, and considerate of your little one’s emotions, and with enough TLC, they will be ready to wash, rinse, and repeat at bathtime.

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