There comes a time in every parent’s life when her toddler will refuse to participate in something we may think is simple, like a haircut. Karlene Benallick, a mom of three in Caronport, Sask., attests to this fact. “All my kids have different personalities. My daughter, Jenna, 3, loves to be fussed over and made into a princess. My youngest son, Cole, 1, insists the clippers make him sleepy. My oldest son, Carter, 5, is another story. The first few haircut attempts were awful,” she remembers. “Carter was desperately unhappy. We decided to back off, and try again later.” She admits he looked like a ragamuffin, but it was a milestone he needed to reach in his own time, in his own way.
What do you do when your happy toddler morphs into a wailing monster the moment his bottom hits the salon chair? The key, according to the experts, is to understand your child. Does he run with abandon or tentatively enter new situations? Is he shy or does he seek the spotlight? Once you understand his personality, you can prepare him for the strange sights, sounds and smells that accompany a visit to the salon.
Most toddlers dislike surprises, so visiting the salon or barber beforehand, watching a parent or sibling receive a haircut, and talking about the process may aid in preparing your child for the experience. Jeff Fox, father of two boys, 6 and 3, in Moose Jaw, Sask., confirms this suggestion. “I brought my son with me to my stylist for a few visits before his first haircut. He played in the salon chair and watched me. When it was finally his turn, we started with something quick and easy. He sat pretty well for a toddler and was quite happy with the promised lollipop afterwards.” Some child-friendly establishments also have theme chairs and give parents the first curl as a keepsake to make the visit a cut above.
Having mom or dad trim junior’s hair in familiar surroundings is not only convenient; it can also be a money saver. And don’t worry about being a novice, says Toronto-based hairstylist David Hillis, the creator of No More Bowls (nomorebowls.com), an instructional DVD that teaches parents techniques to cut their children’s hair. Since only the bangs and/or back length will need tending for the first cut, Hillis recommends starting where the need is greatest. “If you only have time to get part of the job done before the fidgets take over, not to worry — you can always finish up later.”
Despite your best attempts at preparation, there are still some children who refuse to be comforted or eased into the process. Brian Tkachuk, an early childhood psychologist in Moose Jaw, Sask., suggests backing off, as Karlene Benallick did, and waiting a bit. Some children have a sensory issue and truly cannot cope with the physical feeling involved with hair care. The clippers are too noisy. The hair is too itchy. These are valid concerns and should not be brushed aside lightly. If you can, try to find solutions such as having the barber use scissors instead of a clipper and bringing a fresh shirt to change into if the stray cut hairs bother your child. Taking your child seriously creates trust, says Tkachuk, allowing him to try new things. Like a brand new ‘do.
Stacey Weeks lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., where she juggles part-time work as a freelance writer and a full-time position as vice-president and CEO of the Weeks family.
Ashley Wray, owner of the Melonhead Children’s Hair Care location in Oakville, Ont., says parents can make the first haircut easier with these dos and don’ts.