What to Do When Your Kid (Really!) Hates Haircuts

By Gen Cohen

What to Do When Your Kid (Really!) Hates Haircuts

Overall, my son is a pretty content little guy. As long as he's supplied with heavy doses of his favorite things (meat, cheese, carbs, and cuddles), he's happy to run endless errands, he never fusses too much at nap time, and he wakes up every morning with a huge smile on his face, even when I'm giving him the evil eye because it's 6 a.m. and Mommy's alarm doesn't go off until 6:30, OK?

But there's one thing that can turn my sweet 2-and-a-half-year-old into a tiny, psychopathic, thrashing, hysterical terror: a simple haircut. He's had less than a dozen in his short life, but each one has involved tons of sweat, snot, tears (his and mine), and physical restraint, usually by no less than two adults. We've been kindly but firmly shown the door at two salons who couldn't handle him, and we left another with exactly half a haircut, which everyone knows is way worse than no haircut at all.

We've tried distractions, but movies, iPads, books, and toys have no effect on his misery. We've tried bribery, but suckers quickly become gross when covered in hair clippings, and promises of post-cut ice cream only make him more eager to jump out of the chair as quickly as possible. He enjoys watching his older sister get her hair cut but is horrified when we suggest he follow. And he's realized that sitting in Mommy's lap isn't a pacifier to soothe him, but a device so he can be firmly held down so as to not injure innocent stylists with his flailing limbs.

I keep waiting for him to grow out of this stage (after all, he now lets me cut his nails without complaint at least one in every six attempts and has always taken his shots like a champ), but over a year after his first cut, it seems to be getting worse, not better.

Last weekend his hair was hitting that embarrassing-to-take-him-in-public length, and I begged my husband to take him to the barber, hoping he'd act better for his father than he has for me. He drove him 35 minutes away, to the closest kids-only hair spot, thinking the fact that it was stocked with candy, toys, tablets, and cars and planes for seats would help the situation. They returned two hours after they left. Not a single hair had been touched.

That night, purely by chance, we met a hairdresser at a mutual friend's party, and we told her of our struggle. "Bring him to me tomorrow," she offered. "I promise we'll get it done." The next afternoon, the whole family journeyed to her salon with high hopes and low expectations.

It was as awful as every haircut before it. The sweat, the tears, the snot: all were in full effect. But because we knew the stylist and had prepared her for the situation, as terrible as it was for my son, it was much better than previous experiences for me. I felt like I had an ally in my quest for a decent haircut. Sure, it took my husband, myself, that patient stylist, and one of her equally sweet colleagues to get the job done, but after 20 minutes of hell, a 100 percent tip, and new t-shirts for all of us (sweat, tears, and snot plus hair clippings require a change), we left with a good-looking, only slightly traumatized kid.

Two glasses of wine for the adults and two ice cream cones for the kids later, the whole thing almost seemed more like a funny story than a highly disturbing event. Surely, my husband and I decided, the next haircut would be better. Right?