How to Get Your Kid to Stop Screaming When You Wash Their Hair

How to Get Your Kid to Stop Screaming When You Wash Their Hair


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You might have a kid who loves bath time from start to finish—who giggles at the bubbles and merely blinks when they get doused with H20. Or you might, dear reader, you have a child who howls like they’re having their toenails pulled off when the shampoo touches their heads.

For kids who are ready pole vault out of the tub when you say that it’s time to rinse, you’ll need to employ some special methods in order to get through a bath without Xanax or a broken eardrum. Here are a few that can minimize the wailing.

Bathe them less often

While this may not sit well with the uber-hygienic, it turns out that kids don’t need to bathe every day. Things are different during summer, when sunscreen, chlorine, and sweat are ever-present, but during the rest of the year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bathing every other day is perfectly fine. And since over-washing can strip hair of its natural oils and dry out the scalp, one to two hair washings a week is sufficient (with tear-free shampoo, of course).

Use the right props to keep them busy and distracted

Keep a handheld mirror nearby and let your little one play with “hairstyles” while shampooing their hair. They can make mohawks, “twisty-twirlies” (the technical term), or horns—anything to imbue a sense of play and keep the serotonin flowing. Having them wash and rinse a doll’s hair while you do theirs is a great way to distract them from the thing they don’t like which is happening at that very moment.

Let them do their own shampoo

For some kids, it’s not the rinsing that’s bothersome so much as the sensation of shampoo being rubbed into their scalp. Try putting the shampoo onto a washcloth and applying it that way, or see if your child wants to massage the shampoo in themselves.

Play “what’s on the ceiling”

While repeating “look up…not down…up!” in an increasingly frustrated tone might be fun, if you’d like a break from it, try asking your child what they see on the ceiling. Like looking at clouds, water stains, and small imperfections can magically become “purple rabbits” or “tow trucks” to a kid with an imagination. (You can also place a few character-themed Band-aids on the ceiling and ask your little one to tell you who they see.)

Give them a dry wash cloth for their faces

Some kids feel much calmer when they have a dry wash cloth to place over their faces. This, combined with looking up (if achievable) can yield decent non-screaming results. Note, however, that the cloth itself sometimes gets wet, defeating the purpose of a dry face. But what’s important is that they’ll feel in control, even if they’re essentially waterboarding themselves.

Get a shower hat or goggles

Beyond using a shower pail with a soft, contoured edge to rinse, you can always strap on a pair of not-too-tight goggles to prevent the dreaded water in the eyes. (Of course, whining from a tight goggle strap might run counter to the goal here.) And if your kid is happy looking like a retired mall-walker headed to Early Bird Bingo, there’s always a shower visor.

Lie them down or use a shower head to rinse

While some kids may resist this entirely, lying down and submerging all but their faces to “swirl” their hair around in the bathwater works for others. For kids with longer locks, call it “mermaid hair” and boom, it’s an under-the-sea party. Alternately, using a handheld shower head attached to your tub faucet can make hair rinsing a much less shouty experience.

Also, seriously consider swim lessons

Bath time resistance is often just fear in loud disguise. Many kids are downright terrified of water hitting their faces. One of the best long-term ways to overcome that fear is to increase your child’s overall comfort level in the water. While it takes some time (and starting when they’re just a few months old is way easier than when they are three or four), after they’ve learned to blow bubbles and submerge their heads, they’ll barely even notice they’re getting deluged with a bucket of water in the bath.

 



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