Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

7 Ways To Help Your Kid Stay Still For A Haircut (& 4 Ways That Never Work)

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My son — a sweet, loving, smart, funny, energetic, and lively child — has always also been what you might call persnickety... blame it on his Virgo birthday, maybe. Anyway, the boy has always been overly-fussy about random things, and perhaps no single issue has been a bigger issue than haircuts. While things are fine now, at the age of 7, it took years of concerted effort to get him to this point. So, if getting your child's haircut is a nightmare for you, allow me to share some of my hard-won experience and give you some tips for your child's haircut.

So here's the thing with each of the things I tried: For the most part, they all worked once. Maybe twice. And then my child wised up to my ploys and I'd have to try something else. (In addition to being persnickety he's also intensely mercurial.) The main thing that helped him ease into haircuts was time and maturity, which is not really something I have any control over... at least not until I get this damn flux capacitor into the DeLorean...

But you know what? I got through and, damnit, so will you! I believe in you! I believe in your kid. And maybe, just maybe, some of the things that (temporarily) worked for me will work for you.

Oh, and as for the tactics that didn't work for me? Those you should probably just go ahead and avoid. Learn from my mistakes, people.

1. Bribery

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It doesn't have to be something huge (and, in my opinion, shouldn't be something huge, since you don't want to trap yourself in an unsustainable cycle) but something small, like a toy car or a stuffed animal or some junky pharmacy toy aisle crap you'd normally say "no" to. I found it was useful to go to a barber shop or salon that was near a store that sold toys. That way I could walk the toy aisle with my kid, let him get excited about something, and then say "Well, if you can sit through your haircut we can come back and get the toy: deal?"

This worked! It was great! But, like just about everything else on this list it worked once. Still, perhaps other children will be more reliably susceptible to bribes.

2. Screens

Hand that kid your phone and let them go to town on YouTube or Netflix or whatever weirdness they get a kick out of for some reason adults can't figure out. (Why is opening Easter eggs exciting? I don't understand. Help me understand.) Anyway, this is especially useful if your kid doesn't usually get to play with your phone or watch a lot of screens. The novelty will go a long way in getting them to sit still. You might have to choreograph a little dance with the hairdresser if you need to hold the phone for them (depending on the angle your kid needs to hold their head) but it can work pretty well.

3. Candy

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This is, perhaps, the oldest and most ubiquitous parenting trick in the book, but it's a classic for a reason, people. Kids love candy. They don't know what to do with those sugared up little brains! Pro-tip: Do not choose a candy that needs to be eaten over time, like a lollipop or a candy bar. Because your kid's snipped hair will get all over that thing and then you're dealing with them crying because they don't want a haircut and also them crying because their lollipop is furry.

I speak from a place of experience here.

So go with something like gummy bears or Skittles or M&Ms. Maybe let them go to the store and pick one out so they get jazzed ahead of time and don't give in to their haircut anxiety.

4. A Fun Hairdresser's

For some kids, being able to sit in a race car-shaped barber's chair makes all the difference in the world. Barber shops geared exclusively toward children are usually a bit pricier, but if you can swing it it's often worth it to avoid a total meltdown. Not only does your kid get to "drive the car" (or "ride the horse" or whatever the chair theme happens to be) but the stylists are used to fidgeting and anxious kids.

5. Cut It Yourself

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I am not what you'd call "adept" at literally anything that involves hand-eye coordination. In fact, I was so bad at cutting in particular as a kid that I had special "cutting homework" through third grade. In other words, I was still crappy at something that most kindergarteners have mastered when I was 9. That said, it doesn't take much to give your kid a quick and simple trim. Snip-snip here, snip-snip there, and you're done. And if you mess up? Honestly? They're kids: they'll look cute no matter what. It's really not a big deal.

6. Get Someone To Come To Your House

This is actually not something I've done, but I've had friends whose children have gone from horrified shrieking basket-cases at the barber's to kids who happily open the door for the person who comes to the house to cut their hair. Again, this is going to be a little more spendy than just popping down to a run-of-the-mill salon, but if you have the means it might be worth it for you.

7. Realize Haircuts Are Entirely Optional And You Don't Have To Put Yourself Through This

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Honestly? Half the times I took my haircut-adverse kid for a haircut I really wish I hadn't. Because why, tho? Seriously, haircuts are 100 percent optional. So what if he doesn't look perfectly coiffed! As long as his hair is clean and brushed that's all that really matters. I so wish I'd been more chill and adopted a "his head, his choice" mentality. Not only do I realize now that it would have been the right thing to do, but it would have saved me time, money, energy, and frustration. Oh well. Live and learn.

8. Reason

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha *sharp inhale* hahahahahahahahaha!

Did you notice I've moved into the realm of "4 Please! They're children! They think Power Rangers are real. You honestly think you can reason with them? Oh honey. Bless your heart.

9. Begging

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In a best case scenario, your groveling pleas may as well be shouted into a black hole. In a worst case scenario they want to see you cry because your tears are like candy to them (and we've established how much they love candy). Look, I'm not saying children are monsters or anything... not all the time anyway. But even sweet and loving children are, before a certain point, developmentally incapable of ever really putting someone else's feelings and desires above their own.

10. Threats

You guys: I've been there, I regret it tremendously (especially since, as we've established, haircuts really are optional), and, above all, they just don't work. At least they didn't for me. They only made a stressful situation a million times worse, because now not only was my kid freaking out about his present situation he was anxious about his future situation as well. Would not recommend.

11. Shame

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Seriously, just never shame your kid. So don't tell them or even indicate that people will judge them if they don't cut their hair or that they look bad if they don't cut their hair. Even if it works it's not worth the long-term consequences of your child thinking your approval is conditional.