Please stop sucking on your hair.
January 23, 2022 1:40 PM   Subscribe

My son likes his hair long and wants to keep it that way, but I can't stand it being in his mouth all the time. He wears a wide headband and that used to help, until his hair got long enough that it goes over the top of the headband and into his mouth. He will not wear a ponytail, braid, bun, or any other style besides a headband. His hair seems to grow forward into his face, no matter how we comb it.

Our agreement is that he can choose the hairstyle he wants and look the way he wants to, with the one limit that it can't be in his mouth, eyes, or face. But he's six, so that's hard! I'd like to find some hairstyle options that would allow him to have long hair but keep it out of his face. Bangs? Face-framing layers? Something I haven't thought of? Haircuts and styles that would typically be considered "girl hair" seem to be his preference. He has blond, fine, straight hair.

Please suggest cuts or styles that might help solve this problem. Bonus points for photos, videos, or how-tos that show me how to do the haircut - I'm not very skilled but I used to cut his hair before he grew it long, and I would prefer to avoid salons until Omicron has eased up. Right now, his hair is a lot of different lengths, with the shortest layer below his chin and the longest past his shoulders. (He had a sort of typical toddler "boy" haircut and it has just been growing for a year and a half.)
posted by TrixieRamble to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total)
Are you open to putting some kind of product in it? A light gel could keep the hair held back behind the headband.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:32 PM on January 23, 2022

Best answer: New York magazine has a lot of short articles on cutting your own or someone else's hair at home.
Here are a couple that I think you might find useful. (The magazine does have a paywall after a certain number of page views, so if you find these links useful, you might want to print them out in order to have access to them.)

7 Best Tools for Cutting Women's Hair at Home: Ignore the gendered headline; this offers good info for anyone cutting the hair of anyone who wears their hair longer than chin length. Top tips: Cut it dry, and get good scissors.

How to Trim Your Bangs at Home Without Screwing Up: What it says on the tin. Looks like it would work for others' bangs as well. Lots of pictures.


Need a Trim? Resources for Home Haircuts: A roundup of articles and videos offered by the Westport, Connecticut, Public Library.
posted by virago at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This seems to be some sensory seeking behavior. I'd try to replace the hair chewing with something equally satisfying. I got my kid a little silicon sharks tooth designed for chewing behavior.
Here a lego version.
posted by ReluctantViking at 2:51 PM on January 23, 2022 [21 favorites]

I went looking for resources before I read the "more inside" so this might not answer your question, but in case he's sucking on his hair as a habit (not just because it accidentally falls near his mouth), you could consider a chewy necklace as an alternative.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:51 PM on January 23, 2022 [8 favorites]

My boy had very long hair for a very long time, and we used the mini-size claw clips like this -- just four or five of them in random spots that would help keep it back. We chose brown because they were closest to his hair color, and less "girly." And hey, he did get mistaken for a girl sometimes, but he just shrugged it off.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:42 PM on January 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

Consider the virtues of the scene-emo haircut. I know nothing about this subculture except that it features long, eye-grazing hair on both boys and girls.

This video by Katiana Grace shows how to give oneself (or someone else) a scene-emo haircut.

Another roundup: How to Cut Your Hair at Home, Wired, July 2021 (equipment; the basics; tips for long, short, curly, and kids' hair, and how to cut bangs -- not straight across, unless you want yourself or your loved one to look like Buster Brown).
posted by virago at 4:38 PM on January 23, 2022

Those accordion headbands we were all wearing in 1996 are surprisingly effective at keeping your hair held back.
posted by phunniemee at 5:09 PM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: An alternative to sensory-seeking behavior is that it's anxiety-soothing behavior... be aware of this possibility, and pay attention to, when he has a cut that doesn't reach his mouth, if it transfers into something else. (Might be as simple as twirling, pulling, finger-combing, or petting his hair, or it might transfer into something more challenging to recognize, like lip-biting or scratching.)

If that's the case, removing his ability to stretch his hair to his mouth isn't really solving anything, nor is hassling him about it, it's just postponing it until later, and possibly, making the anxiety worse. (And the hair-in-mouth may come right back just as soon as it's long enough, even if he's a teen or adult at that point, and you no longer control his hairstyle.)

Not saying that's for sure the situation, but there's a decent likelihood of it being anxiety-related, much like chewing or pulling on fingernails. Changing or completely restricting a coping skill, without managing the underlying cause could have some unintended results, so just make sure you're open to watching for them just in case.
posted by stormyteal at 5:18 PM on January 23, 2022 [9 favorites]

Want to just suggest that if sucking/chewing on things is an issue (as it was in our house), you may consider offering something else to chew on - these sensory chew necklaces are quite popular with the kids where we live that are in that age range.
posted by Toddles at 5:24 PM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. Yes, it is very likely sensory-seeking and anxiety-soothing behavior. He did this in other ways before his hair was this long. We have some "chewelry" but he's not interested in it; the hair is more convenient because it falls into his mouth without him even having to touch it. The trouble is, when he sucks on his hair, we have to wash it more often, which makes our routines more full with less down time, which contributes to his anxiety. I will use all this great advice, keep supporting his coping, supply alternative things to chew and suck on, and also try to find a satisfactory hairstyle so I can more easily stop hassling him about this.
posted by TrixieRamble at 7:33 PM on January 23, 2022


Either one braid down the back, or two braids on either side that maybe connect into one in the back.

Those little hair clips are fun -- he might be able to make creative little curly bundles on either side of his head with them, or other creative styles.

As someone who was scolded a lot (and endured haircuts I didn't like) because of behaviors like you describe -- please make the anxiety a priority.

If he chews on a braid, maybe it doesn't have to be washed that much?
posted by amtho at 9:39 PM on January 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I just saw where you said he will not wear any other hair style. Sorry.

Pet stores (and maybe other places?) sell bitter apple spray to discourage animals from chewing furniture and plants -- maybe something like that? But it's going to be traumatic the first few times because he will forget about it. Maybe have some milkshake or lassi handy to get the taste out.

Beyond that, your options seem to be:

- Magically make him not want to chew things (i.e. cure his anxiety);

- Put an e-collar on him to make it impossible;

- Channel his anxiety into something else (although everything else sounds worse);

- Make him more vain about his appearance (= making him more self-conscious);

- Acclimate/convince him, gradually, that other hair styles are actually good (although I get it - having your hair restricted feels a lot different);

- Somehow get him to wash his own hair, or do some part of it so that it's not so onerous for you;

- Make hair chewing OK somehow (not recommended).
posted by amtho at 4:48 AM on January 24, 2022

Ironically, I wonder if letting his hair get even longer might help, especially the layers in the front. I’m an adult cis woman with similar hair (very fine, very straight), and chin-length layers are PEAK “in my face all the time.” When it’s longer, especially longer and all the same length, it tends to weight itself down a little and stay more together as a mass, if that makes sense.

I’m also not a parent, so I don’t know how well he might be able to articulate his objections to different styles, but if he can that might help you adapt. Like, does he dislike a ponytail because it pinches? Then you could try a satin scrunchie instead of an elastic. Is the problem with a bun that you pull it too tight? You could try securing it with spin pins instead. If it’s aesthetic and he likes it down, would a half-up style be an okay compromise (where you just tie back the top layer of hair at the crown with an elastic, clip, or barrette)?

Also, since you mention it falling in an unusual way: what condition is his hair in? My fine hair is very delicate and breaks super easily, and when it’s damaged it has a lot more flyaways and static that is a sensory nightmare and also pushes it into my face. It’s contrary to a lot of fine hair advice, but using a lot of conditioner in the shower and a leave-in conditioner before combing (never brushing, and NEVER with a plastic comb) helps a lot to get it to lie back nicely on my head.

And one more thing: you already sound a thousand times more considerate than my parents so this probably isn’t an issue, but when I was small my mom (who had different hair than mine) was…not very gentle when taking care of my hair. She brushed it from root-to-tip, went fast, didn’t detangle, and was not careful about snags, pinches, or pulls in my ponytails. As a result, I chose to wear it down a lot and never liked to comb it, it got more and more knotted and messy, and that made her go at it even harder. It was a bad cycle that ended with my hair alwaysssssss in my face. Like I said, this is probably not your issue, but just a reminder that fine hair needs a much higher baseline level of gentleness.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 9:07 AM on January 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

I compulsively chewed my hair for many years as a kid (likely bc of my OCD/anxiety). In terms of practical hair tips, I second the suggestion to try encouraging him to grow his hair out longer; I don’t think that by itself will stop the hair-chewing, but based on my own experience I think it would have made it less convenient to chew the ends of my hair if they’d been down by my chest rather than my chin.

(I have bad memories of my fifth-grade teacher calling my parents in for repeated conferences to discuss my hair-chewing. She put it on my report card and I failed month after month. I don’t think any adults in my life realized it was an anxiety thing that I didn’t know how to stop on my own - my OCD ended up transforming into more destructive self-harm behaviors until I finally got help as an adult. I’m very glad to hear you’re looking out for your son’s mental health beyond this single behavior!)
posted by chaiyai at 1:37 PM on January 24, 2022

« Older Should I do this?   |   Who are your most inspiring peacemakers? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.