Though it’s not very fun for the person under attack, children often take great delight in pulling the hair of others. Hair pulling is not necessarily an aggressive act when young children do it, and indeed there can be many reasons that children engage in hair pulling. Whatever the reason, children who pull hair should be disciplined immediately and reminded that this behaviour is both inappropriate and unacceptable.
Discover the Cause of Hair Pulling
There are many reasons that children may engage in hair pulling. Young children may simply be flexing their own muscles and discovering how to move their arms and fingers through grasping and pulling the hair of others. They may also simply be interested in what others feel like or how much strength they have and decide to find out through hair pulling. Older children may be imitating a new friend who pulls hair or they may have pent-up aggression that they can not verbalise so they act out through hair pulling. Some children even pull hair because they realise that it brings them immediate attention, even if it is of the negative variety.
Discipline Hair Pullers Immediately
Even if children are pulling hair as a way of getting attention they won’t appreciate having to stop their activities to be disciplined. Parents who are grappling with a hair puller should always call attention the behaviour immediately by firmly telling the child “No hair pulling!” If the child does not stop pulling others’ hair after this warning then (s)he should be removed from the activity and sent to the Naughty Step or put in Time Out. Both of these methods of discipline give the child time to think about what (s)he has done. Before being allowed back to the activity, the child should apologise for hair pulling and describe what might be a better action for similar situations in the future.
Even if hair pulling occurs frequently, it is best to discipline a child each time the behaviour occurs rather than save up discipline for later. Waiting to discipline a child for hair pulling runs the risk that the message could become confused or forgotten in the ensuing interval. Parents should also avoid pulling the child’s hair as a way of showing him/her what (s)he is doing to others. This method rarely teaches a child that hair pulling is wrong and instead opens the opportunity for a child to tell others that his/her parents pull his/her hair!
Apply the Golden Rule
When children engage in hair pulling they often don’t realise that they are causing physical pain. Parents should explain this to children in simple language, for example by saying “It hurts your sister when you pull her hair” or “Hair pulling doesn’t feel nice”. Parents should also use these opportunities to explain the Golden Rule to children – that they should treat others they way they would like to be treated. Children who remember this rule will be able to use it in the future when they must decide for themselves which behaviours are right and which behaviours are wrong.
Children engage in hair pulling for many reasons. Parents of hair pullers should remember to discipline their child immediately when they pull others’ hair and use the opportunity to remind the child of the Golden Rule. Most children outgrow hair pulling on their own, but parents who are concerned about this behaviour should consult their GP.