While going through your morning routine, the children are sitting at the breakfast table, quietly eating. As soon as you turn your back, you hear a scream and then, “Ouch! She pulled my hair!” While not every family deals with hair pulling, you would be surprised how many do. Some children kick or hit and some children pull hair. No matter what their weapon of choose, it is a bad habit that has to be broken. From the very first time your child pulls hair, you need to step in to change the behavior before it gets out of hand.
If your child is smaller, pulling hair is probably a form of communicating with their sibling. This could mean that “leave my things alone”, “don’t touch me”, “quit staring at me”, or a number of other thoughts they cannot yet say. In other instances, children use hair pulling as a means of getting the parent’s attention. If you are in the middle of fixing dinner or working on a project and your child feels they need some attention, they know that by pulling their sibling’s hair, he or she will scream, which will get a reaction from you.
Just make sure the attention you give your child after a hair-pulling incident is the right kind. Rather than show sympathy because you think your child wants attention, make it understood that hair pulling is not an acceptable behavior. For example, if your two children are sitting at the table together and one child reaches over to take the last cookie from the other, the one losing the cookie pulls the hair, and the other child screams. This is your cue to explain that for pulling hair, they do not get the last cookie. Ouch!
Another successful way to correct behavior is a good old-fashioned time out. Find a quiet place away and every time your child pulls hair, they have to sit in time out for five minutes. Although not a long time to adults, five minutes to a child seems like an eternity. Just remember that any reaction from you, such as anger or frustration, will only encourage the behavior. Keeping your response in control, calm, and being consistent, will help turn the behavior around.
Once the time out is over, sit down with your child, away from the other child’s attention. In a serious tone, with a straight face, explain to your child that this behavior of hair pulling will not be tolerated. Never pull hair as a way of showing your child how it feels. This is a negative way to react and will cause even more problems. As long as you remain consistent and are patient, this will stop.
Children have to be taught right from wrong. It would be great if you could tell your child one time and it stopped, and it may. However, more than likely it will take a few time outs before your child fully understands you are serious. Each time you teach your child anything that has to do with respect and kindness; they will like themselves better and have more confidence – even if they are young.