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Does/did anybody else have a 5yo who is STILL scared of having their hair washed?

(29 Posts)
BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 19:30:58

Because mine is, and it's not only a pain to try and wash his hair, it's causing arguments between DP and I about how is best to solve it.

Currently I leave it as long as possible between hair washes, and when I do wash his hair, I try to use a minimum of shampoo so it doesn't take long to wash out, and then I rinse it out very very gently with a flannel. The idea being he will get used to this and as he gets older he will be able to rationalise either that the water on his face isn't ACTUALLY drowning him, or that if he closes his eyes/looks up he'll be okay. At the moment it doesn't matter if we use a special cup with a flexible part, one of those face-guard things that looks like a baseball cap peak, or let him hold a flannel over his face he is still terrified. He is too scared to lie back in the bath. Won't have a shower either. We almost got him to wear goggles, but then he decided that they hurt his hair so he doesn't want those either hmm

DP's approach was, initially, to get him into a splashy game in the bath and get him used to getting his hair/face wet without it being bucketfuls of water tipped on your head. This was working really well and we started going swimming as well and all of it was helping his confidence in the water. However it's only making progress very very slowly and often it can feel like when you start the games, or when we go swimming etc, it takes him ages to warm up to it again.

What usually happens now when we wash his hair is that I will do it with the flannel and it takes about 30 minutes. Not very efficient, everyone gets cold, and you have to use a miniscule amount of shampoo otherwise it's impossible to wash out, so sometimes I don't use enough and his hair still smells "fusty" when he is dry again.

Sometimes he starts getting worked up about something halfway through, for example tonight he decided I was pulling his hair, and gets so upset/uncooperative that it seems quicker and kinder to just get it over with in 5 seconds by using the shower attachment. But he is SO upset, crying and choking and screaming and trying to climb out of the bath when we do this (and it takes 2 sad) that it breaks my heart. I can't see that this is helping.

DP thinks that it's got to such a ridiculous level that we should just tackle it head on, wash his hair every day for a week using the shower method and he will get used to it. I want to continue with the gentle flannel method and the general trying to get him used to being in water and hope that he grows out of it. But DP's argument is that it's so unusual at his age that we should be worried about it, and also that I (because it's only me who DS will let do it, not because DP makes me!) don't wash his hair as often as it should be washed, because frankly I don't often have the energy or patience to sit there for half an hour teasing bits of soap off individual strands of hair and having the hair be just as dirty afterwards. Which is true. So maybe it would save a lot of upset just to try and tackle it, I'm just concerned/afraid that it will make things MUCH worse, although this has been my argument for the last 3 years and honestly, there's only been a very slight improvement in that time blush so perhaps it can't get any worse, but if it's not going to work then I don't want to put DS through that.

Help! WWMND?

snorris Sun 10-Nov-13 19:47:34

My youngest dd is not 5 until next month, she doesn't like having her hair washed either. Like you, I don't insist on it being done to often, luckily she's not a muck-magnet! Our strategy is to do it in the bath and I use a large jug to pour the water over her hair. We have an understanding that as long as she looks up and sits still I will be as quick as possible and not get water over her face. I also use minimal shampoo and I find diluting it slightly in my hand before putting it on her head helps it rinse out.

Tbh I don't like water on my face even now blush

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 19:49:55

Neither do I, and I can totally sympathise with him. Problem is it doesn't matter what we promise (I have tried bribery!) or what face-protecting gadget we use he will scream and try to climb out of the bath. You can't get him close to agreeing to have water tipped over his head in any circumstance!

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 19:58:51

And also I suppose part of DP's argument is that really at his age he should be able to rationalise negotiations like "If I sit really still then mummy will do her best to be quick and not get water on me" but instead he turns into exorcist child and screams blue murder.

He is like this with EVERYTHING. It took 3 people to hold him down for his MMR. He cancelled his own 4th birthday party (just a couple of friends so nobody was let down) and went to the park instead. We took him to a fair yesterday and he was sobbing and saying he wanted to go home, we had to trick him into going through the fun house (saying we could come out again if he didn't like it when really you can't) although he almost had a wobble about that halfway through and once he'd done that and realised it was actually fun, he was fine, went around again and wanted to go on the bumper cars too, but by that time we'd been there an hour and a half and he'd only been on those 3 things and a couple of side games!

I think on balance I'd rather have a cautious one than a reckless one but to this extreme, it's just hard to do anything with him.

mummyxtwo Sun 10-Nov-13 20:02:39

Hi there. My ds1 is nearly 5yo and now tolerates hair washing, after years of tantrums and screams at the prospect of having his hair washed, never mind the washing itself. I'm trying to think exactly how we achieved this... I didn't used to wash his hair often either, as it was such an ordeal and his hair looked okay left for longer than desirable, but when he started swimming classes that meant he had to have it done at least once a week, or twice if we went at weekends. When he had his bath after swimming I told him that he had to have hair washed after swimming to get the chlorine out or his hair would be dry / sticky / turn green. The best way that has worked for us is to fold up a flannel lengthways and I hold it across his forehead just under his hairline, get him to tip his head back and look at the ceiling, and then just wash and rinse with the other hand as fast as possible. Using a cup to rinse off is quickest. I would suggest trying the same but not using soap / shampoo, or just the tiniest amount, and just using a small amount of water at the back of his head to rinse off, rather than trying to do a proper job initially. Just getting his hair wet slightly will show him that, actually, you holding the flannel and him tipping his head back does stop the water getting into his eyes. And it won't sting if you haven't used soap. Do that for the first few washes, then gradually start to use a little soap / shampoo and rubbing it in a bit before rinsing. Once we'd washed ds1's hair a few times and it hadn't stung his eyes, he was happier for me to wash his hair properly.

Tbh, while most 5yo's tolerate their hair being washed, I don't think this is abnormal behaviour. Lots of children have their strange little phobias and things they get seriously worked up over, it just so happens that your ds's fear is having his hair washed. I'm a GP and trained in child psychiatry and, while I'm not an expert, I wouldn't personally go down the in-at-the-deep-end wash his hair every day road. He is likely to find that terrifying and you have the problem that might arise if you do that for a week and he's still scared. Do you then keep doing it daily and stressing him and yourself out every night? Try the above approach perhaps, I hope it helps.

froubylou Sun 10-Nov-13 20:06:36

I had this with dd at about 4.

In the end after many tears from both of us I found the way to do it with minimal fuss.

Let him bath as normal. Then let out most of the bath water so that enough remains to reach up to his ears if he lays down.

Pass him a dry flannel to hold over his face and get him to lie down. Because there is only a little bit of water he should be ok as he doesn't feel as though he is going to go under and the flannel stops splashing or soap getting on his eyes.

Using either a jug or your hands quickly rinse it off. Because you don't have much water I always cheated and filled up the jug as I emptied the bath. And ask him to whoosh about a bit if the water gets too soapy. Or make sure sink is full. Hth a bit.

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 20:09:16

I have tried that kind of thing before Mummyxtwo and the problem is he is scared of just the water so he won't even let me do that - ie, he won't co-operate and look up or let me hold the flannel. I have poured a cup of clean water down his back and he tolerates that but if any bit of it gets on his hair he cries and gets angry, although not as upset as if some DOES go in his face.

I wonder if the swimming is key - I think I'm going to suggest that we start going swimming actually regularly and then see if it helps.

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 20:10:30

In fact when you pour water on the back of his head, he panics and tilts his head forward getting it in his eyes.

I will try draining the water out before he lies down - that's a good idea!

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 20:19:07

I wonder about some kind of boot camp approach - where we go for a week or so each day building up one stage. Day 1 he has water poured down his back. Day 2 is having it on the back of his head, working up to the full thing with little rewards after each one.

antimatter Sun 10-Nov-13 20:21:32

how he likes his hair washed after swimming?
is he OK in the shower then?

SaraBellum Sun 10-Nov-13 20:23:28

DD was like this at 5. She is a lot better now (6.5 yo) and I think it's because she's been having swimming lessons for 2 years and has eventually got used to putting her face in the water. She's a lot more confident in the water but it has taken a long long time.

She still won't have showers though, it's baths all the way.

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 20:26:53

No he doesn't have his hair washed after swimming. But going swimming is the only time I've ever seen him with his hair wet and him not crying.

Just suggested to DP that we up the regularity of the swimming and he replied "Well it made no difference before" hmm it's not going to have instant results, is it?

SaraBellum Sun 10-Nov-13 20:33:01

No it could take a while. It took DD 1.5 years of weekly lessons before she would even entertain putting her face in the water. It's brilliant when they finally have the confidence to do it though.

bassingtonffrench Sun 10-Nov-13 20:35:15

why not just stop washing his hair?

it was such a drama in our house that I ended up flanneling the back and behind the ears every so often, but didn't do a full shampoo for months on end.

would only admit this on the internet, but I can honestly say it really didn't get manky or smelly. possibly deluded about that I suppose.

we have no problem hair washing now and I think the break helped him get over it.

OutragedFromLeeds Sun 10-Nov-13 20:35:45

'wash his hair every day for a week using the shower method and he will get used to it'

I would do this tbh. Maybe not with the shower, maybe a small cup instead, but definitely more often rather than less.

I had a similar problem with DC3, to the point where he would cry if he got rain on his hair. It just got so ridiculous that we decided to wet his hair everyday. At first with a flannel, and then a cup etc. He got used to it pretty quickly and is now fine.

One method we used to prevent the fighting, swallowing the water etc. was wrap him up in a towel like a straight jacket, just his head popping out and then lean his head over the bath and wash that way. It seems really cruel, but it was over in 2 mins and meant he didn't inhale the water/hurt himself etc.

LBsBongers Sun 10-Nov-13 20:45:28

My son is also a bit cautious about things too and was a nightmare at hair washing too.

We have cracked it now, we invented the 'magic towel' an old hand towel which he had to hold over face and tip his head up.

I gave up tip toeing around him and just told him he had to have his hair washed and I was going to do it with or without the towel.

He's happy to shower now and we have graduated to a face flannel

Good luck

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 20:49:55

His hair does get manky though bassington. He gets dead skin on his scalp - future dandruff I imagine as me and his dad both get it - and it stinks if it's left.

Outraged and LBs that makes me feel slightly better about the prospect! I am really in two minds. I can see it working, and some nights when we say enough is enough and just DO it he screams but is fine, and then we have a night like tonight where it really wasn't okay and felt like we were torturing him and I just think, I can't. But it's not fair on him to carry on like we are and end up doing it anyway when he's been promised it won't happen and he's already upset because the flannel way isn't working out.

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 20:50:28

"Magic" or "special" anything seems to help too so could work! I'll have a look around the shops!

firemansamsmam Sun 10-Nov-13 21:03:36

My DS has a fear of hair washing but we happened to catch an episode of Woolly and Tig (hair wash day) where Tig puts the flannel over her face to stop getting water getting in her eyes. Straight after watching it, we tried it ourselves and although he still gets a bit panicky, as long as he has a flannel to shove over his eyes, DS will tolerate hair washing.

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 21:12:26

Oh god I loathe woolly and tig and we are abroad so trying to get hold of it will be a pain but that might help!

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 21:46:07

OK, I have a plan.

We are in Germany and there is a tradition here that on the 6th December, children leave a shoe or boot out and in the morning St. Nikolaus fills it with small treats. So I am going to do a challenge with him between now and then to get him used to have water poured on the back of his hair, right up to the top, and if he can have water on his whole head by the time it gets to 6th December, St. Nikolaus might leave him a very special treat in his shoe. The very special treat will be a giant kinder egg, which I've seen in the shops here, about the size of an easter egg with a bigger toy inside.

In between for every time he sits still and lets the water be poured he can win 1 star which is our current "currency" for good behaviour.

goodasitgets Sun 10-Nov-13 21:54:53

Would he be better leaning forward? Like over the bath and using a jug?

Eletheomel Sun 10-Nov-13 21:58:33

My son is 4 and also hates it (also not a fan of having water in his face generally). I'm all for the 'lets do it fast and get it over with' approach which he hates!

So daddy has done his hair washing for the last few years :-) We used to do it once a fortnight, but he still has cradle cap (in part due to us being crap and believing it goes away by itself, and in part due to his tears when hair washing is required so we rarely washed his hair - and he was virtually bald until he was 2 years old, so never felt the need).

Recently, we've started using dentinox and washing his hair every 2-3 days and since doing this he's gotten better (used to it, I think).

Current procedure (which hasn't had any tears the last 3 times so I'm hoping we've found something that works) is he wears goggles, DH gets in the bath with him, and sits behind him. DS1 leans back and DH supports his head in the water with one hand and uses the other hand to pour jug of water over his head and apply shampoo.

It's taken a long time to get to the point where he a) trusts DH to do it and not get water on his face and b) doesn't wiggle or get away, thus putting water in his own face.

We had gotten to the point where DH was getting so fed up with all the tears and screams (he complains when water was getting in his ears!) that he told him if he didn't stop having hysterics when he did his hair the 'slow' way, we'd be doing it the 'mummy' way from now on - not sure if that's had an impact or not :-)

I think it's really the frequency of washing that has helped, so easy to avoid it, but I think that just builds it up in their minds more - I think the 'every day' approach is a sound one, but do it for a month to give him time to get used to it :-)

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 22:07:31

Yes smile Will have to work it into the routine! I wish I wasn't so crap and tired by that part of the day!

BerstieSpotts Sun 10-Nov-13 22:08:29

Neither of us are particularly keen on getting in with him because he has a fascination for tummy buttons and nipples! Plus the bath is tiny, so it would be very cramped.

OK - I think regular is a good idea.

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