the network for radical unschooling families
Hello! Like my subject line states, I am looking for a bit of advice on my 3 year old's refusal to have his hair wetted and shampooed. Before this evening, it had been several weeks since his last shampoo. He used to be okay with me just getting his hair wet in the tub, but for the past few weeks, he has refused to let me get his hair wet or shampoo. In respecting his wish to not have his hair washed, I have backed off...until tonight. :( I typically just talk a bit each time he refuses about how we are playing outside, how hair and head can get dirty, and how it will helps us stay clean and healthy to clean our hair and heads. Then I will maybe ask again, "Would you like me to get your head and hair nice and clean?" The answer is always "NO SHAMPOO, NO HEAD," and so I say "OK, maybe another time when you want to."
Well, we play outside quite often lately during these summer months, either at the beach or in the sandbox, and tonight I noticed that he had several very crusty dirt spots on his scalp and that his hair was emitting a bit of an odor. :/ I got a bit freaked out and decided to go ahead and shampoo his head against his will. :( I feel awful, as it resulted in a lot of screaming and wailing and crying in abject terror on his part. I will not do this again. The look in his eyes told me that he felt betrayed by my actions. But here I am, still admittedly concerned about the lack of hygiene in not washing hair for weeks or months on end. I wonder how other radical unschooling families deal with issues of this nature, i.e., washing hair, brushing teeth, etc. when the child flat-out refuses to participate in these hygienic rituals. Thanks for any input or stories you may be willing to share.
this sounds a lot like my experience with my son, silas, when he was about that same age...but with teeth brushing. i reached a moment of frustration and brushed his teeth for him against his will. then i went and sat on the floor in the dark kitchen and cried for over an hour after the kids were asleep. it was a terrible night and i still feel the guilt of it. i believe it was this incident that caused him to later have a terrible fear of anyone putting their hands in his mouth which led to him not pulling or letting me pull a very loose tooth for almost a year which led to his new tooth coming in wrong, this happened for 2 other teeth and now at the age of almost 14 he will be getting braces. he is no longer afraid of hands in his mouth because he has gotten used to going to the dentist since we finally got insurance last year.
long story, but one that i think you can relate to as you can see the damage and pain in your son's eyes. you can never know how or if it will manifest into something later but it's something to think about. depending on where you live, you may have a little bit of warm weather left enough to play outdoors with a hose, making a slip and slide from plastic sheeting and using baby shampoo for the slippy instead of dish soap. since you have to keep spraying the plastic and adding soap to keep it slippery he will get wet and soapy and have fun doing it. he may not get a perfect hair washing but it could get him used to the idea that soap and water all over isn't so bad and can be fun. but whatever you do, DO NOT make it into a way to get him to actually wash his hair. that's not the idea, the idea is to get him okay with having soap and water all over. if you find yourself tempted to come over and start scrubbing his hair while he's playing you might have to go inside and make a snack tray to bring out to distract yourself from that temptation.
sprinklers can be fun to run through as well, no way to naturally incorporate soap into that but it will get him pretty wet and maybe get some of the sand or dirt off.
my daughter went through a period of not wanting her hair washed, but it was not this severe and she eventually found a reason to...hair color. but many people find there are games they can play in the tub for hair washing, i found some of them were okay but others were mostly still coercive.
hope this helps.
My kids, even as babies, never took baths. They showered; first while I held them of course, then standing with me, then by themselves. Now , both in their teens, they LOVE the shower. They use it for relaxation as much as washing. When my son can't sleep, he takes a long shower! I'm just wondering if your son might feel special, or happy, or something else positive, if he was asked to play with you in the shower? No shampoo on his head, of course, just fun(at first)!
When I was a nurse and we had patients that were bed bound, we used a dry shampoo. It worked really well. I think pantene or suave or somebody makes a powder you just sprinkle in your hair, no water involvement.
My mom used baby powder in my hair a couple of times when I was about 12 to soak up the oil if we didn't have time to wash. It did the trick.
-=-I will maybe ask again, "Would you like me to get your head and hair nice and clean?" The answer is always "NO SHAMPOO, NO HEAD," and so I say "OK, maybe another time when you want to."-=-
Try "When is a good time for a shampoo?"
I hold a washcloth, clean and folded, over my eyes when I rinse in the shower. Maybe you could do that for him.
If your kitchen counter has a long clear space near the sink, maybe he could lie there with his head in the sink and you could wash his hair by pouring gently from a plastic cup, or with the sprayer, on low.
In the tub is kind of the worst, for hair washing, in my experience as a kid with long hair, and as a mom of three.
We have had a small child lie on the closed toilet, with their head on a towel on the side of the tub, and feet on the bathroom sink/counter, to wash by pouring, too. And lying on the top of the hottub in the back yard, hair hanging over, for someone to soap it, rinse it and all, while they're just lying on their backs, kind of beauty-parlor style.
If he's not stinky or grimy, I wouldn't worry at all, especially if he's willing to change clothes every few days. Change his sheets and pillowcases regularly, too - a lot of casual dirt comes off on clothes and bedding.
For funk, some kids prefer to wash their Own hair - with a washcloth, or a cup, or something like a sprayer from the sink. They make attachments for the bathtub, too, which hook over the tub spout and run to a sprayer. That's sometimes easier than dunking under the water - which can feel scary and out-of-control.
If you're going to the beach alot, though, can you wash his hair in the water, there? I know it leaves minerals, but you can get serious funk out while he's playing, and that just leaves sand. If you can get the sand good and dry, you can brush it out - its possible to get good and clean scrubbing down with sand, in fact, the main thing is to get it dry to get the stuff back off. Will he tolerate a hair dryer?
You could also look into "no-poo" (as in no sham-poo). Some people recommend various dry-washes over washing hair with water for hair and scalp health.
I wanted to offer a different suggestion, something to throw in the pot.
There was a good discussion here a while ago about hygiene. If I remember correctly, many contributing parents decided to just let it go. There was a lot of evidence brought up of the dubious claims that dirt-free was really healthier, and other parents, I think, chimed in that their kids with aversions to bathing did eventually come around. One mother shared that she was concerned at one point about giving community members reason to believe she was neglecting her child, which was an interesting consideration that may or may not apply to you. I'll go look for it. It was a good discussion.
My 2 1/2 year old has a mysterious but completely paralyzing aversion to baths. We haven't "washed" his hair in probably over a year. Yes, it smells a bit like cheese up there. Yes, he does have those skin-crusties (what look like the older-kid version of cradle cap) on his scalp in a couple of places. Sand, yes, sometimes. Dust and oil, I'm certain. Bugs, no.
I've tried lots of different ways to get his head wet, and some work in varying degrees, but I really think at this point, nothing short of scrubbing is going to loosen the "gunk," and scrubbing just ain't gonna happen! I made the mistake of forcing it when it had gotten to this point about a year ago, and he still doesn't trust me. If he feels my hand linger in the crusty spots to just kind of check things out, he throws my hand away from him and tells me not to touch. So, clearly I lost his confidence when it came to head washing.
I do gently bring it up. When his brother is getting a bath, I always ask if he wants one, too. He sweetly tells me no. A few weeks ago, we had a big moment when he decided to sit on the top step of my mom's pool. Yesterday, he pretended to take a bath when I had a blue sheet spread out on the bed. These little things tell me he's getting there. But it might be a while still. It still feels odd to me sometimes, and I have to re-convince myself that the path of least resistance, in this case, really isn't hurting anyone, and that my son, one day, will decide to let me wash his head (or maybe by that time, wash his own head!).
Quick thought - my computer time is up! But my boys (4 and 6) like to style their hair with bubbles and look in the mirror - crazy spikes etc. Then the deed is done and the rinse is not such an issue - I'm just VERY careful not to get it in their faces.