It's hard to say who dreads kids haircuts more—kids or parents. The truth is, the experience—whether it's a kid's first haircut or the tenth—can be stressful for everyone involved, especially the stylist. So that's who we went to for advice on the best ways to put a nerve-wracked child at ease—and maybe even look forward to their next appointment. Because they have the most experience, they shared their very best dos—and don'ts—for kids haircuts
Though it seems like a great way to allay a child's fears, the stylist will not like this one. According to Lindsey Van Housen, hair stylist at Hair Cuttery in Chicago's Greektown neighborhood, doll hair is brutal on a stylist's precious (and expensive) shears—it can literally ruin them in just a few snips. So unless you supply the scissors, leave the doll at home.
Lots of parents do this to show a child that the scissors are harmless. But they're not. "I don't want the child holding a weapon, fake or not," Lindsey says. "But it is pretty common for us stylists to have little knick-knack toys to play with to keep a child occupied."
None of the stylists we talked to were crazy about the idea of allowing the child to watch something on a phone or tablet. Though it's not impossible, it can be difficult to cut hair when the client's head is bent downwards. Reserve this option as a last-ditch effort or try another mom's spin: "selfie-video" the haircut, and hold the device yourself. Some kids are mesmerized by seeing themselves on that tiny screen!
Idania Santiago of Rock Hair Scissors makes this suggestion to every client. Visiting makes the child more comfortable in the environment of the salon, and they can watch other kids' haircuts so they know what to expect.
"YES! YES! YES!" Lindsey says. One of her regular clients feeds her child M&Ms throughout the haircut. Since it's the only time he gets them, he sits nice and still for candy time. "Candy bribery is the best," agrees Abby Mazer of Sejour Salon. Of course, the treat doesn't have to be candy, but should be something the child only gets during haircuts.
Seeing the same stylist as often as possible is important to building trust and comfort, says Jeremy Tucker of Chicago's Pickle's Playroom. This way, you're not starting from square one with every haircut, and your child may start to see appointments as a chance to visit a friend. "Parents tell me their kids actually ask when [they'll] get to see Mr. Jeremy," he says.
If the stylist asks you to step back, respect that—they know what they're doing. "If you have to keep moving to get out of my way, that's a problem," says Lindsay. Sometimes, parents might even have to stay out of sight completely. "You have no clue the number of kids who settle [down] as soon as mom and dad are gone," says Abby.
Lindsey has noticed that boys love getting a haircut alongside their fathers. "Seriously, at any age, the kid loves it. A little father-son bonding time is good for everyone."
Flailing, crumpling to the floor, glass-shattering screeching—Jeremy has seen it all. "If the kid's really freaking out, you might just have to come back later," he says. Lindsey chimed in with a more colorful image: "This kid is kicking us and spinning their head like [in] The Exorcist, and you want me to give [him] the David Beckham haircut?"
Especially if the child is too young to reason with, parents should consider postponing the haircut until they're a little older. But you're not entirely out of luck: "We can recommend ways for you to style their hair in the meantime," Lindsey says.
Photos by Andrew Nawrocki, location courtesy of Pickle's Playroom.
This article was originally published in 2015 and has since been updated.