Because getting a haircut is outside of the normal realm of a child's usual experiences, it can be stressful, says Dr. Victoria Carrington, a former board-certified psychiatrist who now works as a parent coach. "Babies and toddlers are generally creatures of habit, and any change in routine can be frightening. Of course, due to differences in temperament, some may have a harder time handling new experiences than others," she says.
Dr. Carrington adds that it is normal for small children to fear the unknown, explaining why it's not unusual for children to be wary of "the stylist (usually a stranger) at the hair salon who comes at the child with a huge bottle of shampoo and scissors and makes them sit in a big chair in front of bright lights and mirrors. Even at home, the act of a parent doing something noisy to your hair with an instrument that they will not let you touch is also frightening."
Dr. Carrington recommends taking your child with you while you get a trim so she can see that getting a haircut isn't scary and doesn't hurt. If you know where your youngster will be getting her hair cut, stop in for a "preview" so she can see others having fun getting styled and become familiar with the salon's surroundings.
"We have some customers who come in, sit, and watch the other kids getting their haircuts," reports Swan-Mikich, who says kids feel very at home with the variety of children's videos and toys available. "They are comfortable when they see our child-friendly atmosphere." She adds that reading a book with a positive spin on haircuts is also helpful.
Sometimes it's just concern over the scissors and strange-looking instruments that bother little kids. "Allow the child a chance to handle or at least touch some of the instruments—comb, shampoo bottle, etc.—and demonstrate the noise that the scissors will make," suggests Dr. Carrington.