Start a conversation a couple of days before the haircut to allow anxious children to ask questions and give you an opportunity to calm their nerves. Be sure to choose your words wisely. "Kids often don't realize that cutting their hair doesn't actually hurt," says Frank Galasso, celebrity stylist at Frank Studio with Bumble & Bumble in West Hollywood, California. "Tell kids you're going to 'style' or 'trim' their hair instead." Next time you go to the salon for a haircut, take your child with you to familiarize her with the process.
Pick a Time of Day"You need to cut your kids' hair around their schedule, not yours," explains Cozy Friedman, founder and CEO of Cozy's Cuts for Kids, in New York City. If you sense he's cranky, or you're feeling stressed, the haircut should wait.
Set Up Shop
Choose a place where you can occupy your child. "Keep her busy and she'll be less likely to move," says Friedman. If there was ever a good time to plant your kid in front of the TV, this is it. Or give your child a favorite toy or a handheld game to distract her while you focus on cutting. Your best bet? Recruit an assistant. Kids will stay still longer, especially younger ones, if they're sitting on a friend or a relative's lap. Either way, it's a good idea to tuck a secret weapon, like a lollipop or a few stickers, in your back pocket in case some shameless bribery is needed, says J. Elaine Spear, author of Haircutting for Dummies.
"Parents need to know what it is they want to do and think it through before getting started," says Friedman. Ask yourself, How do I want the hair to look afterward? How much length do I want to take off? If you want to remove an inch, cut ½ inch instead. "Start with less and work up to where you want the hair to be," recommends Galasso.
Talk About Tools
"Many kids have difficulty with haircuts because of sensitivity to itchiness, vibration, and being wet," says Friedman. Explain each tool's job, then give them fun nicknames -- like Mr. Rain for the spray bottle and Mr. Tickle for the clipper -- to keep kids relaxed.
"Cut hair when it's freshly washed so any cowlicks aren't as springy," says Galasso. If you're not able to shampoo and condition before you cut, spray your kid's hair with warm water until it's completely saturated.
Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Parents magazine.