Ahhh, the first haircut. It can be either a blessing or a curse. Some parents walk in with an I-can-do-this resolve or they wear a sheepish grin hinting at an apology to the stylist. We have all been there–or will be there–for the first haircut madness.
In the 18 years I have been doing hair, I’ve seen a lot. The little boy whose mom had to hold him sideways across her lap while he was begging me to stop, the moms who were over-stressed and pleading with her kid to stop moving and crying, and even once I had a young teenager who was so grumpy about getting his hockey hair cut that he told his mom, “I could kill you.” There are a lot of parents who get stressed out when their kids acting up in public, especially at the hair salon.
Most kids don’t know what to expect when they walk in the door. They walk in an unfamiliar place, climb into a big chair and contend with a stranger who has to move into their personal space and touch their heads. This is often where the (completely justified!) screaming starts. But you know what? IT IS TOTALLY NORMAL AND OKAY. Kids cry and wiggle. Stylists deal with it all the time. Here are a few of my tips to have a positive first haircut visit (and plenty of happy visits to follow!).
1: Be the Guinea Pig
I always recommend bringing your child in when you get a haircut so they can get a sense of the place and they can watch what happens there. If they are little they can even sit on your lap while you get a haircut. Show them what it’s about and that it doesn’t hurt. Even a quick stop in here or there to say hi can help, plus parents can check out the vibe of the salon. Come in after a nap. A well-rested kid is always easier to please.
2: Sweet, Sweet Technology
It’s okay to bring a phone or tablet to keep them busy during their hair appointment! Put on their favorite cartoon and prop it up on the station. Most kids will keep their eye on it, and it also helps keep their head up and forward. A favorite toy, blankey, or stuffed animal can also help comfort them. (So far I have “cut” hair for Batman, Spiderman, Sully from Monsters, Inc. and a monkey!) Snacks help too. A lot of parents bring M&M’s, Goldfish crackers, or fruit snacks. Many salons have a lollipop for after the haircut; if you dare mix hair and sugar give them one during the cut. It helps shift their focus on their treat and off of their hair.
3: Clear Up the Mystery
Ask the stylist to explain what she is going to do. She can show your little one the tools and the clippers. I find it’s also helpful to let them touch my trimmers when off, and then turn them on so they can touch again and know they don’t hurt. Once they realize a haircut doesn’t hurt, most kids don’t even care anymore. When describing a haircut, try saying that it feels” funny” or “different” instead of using the word “ticklish.” Most kids are just fine until they hear the word “tickle” and then they all of a sudden have ants in their pants!
4: Rinse and Repeat
Pick a stylist (or two) you like and stick with them for a while. It will help make the little one more comfortable time after time. Go to someone you know, ask your friends and family where they like to go. I see little ones come in all the time looking for their favorite familiar face. A typical return for a trim is 6-8 weeks. They will get comfortable within a few visits.
In between cuts, keep your kids’ hair healthy by keeping up with daily maintenance. When shampooing, reach the scalp and scrub with fingertips. Use conditioner afterwards, but make sure it gets rinsed out well. Using a leave in conditioner when needed helps to detangle longer hair, and the Wet Brush was a life saver for me. Show kids how to brush from ends to roots and how to use product properly.
I really hope these tips help make your parental haircutting duties go a bit smoother. Getting a first, second, or even fifth haircut can be an exciting or horrifying endeavor. And remember, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work–there are times when we just have to face the fact that today may not be the day we get the haircut, and that’s okay too. Reschedule and keep trying. Don’t sweat the small stuff!