Is hair washday creating a power struggle between you and your toddler? You need to read this

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Tips for turning bad hair days good. (Getty Images)
Tips for turning bad hair days good. (Getty Images)

By now you are well aware that your toddler isn't always a logical, deeply thoughtful being.

Once that little noggin' becomes unhinged, none of your arguments and negotiations will help even one little bit.

It takes just one bad shampoo (like just a tiny little drop of water in his eye) to make him as stubborn as a donkey.

And then you'll be with your own head in your hands about the child that's usually so fond of splashing in the pool but gives the shampoo and the showerhead a wide berth.

Step 1: Stay calm and be firm

You're the parent, and your child is very finely attuned to your emotions. If it looks like you're going to hesitate, you've already lost the battle.

Stick to your guns and don't allow him to manipulate you. Hair washday should not become a power struggle. Speak calmly and firmly but still lovingly and with respect for your child.

Your consistency about the matter is very important – if you stand strong, it will be easier for your child to accept that washing hair is non-negotiable.

Step 2: Show empathy

Remember, all the drama is also no fun for your little one. He's not busy being naughty or doing it on purpose. In his world, clean hair is just not as important as him being comfortable in the bath.

ALSO SEE Top hair care tips for anti-washing warriors

It's difficult for adults to understand their children's fears, but it doesn't mean their emotions about the matter are invalid. So don't be rough and simply pin your child down in the bath – it will only make matters worse.

Step 3: Lower your standards

You don't have to wash his hair every second day. Once a week is fine, and in winter, when your child sweats less, you can even stretch it to once every 10 days. Inspect his head and scalp, and if it's clean, leave him be.

Step 4: Identify the problem

What part of the washing process is the problem? Is it the initial wetting of the hair, applying shampoo, or the rinsing? Chat to your little one about it – maybe when you're in the car and calm about it – so that you can come to understand what it is that's bugging him.

Some kids fear the feeling of water on their face or drowning, while for others it's the stinging of the eyes, and others fear the showerhead like a cobra.

At what point does your child start protesting? It will give you an idea of where the problem lies so that you can think of an alternative.

If your child doesn't like the showerhead or a jug, he might prefer lying back in shallow water. A facecloth that he holds over his face himself can help with shampoo stinging, or buy a shampoo visor at the chemist.

Step 5: Have a strategy

Make it a competition

If your little one has a competitive streak, it can help. See how fast you can complete the process, for instance. Set a stopwatch and see if you can beat it. Or set a challenge, like that he's only allowed to moan or protest six times, and then you can count down.

Bath or shower together

Most toddlers love having their mom in the tub with them. The more relaxed atmosphere and the fact that you're in there with him and not towering over him can make it easier to do the deed.

MUST READ Daddy-daughter goals: when dad's hair game is on point

You can also take turns and give him the chance to wash your hair so that he can see how it works. You can try taking him into the shower with you – for some kids, this works better, especially if you sell it as a big treat or adventure.


Bring a doll into the bath, and first demonstrate exactly how you'll be washing. Take turns with the doll. You can also play swimming games, or make funny hairstyles with the shampoo foam.

Reward chart

Once you've made progress, you can start with a reward chart. For every drama-free wash, your child gets a sticker, and if he gets five stickers, you go out for ice cream.


  • Use the mildest shampoo you can find, and remember that even this product stings the eyes.
  • Work gently with your fingertips; children's heads are sensitive.
  • Fix a mirror next to the bath, because it can help him feel more in control if he can see what's going on.
  • Add some toys, and make bath time fun with mom, dad and siblings.


Share your stories and questions with us via email at Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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