Parenting Challenge of the Moment: Hair Pulling



It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase.

This was my mantra last week. Along with thank god he isn’t biting. You gotta look for the silver lining, right? Well that’s mine.

I actually wanted to write this post last week in the midst of the madness but I was so busy running interference with a little hair pulling demon that I didn’t get the chance. And I’m glad about that now as last week all I had was strategies and this week, I have results. 

Prior to last week we had infrequent occurrences of hair pulling but they were slowly becoming more rampant. Often times the hair pulling was without provocation at all which made it very difficult to understand. He’d just rock on up to some poor unsuspecting person, sometimes from behind, and have a good yank. And not just a yank and walk away but a yank and pull the head down to the ground yank. It was mortifying.

Monkey was also giving it a red hot go at daycare as well as with me so it wasn’t just about me. We were working with daycare to adopt a consistent approach which was this:

1. Say sorry to the poor unsuspecting victim

2. Do a time out (we just put him in a spot away from everyone no matter where we were).

3. Have a chat about it when we were all calm after time out.

Until last week I’d managed to stay relatively calm about it but that was short lived when it started spiraling out of control.   Here’s what the week looked like:

Monday – At playgroup Monkey pulled the hair of 4 different kids and some of those kids more than once. Thankfully most of those parents could see I was trying and were understanding. One shot me a filthy and scooped her kid up before I could do the whole sorry/time out routine which I felt terrible about but hey, you can’t please everyone. I was mortified about the number of incidences though and starting to worry about what I could do. Clearly the current approach wasn’t working.

Tuesday – Monkey went to play at a friend’s place for an hour as I had an appointment. It is one of his most favourite people so he barely blinked when I left and there were no incidences while I was gone (yay). When I returned we stayed around for a bit but when I said it was time to go things just got out of control. This was also the day that he woke at 4:15am and wouldn’t resettle so he was tired as anything.

The friend only lives a couple of doors down so I had walked over to pick him up. This meant I had to carry him home kicking and screaming and repeatedly pulling my hair. It was hideous. I completely dropped my bundle. There was yelling and smacking which I’m not proud of. The smacks were only small but I didn’t want to be doing this. I feel strongly that it’s not right.

In the afternoon things kept going nuts (ie my kid went mental). There was so much more yelling and time out. The whole day was a complete write off.

Wednesday  – Wednesday is daycare day. We continued to have a battle of wills from wake up time. I continued to yell and we did 3 time outs before even getting to daycare that morning.

I felt strongly that the yelling approach just wasn’t working. I chatted with X-man about it (Monkey’s dad) and he said he would support whatever I felt was the right approach. He doesn’t smack but said that if I felt it was right then I could do it with his support.

I decided that I didn’t want to smack. I felt the anger and aggression was feeding the issue and only making it worse. I also felt that the time outs weren’t really working either. It seemed to me that he wasn’t learning anything from them. It was all about punishment, not learning from mistakes.

I decided to take a positive parenting approach. I got my shit together and decided no more yelling or reacting to bad behaviour. I wanted to teach the right way to touch hair and also find a punishment that wasn’t harsh but felt like a consequence. X-man and I decided that we were going to give one warning after an incident and then to leave if it happened again.

When I picked Monkey up from daycare that day I was very sad as he had had a really bad day and pulled hair all over the joint. I really felt that this was a direct result of the shoddy parenting I was doing (ie yelling).

Thursday  – Another daycare day. Before leaving we talked about the nice ways to touch hair. We stroked each other’s hair and said “Gentle”. I asked daycare to do this with him as a reminder if he got in trouble that day.

When I picked Monkey up today they said he was a lot better. There were still some incidences but it was nowhere near as bad. Parenting with love helps.

Friday – Today we had mother’s group in the park. Monkey pulled the hat off a friend’s head and he got in trouble and was told if he did it again we would leave. Now here’s the weird thing. He went on to pull someone else’s hair. I didn’t see it but he came and told me about it. It was like he was testing me to see if I would follow through with this new rule.

So I did. We left. All the way home in the car he said “S hair, hurting” so he knew full well what he had done. I felt so terrible as he pulled so hard that the poor kid cried his eyes out. It was awful.

By this stage I was terrified about our 3 birthday parties over the weekend. I envisaged having to leave each one early as Monkey couldn’t keep his hands to himself. We did lots of work for the rest of the day in talking about not pulling hair or pulling off hats and just keeping our hands to ourselves.

Weekend – Monkey completely astounded me this weekend.

When we arrived at our first party on Saturday I reminded him about being a good boy and he said “No hair, no hat” and shook his head. We had a slight incident as part of a barmy over a truck but that was it. I wasn’t stoked but I didn’t mind it as much. At least I could see there was a reason. After the incident I grabbed him with a hand on each shoulder and explained that we would go home if he did it again. There was not one more incident that day. I was so proud of him I gave him a small present when we got home. He seemed to get it.

On Sunday we went to two parties. We did the same routine before each one: the good boy reminder to which he replied “No hair, no hat” and shook his head. He was a perfect little angel each time. I couldn’t believe it. Going home from the park on Friday seemed to work!!!

Each day after a good performance I make sure I praise him a lot. 

Since then we have been back to playgroup on Monday where he didn’t pull hair once. We had a playdate that afternoon and no hair pulling; another playgroup on Tuesday and no hair pulling; and daycare Wednesday and Thursday and no hair pulling. There has bee no more yelling and there is always encouragement before we go somewhere and praise when we return.

I have also made a concerted effort to make sure I am paying full attention to him when he is in my company (so no checking wordpress notifications, email, or facebook).

Things could change any moment, that’s just parenting, but these strategies have worked really well for me so far and I wanted to share them with you in case they work for you to.

Parenting with love works. It works. And I am going to keep trying my hardest to use it to get through to my kid and not explode. I’m not perfect. I will fail. But I am going to try every day to parent that way as I truly believe it has brought me more results than any other method. Good luck!



32 thoughts on “Parenting Challenge of the Moment: Hair Pulling

  1. Oh so, so true!! I think with some children, time outs and other punishments work a treat (I know several parents that have children who behave with these parenting techniques). Other children however, seem to be aggravated and made worse by punishment techniques. I have never been a fan of time out (many people think I am weird for this), but eventually when DS1 was around 2 and a half I gave it a go because I was finding his behaviour increasingly difficult and everyone else seemed to be doing it. It was a two-week long disaster, and it upset me as much as him. No matter what the issue, I have always found that quiet, loving attention and explanation of what is wrong works a million times better. It’s HARD though, especially when behaviour is repeated and you feel like it’s not getting through (and I have had moments of yelling that I have cried after – awful!). I totally agree that parenting with love works though, it’s all about finding that love and patience when your child is doing something embarrassing, nasty, mean and naughty!!!

    • Yes time out definitely works for some people but we just weren’t getting anywhere with it and the yelling, oh my. It was just awful. That REALLY didn’t help. It’s hard to find the love in those really frustrating times but for me, I have found it so worthwhile to dig deep.

  2. Oh, something I read ages ago that I repeat to myself often is that your child needs your love the most when their behaviour is at its worst. Like I said, HARD WORK!! 🙂

  3. I’m so happy you found a way to teach Monkey not to pull hair in a way that worked for everyone. It’s not always easy to remember to use a positive approach, but it’s generally worth it. I’ll have to remember this once it is my turn.

    • Yeah it’s so hard once you are in the midst of bad behaviour but i figured that as the parent I was indulging in some pretty bad behaviour myself so it was time to lead by example. You will find a way that works for you 🙂 It’s all trial and error. Far too much error it feels like sometimes but we get there!!!

  4. Now that is patience! Good job! My mother-in-law (who is so nice and kind and patient) once told me my husband kept biting her. Finally, he did it so hard she reacted way before she thought and bit him right back! (She is totally nice and wouldn’t hurt a flea.) He was so shocked and something–he never bit again! Your story reminded me of this story.

    • Haha I had a friend suggest pulling his hair back. From my research it’s not recommended but don’t worry, I was seriously weighing it up as an option if these strategies didn’t work!!! I’m so glad they did though 🙂

      • Me too! You have no idea how much. I was starting to think I’d have the kid noone wanted to play with and that we’d be kicked out of playgroup and never invited out with our friends lol

  5. Love that the peaceful parenting worked for you! That’s always my preferred method, although it hasn’t really been tested yet!

    Something that I read once has really stuck with me and I try to remember it whenever my Monkey really bugs me – nobody expects to tell their child the alphabet once and have them remember it, they need repetition! So why do we expect them to learn the correct way to behave after just one time?

  6. YES! I am JUST starting with going through this… the experimentation with aggressive behavior. It’s so hard!!! When you write that you were mortified – that’s how I feel too!!! I just want to scream, “No! My child isn’t like this! It’s not him! Forget this happened!” and then I just freak out…. but yes… it’s a process and these are the teaching moments. I was JUST blogging about this myself!! So good to read this!

    • Hey! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I’m going to go and see what you had to say on your blog about this now! Funny we are on the same thing at the same time! These really are teaching moments. I just need to remember that!!!

  7. Well done! I learned early on that my son responded much better to positive reinforcement instead of punishments, so that is what I went with. Lots and lots of positive comments when he behaved and it seemed to work well with him. I still try and keep it up – we have lots of high fives and fist bumps in our house!

  8. You did a great job, even in the moments you referred to as “shoddy.” You rock! I get REALLY annoyed with the parents that just pick their kids up and rush off when there is a problem. We wouldn’t want them to learn to deal with others, or anything…

    • Thanks Meghan 🙂 And yeah I thought that mum’s form was pretty form. I also had a little evil thought that I hoped when her son (who she scooped up) gets older goes off and does something similar so she knows how it feels! How terrible am I?! Wishing bad behaviour on her. lol

  9. Good, good, good for you. When you said hair pulling, I thought it was his OWN until this post! My boy child bit…so I feel ya. Any cry of a child and u think “oh no, he’s done it again”. I looked like a battered wife with all the bruises up my arms and thighs. Kind, patient and consistent things just like what you áre doing worked in the end…. And there will be an end, and a day you look back and it is a mere anecdote.

  10. Trial and error for the win! Well done. It’s so hard not to react out of emotion. I always try to remind myself that if I’m my age and have trouble with impulses and emotions still, imagine how hard it is for my L? Patience, love and repetition in the hopes that it becomes an instilled habit is my goal. Doesn’t make it easy though! 🙂

    • Exactly! I was only chatting about this with a bunch of mum’s the other day. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my emotions so I can only imagine how these little people of ours must feel.

  11. “Parenting with love helps”. I love this phrase and couldn’t agree more with you! Children are so smart, they test limits, and love seeing your reaction. The hard part of parenting I find is being consistent and meting out punishment as you would have already threatened. It pains me to follow through the punishment that I have said, but kids need to know their limits and know the parents mean it and only this will they respect them for.

    • Exactly! That’s why it was sooooo hard for me to say “ok we are going to go home if you do that again” as it was a nice social event for me as well as him. But I had to do it. And seriously I think he was testing me to see if I would. Hey thanks so much for stopping by my blog!! 🙂

  12. Nice job mama! Seems like when we reach our wits end and act awful is when we make the turn and get results…we’ve all been there! And btw, my 2 yr old has started biting. Good stuff. My daughter never did and how awful that I find his occasional bite or hit cute because he’s finally able to stick up for himself against the big kids. Just gotta make sure it doesn’t become a problem. Anyway, again..good work 🙂

    • Oh no I really feel for you with the biting!! Although I do get how you find it cute as he can stick up for himself as sometimes I like it when other kids pull my kid’s hair instead as then he gets a taste of his own medicine!!! lol It’s a funny little ride this parenting thing. Good luck!!!

  13. Pingback: Books for better biting behaviour | So many right ways

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