Hey, is that your kid, or a refugee from a '90s grunge band? OK, it's finally time for a real haircut—but if you don't want your child to experience shear fright, you'd better prep him first. “Up until now, all he's heard from you is that scissors can hurt him and he shouldn't let strangers touch him. Then you put him in my chair, and I'm a stranger coming at him with scissors!” says Tami Waltz, a stylist at Great Clips, a family-salon chain with 3,000 franchises nationwide. Her advice:
Don't tell your child he'll be getting a “cut.” That sounds like a boo-boo. Instead, “say ‘Soon we'll take you for a hair trim,’” Waltz suggests. (Call scissors “shears” to reduce the fear factor.)
Don't limit your search to kids-only clip joints. “A stylist with a largely adult following may make an extra fuss over your child, since it's such a nice change for him,” notes Waltz.
Play “haircut” at home. Set your child on a chair in front of a mirror and pin a towel around his shoulders for added effect. Gently spritz his hair with water, explaining, “This is what the person at the salon might do to wet your hair.”
Time the trim right. Schedule it for soon after (but never right before) a nap or a meal. Download an episode of your child's favorite TV show onto your smartphone so he can watch it for distraction. And pack a couple of non-sticky snacks, like crackers, in case he gets antsy mid-trim.
Ask the stylist to brush trimmed locks out of your child's sight. “You'd be surprised how many times children shout ‘Ouch!’ if they can see their hair falling!” laughs Waltz.
For girls, bring along a fun barrette or other accessory and ask the stylist to incorporate it into the new 'do to up the wow factor.
For boys, have the stylist add a streak of colored paint (it will wash out easily afterward).