The Torture That is Hair Washing


The other day, I asked Muffin if she was ready for her bath. “No,” she responded. “I not gonna take a bath anymore.”

It’s actually not the bath she minds. I can entice her into the tub with promises of bubbles and toys, and she splashes and plays and has a grand ole’ time. Until it’s time to wash her hair. The second she sees me reach for the shampoo or the water cup, the freak out begins.

“No wash my hair! Later! Later!”  Once it begins, there’s really no calming her down. She HATES the water poured over her head, and there does not seem to be a thing I can do to make it any easier.

I think I must have traumatized her. I may even be able to tell you when– a summer day when we were “down the shore” (’cause that’s how we roll here in Jersey). We had spent a couple of hours on the beach, and as happens when one mixes one part baby and one part beach, she was full of sand. We headed back to our rental house and I put her in the tub. We washed, but still, there was sand everywhere. I got in the tub with her and started the hand shower. I turned on the hand shower and gently and carefully began to move the shower around to get to the sand buried in various crevices and to wash her hair. And she screamed like a banshee the whole time. She’s been terrified of the shower ever since.

(Oh, never mind that this same girl will take the garden hose and spray herself– head included–  with ice cold water, but a shower? Hell no.)

I thought we got past it. For a brief time, I did get her in the shower. Then she would only take a shower with Nonnie. Then it stopped altogether. And then Greg had her to a point where she would lie back on her inflatable toddler tub and put her head back to get her hair washed. But she would only do that for Daddy. And now that has stopped.

Now, it seems there’s nothing anyone can do. The very mention of hair washing brings a fit like no other. When she’s in the tub, we try our best to calm her down and explain that if she would just lean back or look up, we could pour the water without getting it in her eyes. But she doesn’t listen. She can’t listen. “I wanna get out! All done! ALL DONE!” She just screams and clings and tries to get out of the tub. And we have no choice but to just dump the water on her head to get it over with as quickly as possible. Even her father has run out of patience and does the same. Even Nonnie can’t calm her. And that’s saying something!

As soon as the hair washing is finished and we assure her it’s done, she calms and says, “I wanna play some more.” And she’ll resume her happy splashing for another fifteen minutes.

I’m completely at a loss. For most battles, I have ideas about what I might be doing wrong or strategies I could employ; but this one’s got me stumped. I hate to see her get so worked up because it obviously upsets her. But there seems to be NO reasoning with her.

We’ve tried special cups that keep the water from getting in her eyes. We’ve tried role playing with dolls to show how easy hair washing can be, and she’s played right along. But it hasn’t helped. Nothing’s working.

I’m turning to you Internets. If you’ve got any ideas, help a mom out!

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