HELP. 2 yr old beyond hysterical when washing hair

(30 Posts)
allag Thu 24-Nov-11 19:00:45

She literally gets so distressed she invariably ends up throwing up all over the bath. So it is not just a tantrum, it is more than that. She has never had a remotely traumatic experience like soap in the eyes or whatever - she is my second and I have had plenty of practice....I have always made sure i am super gentle, that there is no water on her face, always towel on hand, etc...Tried toys, bubbles - she is impossible to distract. I JUST don't know what to do. It has now made her terrified of having a bath, too - as soon as she hears the bath running she starts running away and screaming hysterically. Shower would be even worse - she wouldn't come near it. I don't know if anyone has experienced similar but I am desperate for advice - I don't want to make it worse and develop into some sort of a persistent phobia but I have to wash her hair at least occasionally! I am now doing it as seldom as I can so most of the time she walks around looking like she needs a wash...smile But it's the vomitting that really upsets me - it is proper distress. Thank you in advance

BlueberryPancake Thu 24-Nov-11 19:03:48

Oh dear. DS went through a mild version of that - just really hysterical but not sick. I'd get in the bath with him, and gently hold his head on my chest or knees, and rinse hair with water only for about a month, then I used a bit of baby shampoo. Does she have long hair? could you manage without washing it for a little while and just use water and rubbing with a flannel? DS eventually grew out of it but we only wash his hair once a week (or less in winter).

Sparklingblue Thu 24-Nov-11 19:09:05

My DD used to be like that too! Nothing really worked, although those rings that you can put round their heads helped a little bit. If it helps, it only lasted a few months and then she just grew out of it. Like you, we just tried to wash her hair as little as possible during that time. Also tried a few baths washing hair with just water.

My mum used to 'bath' me by sitting me on the draining board in the kitchen with my feet in the bowl and using a sponge to wash me down. Apparently I liked to look out of the window while being washed! Just wondering if your DD would be willing to do that? It may be that she will be better if you avoid the bathroom. Just an idea smile

allag Thu 24-Nov-11 20:23:53

Thank you so much for your responses! i think that definitely trying to avoid the bathroom might have to be the thing I try next as she really does start getting hysterical as soon as we come anywhere near it. Her hair is very curly and not very long, but thick, and it will be hard to get it clean with just water and flannel but I think I will have to try that too. She is generally going through a horrible case of terribles twos - screams her head off whenever she doesn't get her own way and cannot be distracted AT ALL. So I think there is a bit of just that general negativity taken to extreme with hair washing......She is also obsessed with being naked (always has meltdowns these days while we are out as she wants all her clothes, and the nappy, off!!! it's actually becoming a complete nightmare too!), doesnt like eating, sleeping, hold hands while crossing the road......she is happy as long as you let her be dirty, hungry, naked, and awake 24 hours!! smile

I thought i had been through it all with DD1 but I was nowhere close... smile

TickledOnion Thu 24-Nov-11 20:30:41

My DD also hates having her hair washed although she hasn't ever been sick from fear. I bath her every night but only wash her hair once a week. She has a tea set in the bath that she likes to play with so non-hairwash nights are fine.

When I need to wash her hair I think speed is important. I wet her hair with a wrung out face cloth so it doesn't drip in her face. Lather up shampoo in my hands and quickly rub in. Shower off as quickly as possible. She hates the shower and but it's over much quicker than if I try to be gentle. Then quickly dry her face and hair, followed by lots of cuddles.

Don't know if that is of any help. Hope you manage to find something that works for you and your DD. It must be very upsetting for you to see her so distressed.

allag Thu 24-Nov-11 20:42:38

yes, very upsetting sad - feel horrible guilt as she is so upset. I would love to somehow break her association of bath with hair wash - may be I can wash her hair outside a bath and just have bath for playing for a while, because she now is terrified of having baths too. Then if and when she is happy in a bath again, I can try super fast and super gentle hair washing again.....
Thank you!

TickledOnion Thu 24-Nov-11 22:09:05

What about if you just let her play in the bath with no water? Or put her in an empty bath and pour in a little bit of warm water just enough for splashing in? Or you have a bath and see if she'll join you.

I'm normally a bit of a tough mum but maybe it doesn't sound like that would work.

allag Thu 24-Nov-11 22:31:32

i have tried to lure her in by getting into the bath myself; she stands next to the bath and sometimes puts her hands in and splashes a bit but I am "not allowed" to move, or even put an arm out or leg out of the water -she tries to get me lie very still, fully submerged, so that i make no attempt to get her! smile smile. that way she feels safe. She also runs off the minute she thinks I am "after her" (then comes back again - basically it is a conflict between wanting to be near me and fearing I would put her in the bath!).
I'll try to put her into an empty bath or one with little water but I suspect she will be too suspicious -I have definitely tried a bath with water just knee-high, but lately even that doesnt work sad
The problem with this, and her behaviour generally at the moment, is that she is mega perceptive, bright and suspicious - she seems to second-guess me and it is impossible to distract, bribe, "trick" her....ANYTHING! I am sure she will think that an empty bath is about to be filled (even if I have no intention of doing that!!) and will not hang around. I somehow need to "regain her trust" that I won't wash her hair or do anything she doesn't like while she is in the bath - but that requires getting her into the bath in the first place!!! sad

no, being tough is definitely not going to work. It doesn't generally work with her, especially not at the moment, but in the case of the bath and hair washing I think it might be extremely damaging.

tethersend Thu 24-Nov-11 22:37:41

A few things worked for DD:

1. Fewer hairwashes
2. Get a doll, and role play washing the dolls hair. We did this a lot, it really helped.
3. Using a flannel to wet her hair
4. Getting her to 'look at the ceiling'

Agree with not being tough- this will undoubtedly make it worse.

We used to have this with DS1 - including the vomiting.
And 'no, daddy, stop, daddy, you are hurting me daddy, I will be good, daddy, stop, noooo' - I am amazed the neighbours did not call the police.

I agree with tethers:
less hair washing, back off a bit.
try a different venue - for a while we washed his hair in the kitchen, leaning backwards like at the hair dressers (yes, he was and remains an exentric child)
role playing here too - a teddy got his hair washed. Repeatedly. It helped. Teddy was never the same though, so I would not use a favorite toy.

It is wearing, sympathies. I suppose we were lucky that he did accept daddy in the bath which helped.

excentric, sorry.

Btw, he is now 8 and has no problem going in the shower and washing his own hair grin.

DS4 however.... <<sigh>>

allag Thu 24-Nov-11 22:55:42

Thanks for all the great suggestions. I think less hairwashing will mean never washing it but never mind. Better a sane child. smile Most of the time she looks like she has a massive dreadlock/clump on the back of her head smile but I find the leave-in conditioner really helps.
Will try the role playing idea, and the flannel, and changing venue. Am fairly pessimistic but fingers crossed, something will work eventually. DD1 hated washing it too for a while but never anything like this. it really is amazingly wearing - great to talk it over, thank you. x

Octaviapink Fri 25-Nov-11 06:43:42

I would cut her hair short, too. DD was similar to what you describe with hairwashing and so now I keep it short and we give it a scrub with a flannel once a week (as well as daily brushing). She gets mistaken for a boy a lot but I don't really care - it means baths aren't traumatic.

Have you tried dry shampoo, by the way? It comes in a spray can, you get it at Boots. Spray on, rub about, brush out - very easy.

lljkk Fri 25-Nov-11 06:46:02

I very rarely wash DC hair at that age; easier to keep short & comb/sponge out any yucky bits.

DD is 10yo now and I almost stop her from wanting to wash her hair daily (which she still doesn't need).

Fishpond Sun 27-Nov-11 23:31:18

As a child apparently I was nearly as bad as your DD - and threatened to tell the neighbors my Mummy hurt me every night at bathtime blush - my hair was promptly chopped off. I cringe seeing photos of myself back then and wish I hadn't been so hardheaded. Blah. I now have no qualms about washing my hair grin

Clawdy Mon 28-Nov-11 09:42:56

I used to get hysterical at hairwash time too,couldn't bear water anywhere near eyes (and even now can't swim for same reason!) sad I think one of those rings Mothercare used to sell would have helped a lot. Also washing hair leaning back so it can't drip on the face is a good idea,although a bit awkward to do. Poor little girl,I really sympathize. Can still remember the dread realizing it was Sunday and hairwash night!

QuintessentialMercury Mon 28-Nov-11 09:51:13

Goggles?

marykat2004 Mon 28-Nov-11 11:38:42

Haven't read all the answers, but just to say my DD was like that, apart from vomiting, she used to get so distressed about having her hair washed, one of us had to hold her while the other one washed her hair, very upsetting, lots of screaming. The solution is now that she is 7 and can happily swim with her face in the water, being comfortable in the bath has followed. I would say to start swimming lessons, and, until she learns to swim, just don't wash her hair too often...

DD went through this earlier this year. After trying everything we could think of, she started to let us do it in a very specific way. She would lie on her back in the bath and we would let out the water enough that it didn't go past her ears. Then I would 'water' her like a plant. The water never went in her ears or her face and most of her head was underwater anyway except she didn't realise it.

But I think you have to break the association first so lots of baths and promise no hair washes. Get her comfy in the water again.

Six months on my dd washes her own hair now and is as happy as Larry. Back then my bathroom sounded like a banshee's covern.

cdreaming Mon 01-Oct-12 21:58:23

Alag, just found this thread about a fear of washing hair. I m going through it now and its a nightmare! Also, by description your dd is exactly the same as mine. She is 2 now and we ve got lots of abstract fears, screaming, etc.
So i wonder how did you go over the fear then. I will try role play as it might help though...but not sure how can it affect such stubborn child as my Dd.

McLurkin Wed 03-Oct-12 15:59:47

Dd is 26mo and I think I've only ever washed her hair twice in her life (when it's had paint etc. stuck in) - it's never seemed to need washing and she doesn't understand tipping her head back so I figured it wasn't worth the bother until she can cooperate and/or it starts getting dirty. (I don't even bother w water most of the time, just brushing every day, and it is fine - never greasy or smelly.)

But then she has v fine hair so I don't know anything about dealing with thick curly hair. I would be v tempted to cut it short as others suggest if this lets you wash it less often.

McLurkin Wed 03-Oct-12 16:00:31

Just realised hiw old this thread is. doh

GeetTallBird Sun 18-Nov-12 23:10:14

Reading with interest as my poor little DD who is 7, screams in terror when it's hair wash night, I have made it only once a week as our nerves can't take it sad she has a proper hatred of water in her ears, won't go swimming, but is happy in the bath. I dread Sundays sad

BabydollsMum Mon 19-Nov-12 22:53:05

DD's the same. Here's what I do: to minimise the trauma, I have a spray bottle of shampoo/water already mixed up. I spray DD's hair with it and lather it up before she's anywhere near the bath (not ideal in terms of getting it all over, but this is desperate measures!) then by the time she gets in she's forgotten about it. I make sure she has a nice play with toys etc before washing her down with a sponge. I leave her head 'til last and make sure I'm super quick with the sponge. She still gets upset a little bit and she'll start saying "all done Mummy, all done" rather than the blind panic and uncontrollable screaming she used to do. It just means that you're only rinsing once and very quickly. Hope that helps!

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