Recently, a grandparent wrote to ask for help with her haircutting-phobic grandson: “Our four-year-old grandson absolutely refuses to go for a haircut,” she wrote. “It’s always been a struggle, but he’s taken it to a whole new level. Any suggestions for his frustrated parents? He has been to ‘kid friendly’ barbershops in the past.”
Here’s what our parent educators had to say:
Four-year-olds are struggling for independence and afraid of many things at the same time. They can also be physically aggressive and have major tantrums while screaming, “I hate you.”
Having a stranger come at you with scissors can be really frightening when you are young. Forcing the issue can make it much worse. If he is having a major tantrum at the hairdresser’s, it makes sense to stop taking him.
Why persist at something that causes him and everybody else so much stress? Fortunately, having long hair isn’t life-threatening, nor is having a lousy haircut. It does grow back.
I think mom and dad need to come up with other options and keep your grandson out of the salon until he is a little older. We have to be sensitive to things that can be felt as intrusive or scary to young children.
They need to know that they really are “the boss of themselves” and that includes how they physically interact with other people.
Respecting his boundaries and giving him choices will go a long way in teaching him that he really can say no and hear no. Get creative. Perhaps he can negotiate something else, like mom or dad giving him a trim in front of his favourite video. Ask him — he might have some good ideas.
The first question you need to ask is: “Why does he not want his hair cut?” Is he shy? Has he had a scary experience or is his scalp so sensitive, it just feels awful?
Clearly, whatever has been happening is not working, so you may want to re-set his experience. Sometimes, it’s a matter of the child feeling no connection with the hairdresser. Having her close and cutting off his hair may be just too much for him.
- Start with the adult your grandchild is closest to (likely mum or dad). Have him go with that person when he or she gets a haircut, just to watch and play nearby. He will see that his dad or mum actually likes to have a haircut.
- One of the parents might try to cut your grandson’s hair at home. Luckily, kids don’t much care what they look like and most parents could do a passable job in the short term. Your grandson may find that when it is a loved parent doing the cutting, all is OK.
- As he becomes more comfortable at home with a parent cutting his hair, mum and dad may want to begin to match-make with a local salon that specializes in children.
They may want to go on a field trip with your grandson just to watch what happens and let him see that it is actually pretty fun for kids. Then leave.
Do this a few times, and if any of his friends are getting haircuts, ask if he can watch those haircuts and see his buddies enjoy the process.
- Over time, he will relax and begin to realize that a haircut can be a fun experience.
We need some guidance with an issue that is probably common in today’s makeup of blended families ... his child, her child, their child together.
One grandparent family is quite wealthy, so one grandson who shares the family time in both households, half weekly, is being showered with gifts, huge birthday parties, trips away and so on. How is it possible to keep a balance between the “parenting sides.” The constant comparisons can be hurtful. Can you help with ideas?
Do you have any advice for this parent? Are you struggling with a parenting dilemma? Send your input to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “the parent rap” in the subject line. Questions about kids from infants to teens welcome.
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