How Respectful Parenting Led to an Awesome First Hair Cut
One of my strongest beliefs is that children should be invited to be active participants in their life. We do our best to include him in everything, going slower than slow, so that he can be involved and feel like a valued member of our household. It can be hard at times, but it always seems to go best when I prepare Camden for what is coming and when his environment is prepared to suit his needs. This means telling him what we will do well in advance to help him with the transition because, lets face it, transitions at two years old are tough.
Camden’s hair has a personality of its own. It has been wild and crazy and curly and adorable and has seemed like such a huge part of him. I thought it would be quite awhile before we would be ready cut it, but managing the tangles had gotten to the point where we just needed a change. It has also been a sleepless time for both Camden and me because he is simultaneously cutting all four of his two year molars. He has been having a rough time dealing with the discomfort and the lack of sleep. There have been many more melt downs than usual, which was making hair brushing a challenge, no matter how much I prepared him for it.
The RIE parenting approach developed by Magda Gerber has been my guide for my parenting style. I particularly love Janet Landsbury's blog and have found her guidance to be incredibly helpful through these early years. One of my favorite pieces of advice is to always prepare your child, well in advance, for what is coming. I saw a haircut looming in the distance so I did everything I could to prepare him for it. We talked about how we were going to take a trip to the barbershop. I told him that he could watch Daddy get a haircut first to see what it was like and that the barber would comb his hair and use scissors to cut it short. Every time we had this conversation, he would tell me that he was “Feeling shy about a hair cut.” I told him that we could watch other people getting their hair cut and that he didn’t have to do it until he was feeling ready.
Since I wanted him to fully experience getting his haircut, we went to a classic barber shop instead of a salon targeted towards kids that I knew would be geared more towards distracting him rather than inviting him to participate. We decided to do it on Saturday and spent most of the morning going over what would happen. He had a lot of questions like: “Will the barber cut my neck?” I told him that the barber would be very careful so that the scissors wouldn’t cut him and that he could help by staying still in the chair. To make things go as smoothly as possible, I combed all of the tangles out of his hair right when he woke up, so that we didn’t have to start the cut with a traumatic hair brushing.
When we got the barber shop, Camden was happy to find that they had a child sized chair. I put the chair in front of the barber’s chair where Tim would get his hair cut first, to show Camden what it was like. I talked Camden through every step. “First the barber is putting a cape on Daddy to keep the hair off his clothes. Now the barber is getting the clippers ready…” He sat totally focused on what was going on in front of him.
Luckily, there were two chairs at the shop and the second barber at the store asked Camden if he felt ready to get his hair cut. He hopped out of his seat and quickly climbed into the seat. We were so lucky to have a stylist who used an authentic way of talking to children. I had been prepared to narrate what was going to happen, but she did it with ease and he willingly went along. (If you are in Seattle, Sally at Epic Barbershop is incredible!) Since Tim was still getting his hair cut, he watched Tim for awhile while Sally got started. He also really enjoyed looking in the mirror and hearing about what tools she was using. At first, he was really serious and then started smiling once he felt comfortable. He was interested in what was happening and was so excited when Sally offered him a comb so he could brush his hair too!
By preparing him for the experience, we we had let him know that something significant and interesting was going to happen so he was able to experience it fully. This first haircut could not have gone any better. He sat still for 30 minutes and was able to get a really lovely, styled cut because he was so patient. He is no better than the average almost-two-year-old at sitting still (read: he is terrible at it), but he absorbed every moment of this experience with a grace above his years.
I thought I might tear up when I saw his short hair, but it was his total fascination and patience through the experience that choked me up. Watching this small human grow is the absolute greatest gift. I am so happy to have found a parenting style that gives him confidence to handle new situations with ease.