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How to Get Toddlers to Be Calm During Haircuts

by Erica Loop, studioD

If thinking about your overly-energetic, squirming toddler sitting still for a 15-minute, or longer, haircut makes you laugh, you can take steps to calm her during her next salon visit. Instead of expecting your tiny tyke to sit patiently while the stylist snips away with sharp scissors, set realistic expectations for behavior. This includes having a brief, to-the-point talk about the rules before the trip and providing plenty of distractions during the actual cut to keep her cool and calm.

Evaluate the cause of your toddler's behavior. Calming your toddler may require different tactics depending on what the problem is. Ask your toddler questions to determine exactly what is going on such as, "Are you scared of something here?" or "Do you see something that you want to play with?". Look at her actions as part of your assessment. For example, if she is jumping up off of the seat and grabbing at the stylist's brightly colored combs, she may think that the are playthings.

Keep temptations at bay when possible. The pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website note that toddlers have a natural curiosity and desire to explore their surroundings. Although it's unlikely that the stylist will want to rearrange her area just for your child, you can put things such as shiny, sharp scissors or a balloon -- that she will get to take home later -- out of her sight.

Distract your toddler. This doesn't mean that you should hand the clippers over to her to experiment with, but does mean that you can try a few age-appropriate redirection techniques. Sit in front of your toddler with one of her favorite picture books, and read her the story. Hold the pages up in front of her to ensure that she can see the pictures. Provide your toddler with a few easy-to-handle toys -- one at a time -- that she can hold while sitting in the stylist's chair.

Give your toddler your attention. Some young children act out or throw tantrums because they are feeling ignored. Avoid sitting in a waiting area, reading a magazine or checking your email on your cell phone while your toddler is getting her hair cut. Sit with your child or stand near to her if there is no seat available. talk to your toddler during the entire process in a soft, calming voice. Ask her questions and make comments such as, "Your new hair cut makes you look like a princess."

Allow your toddler to feel like she's in control. Being forced to sit in a seat and stay still while a stranger uses sharp scissors on her hair is a scary situation for a young child. Help her to feel a sense of control by giving her choices and jobs to do. Offer her the choice to pick her own smock that she will wear during the hair cut or give her a small job such as holding the hair brush. You may even want to tell her that she can play the part of the stylist's assistant, holding on to items such as a water squirt bottle or comb and passing them to the hair dresser upon request.

Recognize your child's feelings. Instead of punishing her or telling her that she needs to stop acting up, tell her that you understand that she is scared or frustrated.

Items you will need
  •  Picture books
  •  Small toys


  • Have your child sit on your lap. If your toddler won't calm down, take a seat in the chair and have your little one sit on your lap. This will help her to feel more secure, while giving you the ability to reign in her body movements.
  • Allow your child to pick a hairstyle, within reason. This will help her to feel like she is even more control.


  • If your toddler simply won't sit still or is getting progressively out of control, remove her from the situation. Throwing a full-body tantrum around sharp items such as scissors is a safety issue. Don't run the risk of your child accidentally getting cut because she jumps up or jerks her head. Instead, take her out of the salon for either a temporary time until she calms down or until another day.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Dynamic Graphics/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images