Mom-of-three Becky Lawrence* remembers the day she discovered that her daughter, Molly,* who was nearly three years old at the time, had given herself a haircut. “She had the most gorgeous blond curls, which she’d completely sheared off,” the mom from Massey, Ont., remembers. Her daughter looked like a “little ostrich chick” with her self-inflicted ’do. The experience clearly wasn’t traumatic for Molly because she cut her hair again—the night before she started junior kindergarten. “This time she looked like Peter Pan, and all the kids thought she was a boy,” Lawrence says.
While some kids take the scissors to a younger sibling’s fringe or the mane on a favourite doll, others prefer to crop their own mops. Finding a pile of hair on the floor can be both infuriating and distressing for a parent, but it’s good to know that this behaviour is pretty common. “Preschool-aged children are learning skills like cutting and pasting, as well as dress-up and dramatic play. Seeking a creative outlet for this new-found knowledge is a normal stage of development,” says Julie Romanowski, owner and consultant with Miss Behaviour, a parent coaching service in BC’s Okanagan Valley and lower-mainland-Vancouver area.
How you deal with your aspiring stylist will depend on the reasons for her behaviour. Figure out if she’s acting out or trying to express herself. If it’s the former, Romanowski says the little offender might try to hide from you, be scared or surprised when she’s been discovered, and she won’t really acknowledge what she’s done when she’s busted. If it’s the latter, she’ll either be pleased or disappointed with the results, and she won’t mind discussing her new coiffure.
If your child is trying to get your attention, Romanowski recommends you try not to react with anger—this will just reward her actions. “Explain that you don’t like what she’s done and that there will be consequences,” Romanowski says. “For example, put away the scissors and tell her that she’ll be supervised when she wants to use them.” If all signs point to her exercising the need to express herself, offer better ways to be creative—such as crafts, dress-up, dancing in front of a mirror or face-painting, she says. And don’t forget to let your tot know that only a hairdresser, Mom or Dad is allowed to cut your hair.
Anna Guglielmo, a hairstylist in Oshawa, Ont., has seen her share of wee clients—boys and girls—who’ve chopped their own locks. She recommends parents head to a professional to fix an unsupervised trim. “I recently had a little boy come in with a cowlick he didn’t like, so he decided to cut it out.” Guglielmo gave him a short cut with plenty of texture to camouflage the uneven spots.
The mother of two found herself in her clients’ shoes when her stylist-in-training daughter, Aurora, then seven, used craft scissors to hack about eight inches off her princess-like mane. “I found layers and layers of it perfectly placed on toilet paper in her garbage bin,” Guglielmo says. “I cried, and even yelled a little, and asked her why she did it. She said that she wanted a trim and decided to save me the trouble of doing it. We ended up at my salon, and I gave her a very cute angled bob.” Since Aurora had never shown an interest in cutting her dolls’ hair—or anyone else’s—Guglielmo chalked the incident up to inquisitiveness. Two years later, Aurora, now nine, hasn’t tried it again.
A DIY haircut can be about opportunity, experimentation or just simple curiosity. If your kid does end up with a lopsided look, funkify that new wave ’do with colourful hair chalk, moulding paste or sparkly hairspray. Just don’t forget to snap a picture—someday you’ll be able to laugh about it.
Has your child ever done this? Do you have photographic proof? Share your snip snaps with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and your photo may be used in a future article!
*name has been changed
A version of this article appeared in our June 2014 issue with the headline "Making the cut," p. 50.