Caring for Kids' Hair

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Brushing 7-year-old's long hair

May 2008

My daughter loves having long hair but hates having it brushed. Every morning involves whining and crying to get her hair brushed and in a ponytail. I have tried many tactics to lighten up the situation; singing, letting her comb out the tangles, pretty hair clips, etc. but with little success. It's a bummer to have this onerous morning task. Any suggestions ? - Rapunzel's Mother

Braid her hair at night. My daughter takes a shower in the evening, and I braid her long hair while it's still damp. Also, have you tried detangler spray? We don't need it as much when her hair has been braided, but we still keep a bottle on hand for the occasional snarl. eh

We had a similar issue with my daughter. What we ended up doing was braiding her hair before bed after a long hairbrushing. She would read a book or listen to an audiobook while I did it. The morning routine is too busy and sometimes we parents go too fast for brushing hair and end up hurting our long-haired kids. When you braid at night there is less chance of tangling up.

The trick is to start from the bottom and work your way up. And, go slowly. Hold the hair in smaller parts, for example a 2-3 inch lock, hold it at the bottom, and start brushing it out starting from about 2 inches up. Work your way up inch by inch until you can brush it all the way through, from top to bottom, with no tangles. Then do another part. I would usually do it in 3 or 4 parts, often saving the rat's nest stuff for last. Sometimes spraying with water would help (the tangle conditioners didn't seem to help much) if I had a hard job ahead.

I had two brushes: the ''tangle brush'' and the ''shiny brush.'' The first one was just a regular goody brush but the second one was a boar's hair brush. It did make her hair shiny, and the smaller bristles was little massage on her head and felt a lot better.

A few months ago she got lice and I cut her hair up to her ears to ease the combing. It has been heaven because the brushing chore disappeared. Now it's longer and tangles are returning. Ugh. Been There, Done That

Put her hair in braids at night to minimize tangles. Get a wide tooth comb for long hair instead of a brush. comber

Oh! I remember going through this myself! When I was that age, I had very long, fine hair and hated to have it brushed. I felt that however my mom tried to brush it, it pulled and she was being too rough. She was so exasperated with me, and I with her. I think the thing that finally motivated me to keep my own hair brushed (myself) was that if I didn't brush it, my mom would. I had her show me a few simple ways of keeping it pulled back and neat (braids and ponytails), and from then on, I took care of my hair. Brushed the Wrong Way

Cut it - I'm serious, cut it, not short. Shoulder length. When your daughter wants longer hair she will either be able to comb / brush it herself or let you do it without the carrying on. Cut it for a year - Now my daughter cares for her own hair

I don't have a daughter with long hair, but I have very long hair myself. I never use a brush as it tangles too much. I use a wide-tooth comb. I wonder if that might help your daughter? When I go to get my hair cut the salon insists on brushing it after washing (instead of using a comb) and it tangles, snags and catches on the bristles quite a bit - not pleasant at all. If your daughter is experiencing similar unpleasant sensations while having her hair brushed maybe switching to a wide-tooth - not fine - comb would help. Conditioner might also help if she does not already use it. I assume you are brushing her hair so you can put it in a ponytail for her - not sure if it's an option, but maybe you could let her brush it herself and wear it down? Good luck! anonymous

How about doing the tough brushing of Rapunzel's hair at night? Maybe incorporating some make-believe Princess Hair-dos that involve braiding the traditionally tangled tresses and crafting a crown on top of her head? A few pins to secure the ''crown'' and Bob's your Uncle! Your little Rapunzel will awaken with beautifully waved tresses that were saved from the nighttime trauma of head-turning turned tangling.

I had to do the same with my daughter, and she is now 15. She still brushes her hair at night, braids or twists it up on her head to avoid tangles and then does a quick (and very thorough) brushing in the morn. Detangling 101

I know it sounds harsh, but when my daughter started complaining (at 5 years old) we told her that if she didn't like taking care of her hair (meaning letting us brush it, comb it out after a shower, pull it back for sports, etc.) she would have to cut it. We got so far as calling the salon to make the appointment to have it cut.

I think that now that your daughter is 7, she is old enough to understand that long hair-while beautiful, requires a lot of care. Good luck! Kerri L.

First, check to see if you have a good brush. Some hurt more than others. Then, if they agree at the beauty supply store that you have a good brush for long, tangled hair, tell her she has to stop whining and crying or she has to get her hair cut. If she doesn't stop, cut it short. She's old enough to understand and you don't have to put up with that every morning. anon

Had the same issue when I was a kid...same age. Long hair, screaming when my mom would try to brush. She took me to her hair guy and got me a ''buster brown'' haircut (I'm 55...this was a long time ago).

How about using a conditioner in your daughters hair so there will be no tangles. Isn't there a spray on ''tangles out'' formula that you can put in right before brushing? this a battle you need to fight? Let her not brush her hair for a few days...She will either not mind looking desheveled, or she will. Next time it's washed, use conditioner and the tangles from not brushing will come out. Good luck. mom of boys

Here's the deal I have with my long-haired six-year-old daughter: She allows me to brush her hair, tangles gone, without fuss, or we march right out and cut it short - Right away. I have followed through on this deal several times. It does grow back in 6 months or so. If she wants to keep her long hair, she must allow it to be properly brushed. I personally would prefer her to have short hair all the time, but I allow her to grow it long if she allows it to be brushed - No debate, no arguments. This works for us: We wash it and condition is heavily. When it is still wet, I brush it, braid it tight, and it stays in in for two days. The truth is, most children really do not have the skills to take care of long hair until they are about 11 years old, maybe older. Be willing to give up the idea of having a pretty long-haired daughter and follow through on the ''We'll cut it short next time you fuss'' promise. Girls with kicky short hair are adorable anyways. anon

Tell Rapunzel that if she won't settle down to have her hair brushed, you will take her and have it cut short. And mean it. Anon

Cut it off. Only let it grow back if she starts brushing it and keeping it brushed. Sounds harsh, but it will work. been there

Went through the same thing about the same age. You set your standards of how you want to be treated. ''Any more complaints and I'll take you to the hair-cutter.'' ''Long hair involves longer care.'' Since I always follow throguh on consequences my daughter quickly changed her ways. Same thing with homework. She couldn't stand it when she got math wrong and gave me outbursts while correcting it. I told her that I deserve better and announced that if she continues to behave like this, I will no longer review her homework and she can explain to the teacher why she got stuff wrong. Once in a while I had to remind her about this, but generally she has been great with homework for the past 4 years. happy mom

She' 7, not 3. You don't need to try and distract her in order to her hair brushed. That's just silly. Give her a week of telling her to sit still and let you (or her) properly brush her hair out, or else you're going to get it cut short. If she still throws a fit after a week of trying this, then cut it. It's hot out and short bobs look adorable.

p.s. The only other advice I have is to braid it at night, so that in the morning there are less tangles. Oh, and you can try using a leave-in detangling or spray conditioner, too. not threatening, just common sense

You know, I'm a pretty permissive mom by some people's standards, but this one is a no-brainer. Give her a choice: Stop whining, or get a short haircut.

At seven years old, she should be capable of washing and brushing her own hair most of the time. There's no reason for you to have to put up with this. Plus: Hair grows. She'll have plenty of second chances. Mom of a 7yo with long hair

I was shocked to see so many people posting the advice to ''tell her to stop fussing or you will cut her hair off''. One of the very worst memories of my childhood was my mother saying this to me when brushing my long hair. I would sit silently with tears streaming down my face as my mother ripped a comb through my hair harshly. Sometimes my scalp would hurt for days. Little girls love their hair and they aren't about to say, ''Sure, cut it off!''

Now I have a 5 year old daughter with long hair. After her bath we use Johnson's No More Tangles spray and a wide-tooth detangling comb. Any tangles get gentle teasing with the comb while holding the section just above the tangle. Immediately after brushing, I blow it completely dry. She never fusses and she doesn't have tangles in the morning. Love my girl's tresses

We are just about to cut our 7 y/o daughters hair to just above shoulder length. She has very long hair. I have never used a brush. I only use a comb and if there are alot of tangles then I use a wider tooth comb. I take sections of the hair (divide head of hair into about 5 sections) and hold the section like a ponytail, combing below where I hold so that the scalp isn't pulled. I keep moving my hand up the section until there are no tangles - this takes about 3 minutes on average. She doesn't complain much but we have had our tears. She uses a conditioner (the spray detanglers never worked well) which makes a HUGE difference. Now that she is doing her own hair washing and bath, I think we will add hair combing after the haircut to get her to start doing it herself. Anon

I hated getting my hair brushed as a kid - and now I use a leave-in conditioner. I use one by l'Anza, but I imagine any would work. Curly hair is often dry, and the leave-in conditioner is the only way I can get my hair lubed up enough to drag a comb through it. ( Plus the other things other people have said, starting at the bottom, braiding at night, wide tooth comb, etc.) Talia

Toddler's fine, straight hair

Dec 2007

Help! My toddler has fine, straight hair that never sits right and is always a complete mess in back. I drive her crazy fussing with it when we're out and about. Having spent most of my life wrestling with thick, curly hair, I'm at a loss about what to do. Anyone with experience with this kind of hair have any advice? Ready to find a new hobby

My kids and I have that same hair. My daughter is three and hates having her hair brushed even though I try to be as gentle as possible. She often has a poofy rats nest in the back after she wakes up and it is still sticks out after I brush it. Several things help, one I cut her hair in a short bob with a bit of a A-line so it is short in the back. I also put a blob conditioner in the hair in the back while washing her hair or I just use conditioner and no shampoo (her hair is dry right now). Also, the California Baby spray detangler seems to help speed up the hair brushing and calms down the ''poof'' in the back. anon

I think you need to let her have fine straight messy hair. It'll probably get thicker as she gets older adn if it doesn't....???? Oh well!!! You're need a new hobby. Probably no one cares but you. anon

I have fine, straight hair and my little girl's is also fine (though not stick-straight like mine). I was having trouble with her hair until I tried putting hair conditioner in it when I washed it (just regular grown-up hair conditioner that I happened to have a small bottle of). It helped a lot! I was already using what purports to be a combination shampoo/conditioner, which is why I hadn't tried a conditioner sooner.

I have also discovered a hairstyle that holds up well all day. I part her hair on the side (most people have one side where their hair parts naturally) and pull the front of the bigger side into a little ponytail. I use a small snag-free elastic and wrap it around 3 or 4 times. It stays in much better than a hairclip. Straight-haired parent

HAHA! I'm the opposite - I have fine straight hair and my toddler is thick and wavy. let's trade kids! First - the ''mess in the back'' is a right of all toddlers IMO. Get a hair detangler and use it often. We use Target brand baby hair detangler. My kids love ''hair lotion.'' Keep the haircut shorter and trimmed. use ''baby'' barrettes like ''no slippy grippys'' to keep decorations in place. And please, remember when you enroll her in that afterschool science enrichment program - she will be volunteered for the van der graf generator since her hair will fly the best... fine and fiiine

If you haven't, get it trimmed. Having it all one length will give a little more bounce. If you like the look, there is a lot to be said for a short bob. Otherwise, the good thing about this hair is the tangles do come out, so don't worry about it getting stuck that way. Detangler spray is great, as well as conditioner. anon

my advice is to skip the clips and fussing and cut it. my daughter has fine straight hair and I've kept it in a bob since she had enough hair to achieve a real haircut. before that, I did sort of a pixie which was very cute also. her hair looks fabulous and I don't have to do a thing. when it gets too long it tangles and gets stringy. I know there will come a day when she will want it long (she is 4), but by then it will be her problem to comb. a mom not a hairdresser

I know this sounds crazy, but have you considered shaving her head? I knew a woman with the same issue--her daughter had very thin and messy hair that would never comb out. She was advised to shave her head and let the hair regrow. It worked wonderfully! Yes, she was bald for a little while, but her hair grew back thicker and much nicer. ... Could you ask some hair dressers about this to verify? ... If you decide to, maybe wiat for spring because it is so cold. Good luck! Not Kidding!

2.5-year-old refuses to let me comb her hair

my 2.5 year old has beautiful hair but refuses to let me comb/brush it. (i'm not even mentioning the trauma of getting it cut!) of course she has tangles, food etc in her hair. i've tried everything from a detangler to distracting her etc and it doesn't work. i've even given up on making it a power struggle aNd just (try) to comb it out in the bath..which she also goes nuts over...any ideas? thanks betty

To the Mom who has a little girl who hates having her hair combed, brushed or washed I went through the same feelings when I was a little girl. I have really vivid memories of being terrified of having my hair washed- I hated the feeling of the water trickling on my neck, and felt panicky if it got in my eyes and ears. My Mom was really patient with me, to the point of not washing my hair for three months because I would throw such a tantrum if she tried to. She says that my hair was a total smelly rat's nest at the end of the three months, and that a whole bunch of sand came out when I finally let her wash it. She did convince me to let her brush and comb it by letting me pick out pretty barrettes and ribbons to wear, and she got me one of those big Barbie doll heads that you can play with. She says that this motivated me to get interested in pretty hair. Most of all, she says that it just took a whole lot of patience on her part to wait until I got through this phase. After my fear suddenly lifted, I would love to have my long hair shampooed in front of the bathroom mirror, with lots and lots of bubbles, and my Mom would shape my hair into funny shapes, like a unicorn's horn or silly soapy curls. I bet that your daughter will pass through this phase soon, hopefully sooner than I did! India

When my daughter was little, I used to play Ms. Tangles when I brushed her hair. Ms. Tangles is a witch who gets in children's hair and messes it up, and we would chase her all around my daughter's head (with the hairbrush), and she (Ms. Tangles) would shriek and carry on about how she was, ...sliding, I'm sliding; no more tangles to hold on to (Think of the witch in the Wizard of Oz). It called for all my dramatic ability to alternate playing this crazy witch and my stern adult self, telling her, You have to come out now; you can't keep messing up her hair. My daughter loved it, and would often let me brush Ms. Tangles right out of her hair. Louise

Your daughter can't hate having her hair brushed worse than mine!! Anyways, what I have found to help first if you wash and condition the hair everyday it makes it much more easy to brush. However, kids that hate having their hair brushed Undoubtably hate having their hair washed (am I right?) so trying to wash the kids hair everyday can be torture. Secondly, I have found letting her pick out a brush and trying different types of brushes makes a difference. A pick has seemed to work much easier as well as really expensive high quality brushes, which was something I didn't consider early on. Also she likes me to use the brush she picked out (from the store I mean). Also I give her the choice of doing it fast and pulling harder, getting it over quickly (rough) or slow and carefully (gentle). Sometimes she picks rough, sometimes gentle, but I've focused her on how she wants it brushed, not whether. Detangler can be cool in that sometimes my daughter sprays her head with it and then can pretty much brush it herself. Otherwise though, I'm not convinced it helps much. It helps with the hair, not with the child. Good luck with both. Elizabeth