Wednesday, 2 July 2014

How to... cut your child's hair

There are two main things that people worry about when they think of cutting their child's hair:

  1. How will I get them to sit still?
  2. What if I cut it really badly?
Unfortunately, if the first proves to be a problem, then the second is also likely to be tricky.  

Going to a hairdresser gets pricy though, and organising a hair-cut after school or on the weekend isn't always easy.  You really don't need to worry though, as there are a few things that you can do to make a home hair-cut go smoothly:
  • Remember - practice makes perfect, for both of you.  The more you do it, the more you and your child will get used to the process and the easier things will be.
  • Start young - while they are still a baby or toddler nobody really cares what their hair looks like, so a wonky fringe or sticky out bits won't matter.  Once it starts to matter, you'll be a pro.
  • Hair grows - if things go wrong, you aren't ruining their hair forever.  The disaster will soon grow out.
  • Communicate - explain that you'll be cutting their hair, make sure that they know that it won't hurt, but that you need them to keep their head still etc. etc. and keep talking to them all the way through so that they know what you are doing and what you need them to do.  They aren't one of those hairdresser dolls!
  • Distract - you know how short your child's attention span is.  It's no different when you're cutting their hair.  While you are carefully checking that you've cut it evenly, your child will be debating how to get out of the chair and go and do something more fun.  While they are still little, make sure they can't run by fastening them into their highchair.  For all children, this is a great time to put them in front of the TV.  I've also found that putting the chair in the garden works well (and you don't need to sweep or vacuum afterwards), or doing it in the bathroom, where they can sit naked, watch their sibling in the bath, and then get straight in as soon as you've finished (again, easier on the cleaning up).  I've also heard of a ritual involving chocolate cake and a magazine for the haircut!
  • Mirror - children naturally want to see what you are doing to them, just as we like to see what's happening at the hairdressers.  So as well as distracting them, consider providing a mirror, either one that you can rest on a chair nearby, or a hand mirror.  That way they can look at what you're up to whenever they want, instead of trying to turn their head while you're poised with the scissors.

  • Prioritise - decide which bits of hair need cutting the most, and start with these.  For Bug it's generally the fringe that gets done first, as having her hair in her eyes is a bit of a bother.  With C, it's usually the hair around his ears and the back of his neck that gets scruffy the quickest.  If they are struggling with the cut, then just do these bits and then release them, you can always do the rest another time.
  • Praise - praise them for sitting still, for letting you cut their hair, for looking in the right direction.  Just keep praising every little thing that they are doing to make the process easier!
  • Sharp scissors - buy proper hair cutting scissors (not your kitchen or paper scissors), which don't cost all that much, and keep them sharp.  This makes cutting much easier.
  • Safety first - where possible, keep your hand between your child's head and the scissors, so that if they do move suddenly, you'll cut your hand, not their head or ear.  For C's hair I tend to have my hand palm-down on his head, and cut just at the back of my fingers, so his hair is mostly about a finger's-width long.  The bit around the ears I can't keep my hand in the way, so I warn him to keep really still for that bit.  For Bug I have my hand the other way up, take a section of hair between two fingers, and pull out to the desired length, then cut along my fingers to make a straight cut.   Also, if you have another small child in the vicinity, don't put the scissors down!
  • Cut dry - I usually pop them straight in the bath or shower after a haircut so that they aren't itchy, so I usually cut their hair dry (though Bug has very thick hair, so I do sometimes damp it down with a wet comb).  Sometimes once they've washed their hair I notice bits that I've missed, so I always keep the scissors handy for the next couple of days so that I can tidy up any odd tufts.
  • Tell your child how great they look.  Even if you think you've made a mess, don't tell your child that.  Tell them how smart their hair looks now, or how cool they look with their new "do".  You can tell them "Oooo, I just spotted a bit I missed, let me tackle it", or even "Mummy's made a good start on your hair, we'll go to Grandma's/hairdressers and get it finished off."  If you tell them you've turned them into a laughing stock, they won't trust you to do it again.
If you cut their hair regularly throughout their childhood, it'll become a bit of a bonding experience too.  By all means take them to a hairdresser if they are having something you've not tried before, or if you're emotionally attached to the long hair that they want you to cut, but there's no reason why cutting it yourself shouldn't be the norm.

My mum cut my hair when I was young, in fact I can only think of a couple of occasions when she didn't right up until I was about 16 (when I first started cutting it myself - and believe me the first times I did that were a disaster that she needed to rescue!).  I think she still occasionally cuts one of my sister's hair, and also at least one of the grandchildren.

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