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The Kids Are Coming: How to Deal With Back-to-School Haircut Season

Keep these tips in mind to make kids feel welcome and distracted, so everyone has a great experience

Back-to-school season is nearly upon us, and along with new clothes and supplies comes a fresh haircut to start the school year off right. Kids can be a handful, but a little preparation — and the right attitude — can make a child’s haircut fun and rewarding for everyone. Read on to learn how to prepare your salon and stylists for handling the upcoming influx of fidgety children with grace and style.

Chat with parents ahead of time

Before you start cutting a child’s hair, have a quick chat with their parents. You’re not just looking for style requests — this is an opportunity to learn about any particular concerns before you start so the experience is as positive as possible. 

Find out what the child likes or enjoys so you can find a few topics to discuss to keep them engaged. If you or the parents have snacks, drinks, or toys on hand, find out they’re ok to hand out (some kids have allergies or dietary concerns, so this is very important). Learn about any behavioral concerns that may crop up, and see how parents deal with them so you can be ready to handle a similar situation.

Any information you can gather now will prepare you when you get started.

Get on the kid’s level and make them comfortable

New experiences often overwhelm children, especially when they’re bombarded with multiple sources of stimuli. Children experiencing their first haircut may have dozens of thoughts racing in their minds — Scissors and razors are sharp! What are those bottles of liquids? That chair is too big! There are a lot of people! — and immediately jumping in and trying to cut their hair can exacerbate those feelings.

Instead, give kids a moment to breathe. Get down on their level — by physically crouching — and talk to them about the haircutting process. Don’t be afraid to show them what the different tools at your station do and how harmless they are. Let them touch or handle items they’re curious about (with supervision, of course). Put their cape on backward and let them pretend to be a superhero for a bit.

The key here is to make children feel welcome and to make the haircutting experience feel like a safe and mundane part of everyday life. Once they’re comfortable, it’s time to get started.

Don’t think of them as “bribes,” think of them as “distractions”

Look; there’s no getting around it — kids are going to squirm. Children are living balls of kinetic energy. Through no fault of their own, they will want to bounce, fidget, look around, and otherwise be uncooperative. Keeping their minds distracted from what you’re doing will make the entire haircut experience much more manageable.

Distraction can be as simple as talking about their favorite toys, games, or TV shows or asking about school or what they like to do with friends. Or, you can break out the big guns and hand them a tablet with some games or cartoons. Dish out some candy, snacks, or toys (with parental permission). Consider putting together some “goodie bags” with treats, trinkets, and sample-sized, child-safe products or accessories to reward exceptionally well-behaved kids. Having these items ready ahead of time and quickly accessible will ensure you’re prepared for any situation.

Keep calm and style on

You will tell a kid to look down, and they will look up mid-cut. This will happen several times during the appointment. It is inevitable. Stay patient, breathe, and don’t take out your frustration on the child or the parent. It’ll all be worth it once you’re finished and they get to see how great they look.

That said, if the child is genuinely unruly (beyond average child shenanigans), it may be time to lean on internal salon policy and deny service. The comfort and well-being of other salon guests are important, and a boisterous child can ruin their experience, too, so use your best judgment.

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