DEAR ABBY: During the 10 years I have worked as a hairstylist, I have tried to make haircuts pleasant for children. Nevertheless, many are so terrified that all I can do is make sure they don't get hurt thrashing around in my chair. Parents can do a great deal to make a haircut a treat rather than a trauma.
1. Do not say "cut" to a small child. The word suggests danger and pain. Instead, say "styled" or "fixed" instead.
2. Try to take the child to the same stylist each time, so they can get to know each other. Also, take the child for visits that do not involve cutting, working in progressive steps from sitting in the chair to a haircut.
3. If the child has an older sibling, ask if the children can sit side-by-side to have their haircuts. The younger one may try to impress the older one with his or her good behavior. A parent or trusted adult may have the same calming influence.
4. Don't request an intricate or difficult haircut. It may take a long time and be unpleasant for the child.
5. If the child is fighting it, don't expect the stylist to continue. Fix the bangs and let it go.
6. Make sure the experience isn't a bad one: Holding a child's head forcibly is rarely helpful for the stylist and could be terrifying for the child.
7. Compliment your child on how nice he or she looks, and also on his or her good behavior. Tell the child you enjoy getting your hair cut.
8. Bring your own treat for the child, in case the stylist doesn't have any -- or has run out.
9. Never place a young child in the chair and leave the salon. Do not leave your older child alone in the salon unless you first instruct the stylist how you want the child's hair cut. You may be surprised to learn that your son wanted a Mohawk!
10. Usually kids are not naughty, just frightened. However, if your child misbehaves, put your foot down firmly. Do not allow the child to run around the shop -- floors tend to be slick with hair and water, and stylists use many chemicals as well as sharp and hot tools.
11. Never take children to a stylist when they are sick. Your child will be miserable having to sit still when not feeling well, and your stylist may catch what the child has.
Abby, I hope these suggestions will make haircuts more enjoyable for stylists, parents and especially children. -- GRATEFUL IN OLYMPIA, WASH.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Thank you for a letter that many hairdressers and patrons will appreciate.