Many people look at me blankly when I say I’ve had trouble getting my kids to the hairdresser. But at times, my children have bluntly refused haircuts. If I can coax them there, they’ve been known to climb off the chair mid-trim; I’ve had children on laps and children on hips screaming as the barber expertly chopped around us. There have been tears and tantrums, bribes and distractions. It seems some kids are just haircut-resistant.
Thankfully my older three have grown out of the trauma of a haircut and now actively discuss styles with the hairdresser.
But now it’s time to tackle the preschooler. Bald for the first year of her life, three years on and her hair can be tucked into her undies. She refuses haircuts for fear they will “hurt”.
I get it. We tell our children not to play, run or wave scissors around because they’re dangerous. Then we ask them to sit in a chair with a cape on staring at some person in a mirror who’s aiming a sharp instrument at their head.
Then I found Petite Chique in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, where the owner Kristy McKenzie specialises in kids’ cuts. “We take the tantrum out of haircuts and build confidence in your child,” she says. Sign me up! Does it come with an alcoholic drink?
I prepared my daughter in advance, making it all sound very exciting. Admittedly, there was hollowness in the pomp and ceremony because I was anticipating a full-blown tantrum, or at least a dedicated refusal, when we arrived. I predicted accurately. Kristy managed to distract her long enough to get a princess cape on as she sat on my knee, and the Barbie movie on the iPad was a welcome conversation point and a great trick to get her to look straight ahead when the cutting took place. The trim took all of 10 minutes. Length was dictated by the glob of chewing gum found in her hair (she’d smuggled a piece of gum from her brothers and then “accidentally dropped it out of her mouth” on the drive to the hairdresser, or so her story goes). Her trimmed, gum-free hair looks great and she proudly shows her laminated certificate, ribbon, stickers and lock of hair to anyone who’ll listen.
I’ve found some salons who boast setups ideal for children – complete with colourful and inviting environments, novelty seats, DVDs, TVs/Xboxes, balloons, lollipops, haircut certificates … you name it, they’ve thought of it. All are designed to make haircuts fun rather than stressful.
Parents of children with special needs may also find the list useful, as many of these salons are experienced in managing children who require additional assistance. It could be something as simple as not using the water spray bottle, or sitting away from a mirror so they can’t see the scissors. Considered awareness of issues around senses – noise (hairdryers), touch (pulling of ears, brushing of hair), bright lights, itchiness from hair – can all aid the process.
I also got some tips from the experts for a stress-free haircut:
• Prepare your child in advance, and let the salon know it’s their first haircut.
Shafiq from Ziggety Snipits says, “When talking to a child about a haircut, you might want to use another word such as ‘trim’ or ‘style’. ‘Cut’ can be a scary word for a child, since it is typically used in a negative way.”
Kristy from Petite Chique says, “Just pop in for a hello once in a while. That way your child will feel comfortable in the salon, and not associate it with feeling anxious. And always have plenty of stickers on hand!”
Jo Wealands of Candy Hair in Cheltenham suggests playing a few hairdressing games at home, such as “practicing putting the cape on, squirting with the water spray, gently brushing hair, talking about the sounds and noises they might hear at the salon.”
• Schedule the appointment for a time of day when your child will be less likely to be tired or hungry.
• Stacey from Rock Paper Scissors in Gawler suggests making sure your child's hair is clean and tangle free, if possible. She also recommends arriving at least five minutes before your appointment to allow your child time to “suss out the salon”. “We let the children play for a while to get comfortable with their surroundings and ease into the haircut,” says Catherine from Spikey Tales in Greystanes.
• Bring food! Snacks are a great distraction if none of the tricks on offer work.
• Pack a spare t-shirt in case wearing the cape is an ordeal.
• If your child throws the mother of all tantrums, don’t stress. “Trust me, your two-year-old won't do anything I haven't seen before!" assures Pam Waring-Baker from Giggles and Scissors in Brisbane. If it doesn’t work out this time, just try again another time.
• If the salon is too intimidating, try a mobile hairdresser who comes to your home. Giggles and Scissors “provides a service in the family home which helps change the experience for parents and children to a better one”.
For a list of kid-friendly hairdressers around Australia – and the special offers they’ve made for Essential Baby readers in the month of August – visit the forum. Feel free to add any you know, too.