Five tips for surviving your toddler’s haircut

As you take your young child to the hair salon for his or her occasional grooming,

You may encounter resistance, fear, or the inevitable “I want things to stay the same” chorus of inertia that plagues us all at times.  It’s part of the human condition.

How can you make the experience of getting a haircut better for your little one?

Start with some of the basics of toddlerhood:

  1. First and foremost: Everything's better with music, especially in a toddler’s world. This is why The Wiggles are millionaires.  Any concepts introduced in the context of an upbeat and simple, happy tune, are automatically more palatable. Fortunately, if making up your own lyrics isn’t up your ally, there are plenty of children’s performers who sing about everything from brushing your teeth to cutting your hair. Wonder if other parents have thought of this idea before? Well, there’s a video on YouTube titled, “Baby’s first haircut,” currently with 40 million views. Young kids respond to music.

  2. Be the example.  We’ve all heard the adage that kids will do what you do, not what you say.  If you’ve ever come home from the salon in tears because your golden locks ended up a lot shorter than you wanted, perhaps your child took note.  However, if you make it look like fun… if you anticipate your upcoming color or cut with enthusiasm and talk about how good it feels to walk out of the beauty shop feeling great and refreshed, your toddler will notice that, too, and hopefully follow suit.

  3. Allow them to participate.  Everything feels better when we feel like we have a choice. Consulting with any popular parenting book will tell you that offering a variety of options, any of which would be acceptable to you, can go a long way toward helping your child feel empowered, rather than steamrolled. Maybe they can choose between two salons near where you live; or perhaps you even get them a fun and colorful spray bottle and let them spray their own hair to get it wet before the stylist proceeds to cut.

  4. Bribe them with a treat: An oldie but a goodie. The main goal should be associating something positive with the event of the haircut.  Perhaps you can take your child to his or her favorite park or playground after the “doo” is done.  Anything with sunshine and fresh air is probably a healthier choice than a sugar-ladened treat; but to each their own (a small ice cream has also been known to soothe even the grumpiest of tempers). 

  5. Educate on manners. When put in the right context, everything can be a learning experience. As parents, our children look to us for social cues and context.  In this regard, even going out for a haircut can be an opportunity to point out that the professionals in the salon are people with feelings, too.  Yes, we are paying them for a service, and they should listen to what we want; but it’s also not kind to make their job harder than it has to be by whining or crying.  Sometimes parents may doubt that a child under the age of 5 has the capacity to put themselves into the shoes of another. But give your child more credit than that.  They can empathize with the feelings of a bug in the dirt who just wants to live, instead of being crushed. And they can understand that the hair stylist feels better if you smile at them. 

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